View from the Vicarage

Septuagesima  

by Sir John Betjeman

 

Let’s praise the man who goes to light

The church stove on an icy night.

Let’s praise that hard-worked he or she

The Treasurer of the P.C.C.

 

Let’s praise the cleaner of the aisles,

The nave and candlesticks and tiles.

Let’s praise the organist who tries

To make the choir increase in size,

Or if that simply cannot be,

Just to improve its quality.

 

Let’s praise the ringers in the tower

Who come to ring in cold and shower.

But most of all let’s praise the few

Who are seen in their accustomed pew

Throughout the year, whate’er the weather,

That they may worship God together.

 

This poem resonated with me as I was reflecting upon my Annual Report this year. It is my opportunity to say Thank You to you all. I am so aware of how deeply blessed we are in this busy Parish to have such gifted and generous volunteers who are willing to maintain the mission and ministry of our churches. We are not alone in facing the reality of a Church which is growing older in its demographic. Our Congregation has felt deeply the loss of some dear members of our life together, but we are sustained in our fellowship with them as we meet in Prayer and the Breaking of Bread.

As we focus on maintenance, mission and outreach, one of my aims in the year ahead is to develop how we conduct our many occasional offices– ‘Life Events’ such as baptisms, weddings and funerals, to improve good practice and share our faith. I am deeply grateful to all those who already make these occasions so welcoming and meaningful. We are seeing many changes in the life of our parish and I have some key thanks to make.

Firstly, I am deeply grateful to Canon Christine for her ministry in this place. Over many years she has been a wonderful resource, guide and pastor, both within this Parish, but also the Deanery, Diocese and beyond. We will, of course, thank her more fully as she presides for her last United Parish Eucharist at 10 a.m. on Sunday 23rd of June. While Revd Rosemary and myself will do all that we can to build upon this faithful ministry, we ask for your patience and understanding over this period of transition and change. I am equally grateful to Reverend Rosemary in her now extended role as Associate Priest. Her faithful, diligent and sensitive ministry among us is much appreciated.  

I am also deeply grateful to Revd Jona for all that he has done to build up our ecumenical bonds as he moves on later in the summer within the Methodist Circuit. With the closure of the United Reformed Church, and other issues, we have built up strong bonds of friendship and fellowship. We are going to be increasingly dependent on the splendid lay people of our Churches to continue to build up our ecumenical relationships, through prayer, study and fellowship. My deepest thanks to John Doherty for his chairing of our Ponteland Churches Together Group.

I would like to put on record how truly grateful I am to each and every one of you for making this such a place of blessing over seven happy years for me. We continue to welcome visitors and newcomers each week and celebrate, mission and ministry at life events. We value each other and respect one another’s diversity and difference. We have fun and fellowship and refuse to be weighed down by bureaucracy and legislation. We have a vision for our buildings as a place that honours God and serves our community. We are a generous church who give sacrificially locally, nationally and internationally. Local foodbanks and national charities benefit greatly. Indeed, we look forward to welcoming our CMS Mission Partners at a 10 a.m. Service on Sunday 22nd of September.

In such a busy and multifaceted benefice, we rely heavily on our Office Holders. I extend my sincerest thanks to all who contribute to and build up our common life together – something that was summed up so well in the words of John Betjeman at the beginning. I would especially like to record my thanks to our out-going Church Warden, Christine, for all she has done to support my ministry and our mission.  Also, to Carole Butler for her sterling work as PCC Secretary over many years: well done, for crafting such beauty out of verbal chaos.  This feels as something of a watershed moment with so much change and so many departures, but I still feel called to be here as your Vicar and will do my utmost under God to fulfil this calling.  I want to once again express my deepest thanks to Ruth Holliday, our Parish Administrator, for her patience, counsel and cooperation in the daily tasks of a busy Parish.

To come to Ponteland churches is to join in the adventure of congregations aiming to keep Jesus right at the centre. These are some of the things that we hope visitors and newcomers will find here. These will be my priorities to nurture, for my remaining time with you.

A WARM WELCOME: Our aim is to welcome everyone as unique and special, as if we are welcoming Jesus, and to see God bring hope and transformation to each person’s life.

A SERVING COMMUNITY: We are a group of people of differing ages, backgrounds and traditions who aim to love and serve everyone God brings to Ponteland. Sharing our lives in this community of faith is a rich, encouraging, challenging and costly business, and we also want to share our lives with those who have yet to join our congregations.

PRAYER: At Holy Saviour and Saint Mary’s, we would love you to meet the living God through Prayer. We have a daily rhythm of prayer– morning prayer is said, candles lit, intercessions cards written; and in worship, both sacramental, choral, ecumenical prayers, silent contemplation made and services of the word offered. Clergy are also available to pray individually with you upon request.

LAUGHTER: We have learned here that laughter is not the poor relation of ‘serious ministry’ – it is a gift from God that transforms and heals. We don’t mind whether you are laughing with us or at us – we just hope that you will laugh!

A BEAUTIFUL PLACE: We have wonderful and historic places of worship and we are surrounded by stunning countryside. We will work hard to maintain our buildings and open spaces as vital resources for mission in the 21st century. We our constantly grateful to our founders and benefactors and the sterling work of our Friends of Saint Mary’s Group, and all volunteers for enriching this heritage.

… and the people are pretty lovely too!  

 

Prayers & Blessings

Reverend Paul