Annual Priest Report 2011

delivered on Passion Sunday at the 10am Service

It is good for us to be here this morning. It is in fact a privilege to be here not only as people called to be of service but chosen and called by our names as God’s elected sons and daughter.

Today we enter the period of Lent called Passiontide. If you look around you, you will see a change in the way the church has been dressed for the occasion. We haven’t made these changes to inflict a mood of morbid oppression. We make subtle changes to help us to identify with the journey which Jesus made to the cross. His journey was no accident. He had a purpose and took no short cuts to fulfil the will of his Father.

Hopefully we are here because we wish to be committed as Christians to the task of walking the journey with Jesus at this challenging time.

Not only do we see Lent as a challenging time, but the present times and circumstances we are living in, day by day, invite us to be challenged.

There is no better place to be, than here as a ‘community gathered’ for it is in a community that we are challenged by our conduct, our beliefs our expressions of human dignity; reaching out to the cares and concerns of others.

What is the purpose of such a gathered community? Perhaps we find an answer to this in our Post Communion Prayer for this Sunday which goes like this: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught us that what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters, we do for you: give us the will to be the servant of others as you were the servant of all, and gave up your life and died for us, but are alive and reign, now and for ever.’

Our purpose therefore, for which we are greatly privileged to be called, is to follow the way of the Servant King.

Having read through with great interest, enjoyment and gratitude to so many, the Annual Report for 2010, it gave me joy to read about the many signs of servant hood being expressed in exciting ways and by so many.

Some of what has been happening over the past year, has been ongoing from the years before but has, since then, been upgraded and freshly expressed. We only have to reflect about the church grounds, for example.  You will take note, hopefully, that to maintain the gardens for the good of the community, hard on-going work takes place.

But, along with this, over the past year, a new portion of our garden was designed and dedicated as the Healing Garden; offering peace and solace to those who stop and rest for awhile. Gratitude is expressed to both Marianne and Roland Grzybek and their teams of helpers who have come on board to share the load. Bishop Richard of London was delighted to stand among many, here on the church grounds in November of this past year, to celebrate the opening of the Garden for the community.

It is not fair, however, for the parish priest to lavish praise on one aspect of the church life for there are many people and events that merit praise and thanksgiving.

I had written in my contribution to the report ‘study and training’ by way of apology that I had not been able to offer as much as I have in the previous years owing to more frequent visits back and forth to America to attend to my mother’s needs.

Once I got over the rather negative admission of my own faults, I came to realise that what has been really important and uplifting this year is not so much that people attended this course or that course, but to give praise and thanks to those who have attended study courses and moved on, using their own initiatives resulting in new phases of ministry.

Again the Servant King has been honoured by their diligence and determination.

A little bit about the background to what I have just mentioned.

Last year, Several of our local church’s got together under the guidance of said Church Leaders and orchestrated a 1 year study Course called ‘Growing Church Leaders’ which was put together by CPAS (Church Pastoral Aid Society).

Sandra Welch and Mary Balakrishnan agreed to attend the Course and, from their own admission, both got a great deal out of it. Since then, Sandra has gone on to make a link between All Hallows Church and the YMCA in West London under the guidance of Revd. Dr. Judith Stephenson (Chaplain), to actively encourage our congregation to play their part through prayer plus financial and practical outreach.

Mary Balakrishnan used her Course skills to engage with the Interfaith Centre in London; developing further what she already does here in our community with the different faiths. As of this week, I understand that Dr. Stephenson will be inviting both Sandra and Mary join a team of Chaplaincy Volunteers to assist her in her work. Others from this church and community would also be welcomed if they felt able to offer themselves and commit their time.

Two or three years ago, neither Sandra nor Mary would have dreamt of the ministry which has been opened up to them. I wonder what God has yet to open up to you this coming year? Will you be willing to respond to his gracious calling in your life?

Here is a further example of Servant ministry which came about by a gracious lady in this church simply by saying ‘yes’! The background to this is as follows:

We have had the delights and wonders of God’s creation being shown to us by the ministry of our flower arrangers Brenda and Chrissie over the past few years.

Owing to Chrissie’s ministry of care for the sick and needy beyond this parish, she found herself no longer able to give time and attention to church flowers. One Sunday morning the situation had to be addressed. By the end of the Service Ernestine, new to the church family, came forward and offered her help. To this day she delights in giving her time and talents to the Lord’s service.

‘What we do for the least of our brothers or sisters we do also for you’ literally means just that.

When we offer assistance, whether this be in the ways of making tea on a Sunday or weekday morning for our guests, or stand at the door as a ‘Welcomer’ meeting and greeting the stranger at the door, or doing a stint on the cleaning Rota, stapling Rota, Prayer Rota, you are being the Servant to many as Jesus was the Servant to all.

There are many ways for us to emulate the person and work of Jesus and I say thank you to all of you for being the people you are first and foremost. We have to be ourselves in order to be people who have a desire to look beyond ourselves.

