Important MessageHi everyone.

Not many of us may care so much that it’s a new football season but for those of us who meet at the House of Football it’s becoming a little more all-consuming all over again. It can be like this with church life too – our interest and connection ebbing and flowing as time passes by – some of us loving it – being engrossed in it – others less so, less connected. Well, in church terms it definitely feels like the beginning of a new season. My sense is that these are important days for us as a church family and there is so much going on and so much needing prayer right now that I have felt that I needed to get in touch with you all – by video, by facebook, by email, by letter… whichever was the best way for you to connect with you about it all…

A few Sundays ago I handed out a flyer with a vision of what the church would be like in 2019 – five years from now – I hope that you have had a chance to read it. It’s not a fixed thing – it’s not a prophecy – it’s not a manifesto – it’s just what I can imagine and what I can hope for… It tells a story of how we have grown – in number and in strength and in maturity. It tells a story of how we have joined together around a shared mission and how everyone has played a part to bring it about… a story of new families, new men and new young people and children. A story of new people of all ages who have found a way back to the father that created them. It’s a story of salvation and forgiveness and healing. It’s a story of rescue. It’s what I live for.

If I am honest it’s been a challenging summer for us. Summer is great for a break but it can also fragment our community life for a while as numbers fluctuate on Sundays and mid-week meetings and activities take a breather. With Barrie and Ruth leaving Rose Cottage after an amazing four and half year stint we have had to regroup and take stock. With me making the decision to cut the number of early morning services back to one a month I know that there have been feelings of sadness about it all. With changes to the building needing to become firmed up anxieties can grow about the changes that are going to take place. With people being taken ill and needing hospital care, with anniversaries of loved ones having to be faced, and with the ongoing challenge of doing life and mission in Twerton we have felt stretched and vulnerable. Behind the scenes many of us are facing major decisions, important life choices and difficult personal challenges.

All this has left its mark on us and we have had to hold on. Which we are doing… just…

What is God saying to us in all this? What is he wanting to remind us of?

We know that God knows it all. And that he is utterly interested in it all. There isn’t a moment of our day, a hair on our head that he isn’t concerned with. He loves more than the sparrows – this we know. And we know that he has called us here – not to die in the desert but to find life – life in all its rich fullness. We know that he aches for our community, for the locality and we know that Bath will not be healed until Twerton is healed, Bath will not be free until Twerton is free. We know this. He has not forgotten us. He is ahead of us. He is providing for us. He is fighting for us and he who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it…

And it is with this hope that I want to invite you to join me in praying for the churc, for the community, for each other once again. Of course we already pray for each other but let’s recommit ourselves to this task. Let’s recommit ourselves to interceding and for digging deep into God’s storehouses of grace and seeking God for his blessing on us and our community. My goodness we need it.

Can you pray for Rose Cottage?

I am so excited about the future of Rose Cottage as we make it a St Michael’s Hub – all freshly painted upstairs and down – ready for hospitality and welcome, for prayer and ministry, for serving and listening, for discipleship and worship. Pray for the new kitchen manager being appointed this week – and for the team they will need to draw around them. Pray for the staff team relocating the office to the upstairs which is going to be so great for us – connecting us to everyone and everything. Pray for the other ideas we have – for family days, for youth groups, for the art group, for ‘house groups’ using the centre.

One exciting thing we are doing is to turn one of the rooms upstairs into a prayer space – open for everyone to use – to connect and to reach out – right in the heart of the High Street. Of course you are all welcome to come and use it!

Pray for Mark and he oversees the work and for the new Mission Committee that we are drawing together in October to shape and bless the church in its mission and disciple-making. Pray a blessing over the Rec House and all that happens there.

It’s been a great Summer at the Rec and with Andrew Lawrence appointed for 6 months as a Community Musician it looks like the place with continue to buzz. Pray for the resources to come to expand and extend his work.

