Seeds of Hope – Report for Annual Meeting 2015

Seeds of Hope

St Pauls





Rev’d Susanne Chambers

As I begin my report for our Annual meeting of 2015, I acknowledge the first people of this land, the Wurundjeri people with whom we share this sacred earth.
In Jesus, Go deep, Grow strong, Bear fruit”.
This was words from one of my sermons early in the year and I have a copy of these words not only in my office but on the fridge door in the vicarage.
Why?  Because I need to be reminded that ‘In Jesus, I need to go deep, grow strong and bear fruit’.
This has been a challenging year for people personally in the parish with a range of challenging issues confronting them. From death or illness in families, debilitating disease and bodies needing some sort of repair.
This has been a challenging year for us as a parish: a community of faith as we have coped with a lot of change.
We don’t like change…none of us do and so it was wonderful to see you all in ‘action’, showing resilience in the face of change this year.
We have had to face change and that brings sadness and grief and also the possibility of new beginnings.
Some of the changes we have had to face:

Kate Lord, leaving after six years of being our Family and Youth minister. Kate brought a range of skills that amazed many of us!  Internet skills, creative children’s talks, coordinated Kid’s Hope, took SRI at Canterbury Primary school, produced our own Sunday school material.  Kate led the Kindergarten services in church and much more!
Susie Rosback, the Director of our Kindergarten left after about ten years of being here at St Pauls.  The position of Director is so vital in building bridges and good communication with our community ‘on our doorstep’ and Susie helped facilitate this.
Elizabeth-Anne Nixon, who left after Easter to take up another position as organist and director of music.  EA was a gentle, smiling woman who carried out her ministry with care and the choir enjoyed her directing and introducing new music. Elizabeth-Anne began the parishioner’s concerts twice a year and continued the tradition of the Spring Concert series.
Bishop Barbara Darling died suddenly earlier this year and was a long-time friend and my Bishop, I found her death touched me deeply.  Barbara was a very conscientious, pastoral woman and I’m glad that she spent Easter 2013 with us.
Gillian Lamb’s parents were involved in a very serious car accident which meant her time was limited in the office earlier this year. Sadly, as we know, her mum sadly died and her dad is slowly recovering.  I missed Gillian’s assistance in the office.

The deficit budget of $48,000 was scary and took up a lot of our energy in looking at how we could survive.  This is not the first time as you know that we have been faced with a deficit budget. For us this year, not paying a Family and Youth Minister or a Director Music for part of the year has got us out of the huge deficit that we were facing. Any thought of risk taking goes out the window when we live with fear of closure.

We don’t like change. We grieve loss. We become attached to the way things have been.
As the vicar, to loose key people, colleagues has been tough.

“In Jesus, go deep, grow strong, bear fruit.”

And I believe we have that in Jesus, we have gone deep, grown strong and bore fruit.

Earlier this year, we had a time of discernment. We met at Ros White’s home and in small groups we prayerfully looked at what indicates a healthy church, then asking, how healthy are we?: What do we hope St Paul’s will look like in 10 years’ time, what ministries mean the most to us and why, and what would make the church more meaningful.
What emerged from the responses, people in most groups said they would like to grow in their faith; have more small groups and formation-bible study, learn how to relate their faith in everyday life, pastoral care, and liturgy. They liked our traditional worship, music and having an all age community.
During Lent we had special prayers and a parishioner each week spoke about their first impressions of St Pauls, what they found helpful, what has surprised them, anything unhelpful and what are they discerning so far especially in light of our listening together for seeds of hope.

I was extremely encouraged by all your responses!  So let me name some of the signs of hope that I see already emerging throughout this year.

  • 13 people have volunteered to lead the children’s talks each week
  • Kesta and Anne have taken on the big task of coordinating, writing the curriculum and teaching the children at Sunday school.
  • Winifred took on coordinating the J2A’s
  • Kelly Murray offered to lead the Youth group and was commissioned in June.
  • Michelle Neal and Margaret Christianson have offered to help in any ‘arty’ ways with the children. Michelle worked with the J2A’s to paint this year’s Pascal Candle.
  • Iona Christianson and Chris Hudnott assisted people in making palm crosses
  • We have a new ballet school, the Musical Society of Victoria has now based their ‘home’ with eight concerts a year here. A yoga class is about to begin.
  • Pastoral Network for the parish is coming up with a new design to assist us to make sure all parishioners are cared for. Four pastoral carers have recently attended a two day course at Highfield Uniting church.
  • Offers of help in the office with Kaye coming in on Tuesday mornings. When Gillian was unable to come in the office early this year due to family crisis, Cecilia Irvine-So came and worked with me to produce the pew sheet each week…a 2-3 hour weekly job!
  • After being involved in the interview process for a director for the kindergarten, Toula Poulakis was appointed. We have renewed our covenant with the kinder and Toula is very community minded and wants the kinder to be connected with the church as much as is possible.
  • Kinder Easter service which I ran (Kate usually did this) we had 53 children and 20 adults attend! This kinder service which is held at Easter and Christmas is growing!
  • With Andrew Ham and Ros White, we entered the long, prayerful discerning process of selecting the right person for our parish to be our new organist/director of music. It has been well worth it with David Lempriere-Laughton coming on board and the choir are loving him and I’m enjoying working with David.
  • Our website has been improved and we now have, as you know, a video promoting all that we do and all who we are here at St Pauls.
  • We have two Kid’s Hope mentors. Tom Lambert and Geoff Smith and soon to have John DeAraugo joining them!
  • I’m sure there are more things I could add to this impressive list!

When the going gets tough, the tough get going! So the saying goes!  We are a resilient people who care about each other and the ministry we have here at St Pauls.

A healthy church in terms of the three legged stool of viability says this:

  1. It must have a critical mass.
  2. Be financially viable and
  3. Have a vision.

We have a critical mass. We have 134 on our electoral roll. We have new families join us this year and it’s so wonderful to have you amongst us bringing new energy and young life!
We are at the moment financially viable that is without any change happening.
We have a vision: We are a caring community of Christ worshiping God, engaging the community and building connections between people of all ages and cultures.

I give thanks for all of you and what we have been able to do together this year!
To the wardens, Ros, Kaye and Andrew, a big thank you. This has been a most exhausting and extraordinary year.  Kaye, as you for personal reasons will no longer be a warden or on parish council, thank you for your diligence and care for due process and your humour! I look forward to seeing you on Tuesdays!

Last year in my report I said “Living this vision isn’t something a few can do on their own. It will take a group effort – a community of faith effort….”

We are a vibrant, busy, welcoming, inclusive community of faith, which has the potential to flourish even more.

If we want to keep growing and be relevant and connect to each other and to the community, we need to support those who are already doing ministry on our behalf. Otherwise people get tired, burn out and feel unsupported. How do we keep supporting Kesta and Anne with the Sunday school and Kelly with youth group, Winfred with J2A and many others in their ministry? How do we support the wardens, treasurer and parish council members?  It’s not easy and we need to work together on this.

It would be wonderful if we could employ an associate priest to work two and a half days per week, supporting lay leaders; to be an enabling priest who works with the current ministries we have here at St Pauls and to start a new service maybe around music and children to appeal to the people of Canterbury who don’t currently attend.  This would be a different form of service.

I put this to the parish council earlier this year, and although they were understanding, they couldn’t see that this was possible due to the financial situation.

The need still exists. What does God want us to do?

I believe that this is very important to care for the carers and also to really connect with the community which is why we are here.

As we move to a new year, with a great vision of who we are and whose we are here in Canterbury, may we be encouraged and strengthen by our God who helps us to ‘go deep, grow strong and bear fruit.’