The ministry of outreach  at All Hallows is growing and developing in a multitude of ways. Over the past year, Stephen, priest here at All Hallows, has developed a unique ministry with our local school, Horsenden Primary. Once a week he goes into the school and plays his guitar; teaching the children songs and giving time and opportunity to show the love of God to many children of many faiths or none.

Likewise there are several of you, Anne, Joan, Margaret, John to name but a few who go into Horsenden School each week volunteering your time to help and support the work of the staff; for which they are most grateful.

But thank you too, to our more Senior church family members, Joan, Beryl, Ivy, Joyce  who make cups of tea and welcome those from the community who gather week by week to share fellowship on Monday afternoons at the Friendship Club.

‘What we do for the least of our brothers and sisters we do this also for you’ goes beyond our own needs too. You, the people of All Hallows, have been consistently generous; giving financially to charitable needs.

In big ways, such as the Hurricane in Haiti, Christian Aid, Anthony Nolan Trust, Shooting Star House, Children’s Hospice, Diocesan Lent Appeals and in a more regularised form of giving to the Ealing Soup kitchen, YMCA, Fair Traid and more recently, to the Ealing Night shelter appeal. All of this shows generosity of spirit to those known and loved by Jesus beyond our parish boundaries.

Over the past year, the church family had to come to terms with the loss of 4 of our senior church members in close succession; Eileen McNamara, John Shaw, Molly Collard and Peggy Gibbs.

All of these individuals contributed to the life of the parish for many years and supported the church of All Hallows through their ministry of good works and financial giving.

Their greatest legacy, left to us all, goes far beyond their financial gifts. It is the zeal they had; their ability to make sacrifices, to stand fast in good times and in bad, to do their best and at the end of their life to set an example for us to learn from; active service beyond the call of duty.

Thankfully, our young church members have been set an example by these stoic individuals who have parted this life from you my brothers and sisters.

Moving now from the ‘Seniors’ to the ‘Juniors’. The children of this church are wise beyond their years and look to you and to me to set an example for them to follow.

We give thanks for our excellent team of Junior Church Leaders; Rosalind, Ilona, Emma, Simone and Nathan who give up their time and talents joyfully, week by week to ensure that God’s good news is alive and vibrant to our younger generation. Jesus had a very special ministry with children. He invites us to continue this in our day and age.

‘There is no better place to be than in a community gathered.’ You have heard these words at the start of this address. I use them again to illustrate to you that in community we can get things done if we do them together.

Working together is the essence of our Mission Action Plan for the following 3 years. You may think, ‘it has nothing to do with you’ but you are wrong. It has everything to do with every member of this church and community. We have a duty and this, is a privilege in itself, to engage in the work of God as community gathered. Our Mission Action Plan has been put together to reflect just that.

The Mission Action Team has room for everyone whether or not you have been here for years or walked ‘brand new’ off the street. If we ‘work together’ we (a) share the load (b) share the skills and gifts of many (c) maintain positive outlooks rooting out negative language and behaviour (d) be in relationship with one another, praying, worshipping and sharing fellowship.

Over this past year, you will have noticed a change in personnel with regard to our Serving team. Several of our senior church youth have moved on to accept further responsibility. Carly, Nathan, Luke, Cavell, and Cindy have become Priest Assistants offering very valuable help to the clergy by their presence and attention.

Both Simone and Nathan have taken up leadership rolls in the Junior Church. Several of our church juniors have come on board to Serve who haven’t done this before; Trevorlyn, Carolyn, Sophie, Ramar, Ellys-Anne, Cory and  Haydn. Thank you to Rhys, and Harvey our 2 long term Servers who help to keep an eye on the novitiates!

Thank you to our ‘Senior – Senior’ Servers; Brenda, John, Richard, Yohan, Janet and Caroline for their ongoing support to help the clergy team minister effectively.

If you are wondering where you can play your part in seeing the kingdom of God unfold further in this community, the Mission Action Team players are willing to support your offers of help.

5 areas of activity have been identified for you to consider:

Mission and outreach

Maintenance

Hospitality

Publicity

outreach/fundraising.

If you are seeking to engage with lay or Ordained Ministry, I am very willing to pray with you, listen to your story and discern with you; a way forward.

The church is only a building. It is the people who make up the body of Christ and we the body of Christ at All Hallows are called to walk in his ways as individuals and as an active supporting community.

How are we all to be effective ministers, committed to the task in this coming year? Paul’s letter to the Ephesians offers us guidance.

(Ephesians 4 v1 – 6 ) ‘Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling: one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all’

(v15-16) ‘ but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.’

In conclusion, again thank you to you all and may this year of tasks and pleasures be challenging and enjoyable; may it be a time to learn afresh new ways to celebrate the body of Christ united. May we sense the power of the Holy Spirit breathing new life into us, our communities and our points of outreach for all which we are called to be and to do.