Newsletter

PARISH CHURCH NEWSLETTER      [ISSUE NO. 2]

By Father Egerton Gbonda
 

Introduction:

In this section, I will focus on what we have done and plan to do within the four walls of our church i.e. ministry. What we are doing and planning to do outside the four walls of the church (which is mission) is also factored. However, the period under review is from the 20th October 2014 (when I was licensed) to 31st March 2015; so that you will be able to have insights into our ministry and mission before the annual parochial church meeting, which is scheduled on the 12th April 2015.

(A) Ministry

1. Our worship services on Sundays:

We continue to meet on Sundays for our family parish mass i.e. our time of singing praises to God, prayers, listening to passages from the bible being read and explained through a sermon. We also have time for a holy meal, what we call communion. We do all these within the framework of an Anglo-Catholic style of worship.

2. Music:

We have added a new item to our worship service, to further enrich our worship, a time of praise medley; where we sing and dance to contemporary gospel songs. Our hon. organist, Emile Richards, continues to bless us with his musical skills and generosity. We enjoy his services for free. Though we have an organ in the church, he also comes with his own digital instruments- a keyboard, electronic guitar and drums and he has begun teaching one of our female members (Amelie Towa) to play the digital drums.

3. Church’s electoral Roll

At present we have 42 persons on our electoral roll. Over 50% of them are females, 98% of them have very strong link with Africa (in terms of ethnicity) and over 50% of them do not live in the parish.

In a bid to know each other and continue to be with each other, even when the mass has ended, we have developed a prayer cycle- wherein those on the electoral roll are prayed for on specific days by everyone in the church, who would find time to do so.

4. Teaching sessions and contemporary issues:

In addition to our set of readings assigned for each Sunday, we have done teaching sessions on selected passages in Acts of the Apostles; wherein we looked at some of the success stories of the Early Church, their struggles and what we would like our own church to be vis `a vis the Early church. We have also done sessions on spiritual gifts, in preparation for the annual parochial church meeting. Church members were encouraged to individually and collectively identify the spiritual gifts God has given them for the service of God in our church; so that we develop ourselves both physically and spiritually. We also had a money talk session that was done by Theophilia Shaw (Coordinator of Church Credit Champions Network). She sensitise the church about high street pay day loan schemes, gave biblical reflections on the topic, majoring on the story of Nehemiah and encouraged all to join their local mutual credit unions rather than going to high street pay day loan schemes. We are planning to do a series on giving and Christian stewardship to improve our giving in the church.

5. Visual aid to enhance our worship:

Our worship has been enhanced with a donation of a projector with stand, laptop, wireless presenter and a mega screen. Consequently we now have a hands-free worship service. In our own modest way, we are contributing to reduce our carbon footprint by going paperless. We are planning to improve our public address system in the church by buying or receiving a donation of a better public address system.

6. Another day of fellowship and worship:

We have also found another day, apart from Sunday, to meet and worship. On Ash Wednesday, we met at St. Bartholomew Chapel for a worship service and from thence we meet every Friday at 8pm; in what we call Church Evening Fellowship (CEF) - a time for less liturgical worship; that is pretty informal and much more interactive. So far, church members who live locally are the attendees. Once in a while, others further afield do attend.

7. Intercessory Prayer Group (IPG):

This is another additional meeting time of church members apart from Sunday. They meet on Fridays at 7pm in the chapel for a time of prayer- praying for their personal needs, the needs of others- the community and our church. At present only very few people find time to attend. The IPG is currently being led by the Mothers’ Union branch leader.

8. Special intergenerational service:

We celebrated the 91st birthday of our oldest church member- Pa Samuel Ralph Jones. This attracted friends and his family members from different parts of London to our church. It was a special intergenerational service- his grand-children, children and the entire church danced and celebrated with joy onto the Lord. Pa Jones too was on his feet with his unique dance style.

