As I look back on the past year, I see a real strengthening in our life as the church of Christ. It’s hard to measure these things but I think it is discernible.
There is a deeper fellowship and stronger sense of community.
We have been using the Methodist Covenant Service for a few years. Its words have begun to be familiar and have often come back to me …
‘Put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
exalted for you or brought low for you;
let me be full, let me be empty,
to have all things or nothing.’
I expect they have resonated with some of you over the past year – a time of particular challenge for some – Howard and Helen, many struggled with illness – Jean, Amanda, Robert and Sandra, Lucy, Rob with his knee operation. Yet, through it all, fellowship and care at the heart of the church has been stretched to a deeper level.
I am utterly convinced that the Barnabas Groups are vitally important in creating the relationships which strengthen our community. There are six with 44 regular St Barnabas members in them. That’s a lot for a church our size. I want to express my thanks, particularly to Lynden who supports them and writes our material but also to all the leaders – and every member. The Men’s Breakfast was started this year and is providing fellowship and friendship for men. The children have their own groups on Sunday mornings – and it’s lovely to see their friendships flourishing…. St Barnabas would not be what it is now if it did not have all these groups.
And we have regular opportunities for fellowship – after church, over soup suppers like tonight and last year we had a Church Day Out at Filey – but I love it when I hear of little groups, people getting together at other times. And of course, we get to know, trust and love one another as we serve together.
The Methodist Covenant Service puts it like this:
Christ has many services to be done:
some are easy, others are difficult;
some bring honour, others bring reproach;
some are suited to our natural inclinations – others contrary.
Areas of service in a church are normally pretty mundane. Like in a home, someone has to do the washing up – and the more people there are, the more washing up! I can not possibly list the many, many ways in which people give. So, thank you, everyone, as you show your love and strengthen our fellowship by giving and serving.
As a fellowship deepens, one of the ways this is expressed is in worship. Our children often comment after visiting St Barnabas on a Sunday how they’ve noticed a greater sense of worship and unity, attentiveness to the preaching and welcome over coffee. Fruit of the Spirit’s work!
Strengthening of our vision and hope.
My sense is that our vision is more widely held, owned and articulated. In Heather Wraight’s report from our Half Day in February, she wrote ‘St Barnabas has a real heart to serve the local community and wants to present Christ to them, but needs better facilities and more people to do this adequately.’ She discerned a strong sense of purpose which is commonly held and we will continue to work on the process of development which she outlined.
It’s this vision which has driven us to undertake our Building Project. It’s for mission and service. Through last term’s teaching series on the Tent of Meeting, we described what better facilities in the church might look like. A new entrance through the west end, glass so that light can pour in, people can see in, connecting outside with inside; probably clearing the pews so we can use all the space at times and a smaller room. Our longing is that St Barnabas is a place where people can meet with God and God with people as we provide suitable spaces for the community to use. Our vision is that in a few years time the church will be open every day, a hive of activity. The Building Steering Group feels it must now make a decision as to what plans to suggest to the PCC.
It was this vision that led us to employ Andy as a Youth and Children’s worker – which he did for over two years, developing clubs in school and the youth club ‘Amped’. Izzi continued with one club in school and pioneered a craft afternoon with a Christmas theme. The very few hours which she could offer, has made it difficult to get something off the ground so together we decided it best for Izzi to stop being employed.
Our vision was enlarged when in February the City of York Council publicised their plans for the development of part of our parish – the York Central Development. A new residential area of about 2000 people will bring a fresh call on St Barnabas to share Christ in an area which is geographically separate.
Our mission has continued with Toddlers, Baptism preparation and contacts with people through weddings, funerals, and the school. There are five members of St Barnabas Church who serve as Governors. As well as Anne, Izzi and myself regularly going in, the school and many parents comes to church five times a year for special services – and on the Wednesday of Thy Kingdom Come week, YoYo is setting up Prayer Spaces in church for the school. We’d love some volunteers to help.
The All Age Service is now in its second year of running in its new format. I know the team have grappled with how to get everyone engaging during the activity time. There’s a great buzz over tea and toast when people arrive and the team have worked hard to make the worship and content lively and straightforward and to produce varied purposeful activities.
We held our, now, annual events which the community looks forward to – our Hog Roast, Carol Service and Carols in the Leeman pub, our Harvest Supper. We’re planning to celebrate the Queen’s 90th Birthday with a Street Party on June 11th – and on June 12th something in St Peter’s Quarter.
Last year, Jake and Helen hosted an Alpha Course in their home, led by Robert and Sandra; Roger and I used it for Marriage and Baptism preparation. Since February, Roger and I have held one in our home. It’s always wonderful to see people engaging deeply with the gospel.
And our support of overseas mission has continued through StJohn and Ellie Perry and Jonathan, Lucy and Daniel and we’ve had visits from all of them (except Ellie!).
As Sandra was going through her photos to create the slide-sequence, she noticed how many people featured regularly who were not part of the St Barnabas community a year or two ago. Yes, a few have left for various reasons – but some have joined, others have grown in spiritual maturity and discipleship. Jesus told the parable of the mystery of the seed which grows silently but surely, producing the full grain, ready for harvest.
Let us continue to persevere, to sow the seed of the gospel message and rejoice where we see growth and strengthening in Christ, the mysterious work of the Spirit. This past year we have seen growth, a strengthening at the heart of St Barnabas and in our vision. This gives us great hope that God will continue to grow his Kingdom here in Leeman Road.