First of all, a Happy New Year to everyone who reads this blog, and to the whole church family!
There is no doubt this last year has been a very special year, and we want to thank the Lord for the many wonderful ways he has been at work.
The year started with the Lord giving the church a very specific promise that he was doing a new thing. So it was on January 3rd I began to wonder if now was time for the two congregations to merge … on March 6th the two churches began to worship together at St Michael’s, and the fact we now have one larger congregation meeting under one roof has led to real growth – in new relationships being formed, in new ministries being started, in newcomers being welcomed into the church.
For example, this year we have seen our children’s work relaunched. Our small groups have grown in number and it has been exciting to see folk offering to take on leadership roles. A depression support group has started, and numerous other events have taken place, culminating in the Light Festival on 21st December, where it was a real joy to see the church so full of visitors and children.
We have also seen our links with the wider church grow and deepen. Our visitors from Thika really encouraged us in our faith, and we were challenged by the testimony of Pastor Paul from India. We also renewed our links with the parish church in Bovey Tracey, and our ongoing fellowship with other churches in Stoke and Devonport continues to develop.
It was a great privilege during 2016 to lead another Christianity Explored course and I always find the discussions we have on these courses strengthen and renew my own faith. This course led on to a confirmation service where six people of all ages made a public commitment, a very special moment indeed.
I would like to say this was all part of some great plan I had worked out … but really I have been surprised and thrilled by the way the Lord has kept good his word (and stopped me from thinking I was in control!). I find myself increasingly waiting and wondering what the Lord will do in 2017.
There are challenges … we will have to decide what is going to happen to the St Barnabas church building. On March 6th we wondered just how we could afford to keep it going, but since that date it has been used more than ever. It has become clear there are many independent churches and ministries who are looking for a home, and it has been good to host, among others, Rediscover Church and to share fellowship with them.
Many of the ministries set up in this year will need to grow and establish themselves in the coming year. The harvest field in Devonport is plentiful but the workers are indeed few. As we seek to build on the past year, we also need to review and renew our Mission Action Plan drawn up in 2012, building on the work done at our Away Day in November.
One very specific outreach will take place in the run up to Pentecost 2017 on June 4th. As last year the Archbishops of York and Canterbury want the churches to hold prayer events in the ten days from Ascension to Pentecost. Whatever form our event takes, we learnt from the same event this year that we will have most impact when we go out onto the streets and door to door. So look out for further information and do share your ideas with me!
To sum up: this year has been a busy year of growth, but I hope only the start of a greater work as the Lord builds His kingdom in His place. Thank you to all who have made such a contribution and let’s seek together His plans and purposes for 2017.
May the Lord bless you all.