Charles writes: April 2013

I’m writing this with snow on the ground and more snow falling. “When will Spring come?” we all keep saying! We all feel better when we finally leave winter behind and the new growth of Spring really gets going – it’s like a turning point in the year.

Easter Day is an even bigger turning point in the church’s year – as we move from the seriousness of Lent to the joy of the Easter season. From Easter onwards, we celebrate that Jesus is risen for always – and the risen Jesus is with us and will never leave us. Much to celebrate – whatever the weather!

This year April is also a vital turning point for our parish. In mid April tenders are due in from the builders for the Barber Rooms building project – just in time for our Annual Parochial Church Meeting on Tuesday 16th April. So it will be a special Annual Meeting this year! In the second half of April, we will be examining the tenders and preparing to make our response. If all goes well, we could be ready to sign a contract in early May.

In view of this we are setting aside Sunday 28th April as BARBER ROOMS SUNDAY. Do join us if you can at any of our services that day for a review of the project and a look at our way forward.

So April is crunch time for us at All Saints’! In view of that, it seems a good time for a quick review of what this project is all about.

On Mothering Sunday this year, we thought about the church being a family for us all – with God as our Father, and all of us brothers and sisters in Christ. We thought about Jesus’ call – to “Love one another as I have loved you.” As time goes on I realise how important this is – for all of us in the church to get to know each other, to build relationships with each other, and to care for one another.

But I’m also realising more and more how our buildings militate against this. Our beautiful ancient building is wonderful for worship, but not so well suited to meeting more informally. To get to know each other, and to share and learn together, we need a very different kind of place to meet.

We are already painfully aware of this – we desperately need a proper venue for Alpha Courses, training courses such as “Growing Leaders”, larger meetings such as “God in our lives”, meetings with groups of Baptism families and Wedding couples – as time goes on, it feels more and more of a struggle not having a suitable venue for any of these kinds of meetings. With groups of Baptism families and Wedding couples, it will be a particular advantage to have this facility next to the Church, so we can meet informally, but also take the opportunity to help them to familiarise themselves with the Church building as well.

And it is exciting to think of the many new opportunities the Barber Rooms will give us to meet together – regular bring and share lunches, coffee mornings, fellowship meetings for older members, informal prayer and fellowship evenings, and so on. We will have a real opportunity to build up the life of our church family, and to be a community where people feel far more involved and included.

Last, and far from least, we still have a desperate need for meeting rooms for our children. At the recent Licensing Service in Stanford, Bishop Andrew spoke eloquently about the vital importance of investing in our children and young people. In my new role as Area Dean, I’ve been learning more about the life of churches across the diocese, and it is sad to find out that many have very few children and young families. I am delighted that All Saints’ is different, and that we have many children and young families involved in the life of the church. And yet – the children’s work remains a struggle with only two meeting rooms – one very small, and the other without disabled access. If it’s right to maintain our large and costly Church building that is suited to the needs of adult worship, then it is surely also right to invest in a building that is much more suited to the needs of our children.

I firmly believe that the time will come when we wonder how we ever managed without the Barber Rooms! But our moment of decision is now. As Gandalf says to Frodo in “Lord of the Rings” – it is our generation that is called to meet this challenge! Once again I would like to thank all of you who have already shared generously in this project – through your pledges, through your gifts, and through your enthusiasm – including making all that wonderful marmalade! Do join us at our Annual Meeting, and on Sunday 28th April, so we can now move on and share in this moment of decision together.

Do join us also to pray – on Tuesday 2nd April, we will meet again for our monthly Appeal Prayers – meeting at Church from 8.00 – 9.00pm. We are still very much aware that we can only tackle this project in humble dependence on God, seeking to follow his leading, and depending on his provision and his blessing in all that we do.

The Easter message is a message of joy – joy in the victory of humble love over hatred and cruelty – joy in God’s generous love that reaches out to all with love and forgiveness – and joy in the new life and hope that the risen Jesus gives us. This is a joy we want to share – with each other, with those who we welcome from outside, and with our children and young people as they grow up in an uncertain world. May this whole project enable us better to share that joy, as the risen Jesus calls us to.

And a very happy Easter Season to you all!

Charles