           9. Parish Church Council (PCC) Committees:

The developments we have made so far within the four walls of our church came as a result of establishing PCC committees/team. They are: Finance Committee, Fabric cum Health and Safety Committee and Welcome  cum Pastoral Action Team

         10. Children and Young People’s Ministry (CaYPM):

Young people and children are treated as valued partners in the development of our church. They have their own special sessions on Sundays called intermediate and junior sessions. The intermediate is for those of secondary school age and the junior is for primary school children. Toddlers are also encouraged in this group. PCC appointed a volunteer CaYPM coordinator- Regina Musa, who is doing Level 6 in Childhood Studies.

11. Men’s Fellowship:

On Sunday, the 29th March, 2015 PCC agreed that the church should have a structured men’s fellowship group. A three-person executive was therefore formed; mandated to pioneer the newly formed group.

A youth fellowship group is also being explored; wherein the young people will form their own executive and begin to take leadership roles in the church from a new dimension. In addition, we are working towards encouraging the young people to be altar servers; as we believe that if you don’t use them, you lose them. We want both adults and young people to assist the priest at the altar.

We believe having groups with common interests and working through them, will achieve greater results. We are therefore hopeful, that the newly formed Men’s Fellowship and the Youth Fellowship (that will be set up in the near future) and the 5 years old Mothers’ Union in the church will be vibrant church groups that will do greater things for their own groups and the church as a whole.

12. Safeguarding issues in the church:

In December 2014, 5 people volunteered to attend a diocesan safeguarding training at Trinity House. We now have 2 Safeguarding Officers in the persons of Amelie Towa and Erere Akpobaro and 10 persons have volunteered to be DBS checked so that they can begin to work with children.

The Health and Safety Officer of our church has produced a health and safety policy for us- procedures and strategies we need to follow in order for our place of worship to be a safer space for everyone.

13. Baptism, weddings and funerals:

We have done one baptism preparation session for parents and godparents on Sunday 22nd March 2015. The baptism was done on Easter Day. First Step DVD produced by CPAS is the teaching and learning resource used for the preparation session. Plans are afoot to get Mothers’ Union involved in the preparation sessions. We are yet to have weddings and funerals in the church

14. The empowerment of the laity- worship team, wardens and PCC

Five persons attended the Black Asian Minority Ethnicity vocation conference at Southwark Diocese retreat centre in Wychroft; in their desire to explore the calling of God in their lives.

Conversations with wardens and other PCC members, have shown (among other things) that they have not been adequately empowered in terms of knowledge and skills about their duties and responsibilities as elected officers of the church.

I therefore intend to have away day session/s with them; where they will have training workshops facilitated by experienced external personnel; who will provide the relevant information they need. In addition, relevant literature will be purchased that will further enhance their knowledge.

          15. Our struggles:

We are still struggling to meet on time for worship services on Sundays. Our 10.30 am services don’t start till 10.40 or 10.45; as majority of the worshippers come late. May be, we need to change our starting time.

Another struggle we are faced with is the state and condition of our church building- the age of the building and minimal maintenance over the years (as a result of inadequate funds) is really impacting us negatively; causing us to do a number of small maintenance here and there.

Plans are afoot, though, to develop a project proposal and seek for external funding to repair our roof, the walls and a complete overhauling of the electrical system. In a bid to share our church space with other churches, that subscribe to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity; as well as make optimal use of our crypt for community activities.

16. Local contributions/donations:

Meanwhile, we are trying in our own local way to do some little maintenance here and there. Through an individual donation, we have installed an Oversink water heater and re-painted one of our general purpose rooms.

One of our members has used his connections to facilitate donations of office furniture for the re-painted general purpose room. The donation came from Nationwide Building Society.

