There is an old, old hymn which tells us to Count your many blessings, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
At the turn of the year the Lord spoke to the church through the words of Isaiah 43:19 – See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
What has happened since then? In no particular order:
- Three people have completed the latest Christianity Explored course and are moving on to the new Grow course, in preparation for confirmation
- The Thursday evening group is reaching a point where it is looking at splitting
- Several people have expression interest in confirmation and renewal of baptism vows.
- Children’s work has restarted at St Michael’s.
- “Forward Step” depression support group is launching at St Michael’s on July 12th at 11.00am
- The new “Women Around the Table” group is launching as a monthly discussion group at the vicarage, the last Sunday of every month at 4pm.
Alongside these developments, the two congregations have now merged on a Sunday morning. Last Tuesday evening the two PCCs agreed to begin the formal merger process so that the parish of St Michael’s, Devonport and the parish of St Barnabas, Devonport become the united parish of St Michael’s and St Barnabas, Devonport. This decision will lead to the creation of one new legal entity out of the previous two parishes.
This seems the logical next step which not only expresses our unity in Christ but also frees up resources for mission and ministry. It was however certainly not what I was expecting at the start of the year! To me, it’s a reminder that when the Lord decides to act, He very much does so in His timing according to His purposes.
So what lies in store for the next six months? In my next blog, I will outline some of the key events which are coming up. But growth isn’t something we can just plan and prepare for, as if the Lord will simply turn up and fit into our agenda. We need to be ready for the change that He wants, and sometimes it can be hard to let go of our own own priorities and our own plans, and allow Him to take full control. (At least, that’s true for me!)
At a time of change like this, then, it is just so important that we remain united as the body of Christ, praying for and listening to one another, focused on Jesus and offering ourselves entirely in His service. What is happening here is the Lord’s work, not the vicar’s, not the PCC’s. It is only by together discerning how He is speaking to us through His word and through the Holy Spirit that we will know how to further His plans to build His kingdom in this place.
That’s why several of us have found these verses from Romans 12:1-2 to be so appropriate as we have prayed for our church recently:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.