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Minister’s February Letter

Dear Friends,

Firstly, may I thank you for the many kind words and sympathetic understanding of my recently announced intention to retire at some point during 2023.   Despite the fact that I shall be retiring no more than about 18 months before I would be compelled to, it has not been an easy decision to take, and your loving support has meant a lot to me.

So, what do we do now?  I am hoping and praying that my final 14-18 months at St John’s can be a kind of “John the Baptist” ministry, helping you to prepare for a future which I shall not be here to share. There will be a lot of serious discussions about the future direction of the church, some short-term decisions to be made and some longer term “visions” to plan for. I do not want to sound like a prophet of doom, but we must all realise that churches all over the UK are struggling to survive.   Personally, I see many signs of new life and hope in St John’s Church and have seen these even    during the difficult months of Covid.  But these signs will need a great deal of encouragement and commitment from all those who really want to see our church survive to inspire future generations.

I asked you all to look out for invitations to join discussions and here are some now for your diaries:

There will be two open meetings, hosted by our Church Secretaries and some of the Elders, at which you can talk together about how you see the future of our church;  what concerns you;  what inspires you.

One is on Friday 4th February at the church during the afternoon.

The other is on Tuesday 15th February during the evening on Zoom

Look out for precise details of times in the weekly bulletin.

The Worship and Faith Development Teams are also creating a Lent Series of Discussion Groups that will help us to reflect on our faith, on our church, on what a church is meant to be and what kind of church is needed for 21st Century UK.

These group meetings will be held, as usual, on Sunday evenings through Lent (from Sunday 6th March—Sunday 10th April). The group discussions will reflect and be reflected in our Sunday morning services on the same weeks.  Even if you “never go to that sort of thing,” think again about coming along this year.

And there will be a Church meeting on Sunday 6th March, from 12 noon-1pm, during which we shall hear more about the re-wiring work needed and begin discussions on the future of our youth ministry.

Someone recently commented to me that facing retirement was a bit like expecting your first child in that you knew your life was going to change radically but had no idea just how radically!  This reminded me of something I would like to share with you.   As an expectant mother I was bombarded with booklets about babies and how to prepare for them.  I read them avidly, from cover to cover, over and over again,  until I became so stressed out that I asked my husband to throw them on top of the wardrobe so that I could not reach them!  The advice in the booklets was helpful but it was only as I actually started to take care of my baby that it made more sense and caused less stress. 

I would like to suggest that the same is true of taking church life into an unknown future.  Yes, we need to ask advice.  Yes, we need to have  plenty of discussion time.  But things will only start to become clear as we simply get on with church life:  attend worship, support church teams, volunteer to help in some way, pray faithfully and regularly for our church (see the weekly list on the Prayer Focus section of the weekly bulletin) and trust that, by doing so, the passion and conviction of faith will grow and flourish in our lives.

God Bless you all,

Jennifer Millington

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