And pray for the young people. Luke and the team have built up incredible life-changing relationships with them and it has been so amazing to see the work mature and develop with the creation of the two new chaplaincy posts – Laura and Gwen. Luke’s passion to see these families and young people find life in Christ is so infectious and it really is amazing that the school has contributed to funding part of a post for the next two years. Do pray for the new team as they get their feet under the ground and begin to make connections. Do pray for Luke, Mark, Louise and myself as Governors at St Michael’s Junior school – looking to build on the success of last year’s SAT’s results and deepen the Christian ethos of the place.

Of course it’s also a new term at the infant school too so pray for – George as deputy and for Kate and Nathan as governors and for Ann and the team at First Steps.

Any day now the city will be swelled with thousands of new Students returning to the city or arriving here for the first time. We may not have had many Students join us in the past but with so many of them living locally I am sure that God is going to bring a number to us this year. There is an organisation called Fusion that we are connected to that helps student’s get rooted into local churches. There are over 50 on the list who we are inviting to a come and taste our community and hospitality on the last day of Fresher’s week on Sunday 28th September when we are having a church lunch after the service. Pray for the new students moving into the area and that God will protect and enliven any young Christians as they take their first steps away from home.

In a few weeks’ time the PCC are meeting and this month we will be hearing back from the Architect who we have commissioned to produce some outlying plans to take forward. Considerable time has gone into thinking everything through and together we will need to begin to discern the right steps forward. This will include all of us and will require us to discern from God a vision for his future for the church here. Prayer will be fundamental to this.

For a number of years we have had the idea of being a ‘house of prayer’ and have encouraged one another to convene ‘houses of prayer’ in each other’s homes and at the church each week. If you are free on Tuesday’s at 7-8pm then join us in the church each week to pray and seek God together. If not, consider forming your own ‘house of prayer’ for an hour each week to join with others in circling all these concerns in prayer.

In all these things, especially after the disruption of the summer months, I am particularly mindful of the importance for us to meet together – on Sundays as a larger gathering and midweek in smaller home groups or formation groups. I believe this is vital for us as a church family and I would like to encourage everyone to recommit to these times together. We not only miss out on being blessed ourselves when we are miss out on these but we are unable to be a blessing to others who need us. Part of our purpose for gathering together is to pray for and minister to one another. I long for us to grown in confidence in doing this for each other each week as I know just how much stuff we all carry. Can I encourage you to make the most of any opportunity to receive or to offer prayer when it comes. I am convinced God will act the more we ask.

Lastly – a couple of other more random points…

The first is having a new bell ringer group. Over the last few years Sharon Bradley has been pulling together a group of novice bell ringers who have been ‘learning the ropes’ for ringing at weddings. Recently they offered to ring on Sundays and am delighted that a new group will be ringing every fortnight at 10am to call Twerton to church… Just to say, when you see them in the tower the best way in is through the porch door instead!

And lastly I am grateful that the Diocese have offered me the opportunity of having a three month Sabbatical. Vicars are usually only offered a sabbatical once in their ministry so it is an important time for me. Their purpose is to give a minster the chance to take a step back, to rest, to reflect and to recharge their batteries – spiritual, physical and emotional – ready for the next phase of ministry. It is a good time to take one when there is a Curate in post and I am delighted that Kate has been so encouraging to me about it all as she will be taking up much of the weight of my absence. But, of course, I am by no means indispensable and I am excited not only of the idea of seeing how I will grow through this time away but also how the church will grow without me being around. I am going to be taking mine in November and coming back in February which means that you will be celebrating Christmas without Tory or I. Kate, the church wardens, the PCC and the staff team have all begun preparing for my time away and I value your prayers for me, and Tory, as we take the time to go deeper into the life of Jesus and rest in him for a while.

In all this I am more and more aware that everything we do as a church is a community thing. Christianity is often presented as it’s about God and me – about us individually. It is but it is about far more than that. What really matters is how we live as a community. This is what will be what matters most over the next five years.

Let us recommit to picking up the towel, sharing meals centred on Jesus’ own last supper and loving one another as Christ has loved us.

These three remain. Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.