17. Conclusion:

With the struggles we have, as stated above, we are sometimes troubled and frustrated for not getting the adequate funding to address our struggles. But like Saint Paul, we can boldly say: ‘In every way we’re troubled but not crushed, frustrated but not in despair’ (Second Corinthians chapter 4 verse 8, International Standard Version)

We are very much determined to continue to meet at this our beautiful church, worship God- sing our songs of praises to him, intercede for others, listen to the scriptures, ‘break bread together’ and fellowship with one another and provide space for community activities; as well as other churches who may want to use our worship space. We believe the physical development we need in our church will happen. ‘‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ (Matthew chapter 19 verse 26, New International Version). Therefore our vision for ministry is this:

We envisioned church worship activities that will enhance all of us to be very much biblically literate and practising Christians in order that we will be better witnesses for Christ in our homes, wider community and very active participants in the spiritual and physical development of our church.

See appendix 1 on how we hope to achieve our ministry vision.

         (B) Mission

Introduction:

Outside the four walls of our church, we are modestly reaching out to our community; because we believe we should ‘love our neighbours as [ourselves]’ (Mark chapter 12 verse 31, New International Version). We achieved this in the following ways:

1. A prayer cycle for our neighbours:

Our church is located in Silwood community; in the middle of a residential setting. A big expanse of new dwellings facing the church in the Lewisham borough and at the other end of the church are old council flats in Southwark borough.

We have promised to pray for every street, road and house in Silwood. Therefore, every Sunday, we stand and intercede (pray on behalf of) a particular house number on a particular street or road. At present we are praying for the residents at Eugenia Road. After the church service, we take a letter (signed by the priest) to the house number we have prayed for and pass the mail through their letter box. In the mail we state that:

‘Dear good neighbour,

I want to let you know that the above-named local church in your community prayed for you today at our 10.30 am Sunday service. In our church we pray for a particular house/flat in the neighbourhood for God’s favour to dwell in there. Today was the day we prayed specifically for you.’

 2. A church website and newsletter to let people far and wide know about us:

We have opened a website, hosted by Church Edit. This came about by an individual donation from a church member who paid the annual fee for Church Edit to host the site. Our web address is:

stkatharine-stbartholomew-anglicanchurch.org.uk

Child and data protection is taken very seriously in our church. Therefore care givers are made to sign consent forms for the photos of their child/ward to be used on our website and newsletter.  Church notice is displayed in the church that photos taken by the safeguarding officers may be used on our website and newsletter and persons may decline for their photos not to be published.

3. Regular articles to Silwood community newspaper:

Silwood community produces a quarterly newspaper dubbed the Triangle. We have started sending articles to this newspaper, in which we tell the readers what we do and plan to do in the community and as well as the love of Jesus.

4. A volunteer Parish Community Engagement Officer (PCEO):

PCC unanimously appointed Rita Edmond to be our PCEO. Rita has lived in Silwood Community for over two decades, a community activist in Silwood and holds a master’s degree in Organisation and Community Development.

5. Local partnership with community stakeholders in Silwood:

We have built good relationships with the following in the community:

  • The centre manager of Lewington Centre- Patricia Okonkwo

  • Stay, Play Hub for toddlers that meet at Lewington Centre

  • XLP, they come every Tuesdays with their bespoke double decker bus and provide activities for young people in Silwood. Rita goes to the young people and their leaders and provides support

  • Tenants residents associations (TRA) in Silwood. Rita and I attend TRA meetings on behalf of our church

6. Silwood youth project at St. Katharine’s:

Rita has been able to secure funding from Southwark Neighbourhood Funds for youth activities in our general purpose room in our church. Therefore in addition to what looks like the only regular and free youth activity in Silwood provided by XLP, our church will also be offering a no entrance fee youth activity in our general purpose room.

7. Visit to Rotherhithe Primary School:

This school is the nearest non-faith school in the community. I have developed a pretty good relationship with the deputy head of the school- Jonathan Blackburn. Plans are afoot to let the relationship blossom into leading school assemblies; as per request from the school.

8. School governors at a Church of England primary school:

Our church used to have a strong connection with Peters Hill, with St. Mary and St. Paul Church of England Primary School. The link has been revived and a lay representative from our church- Bintu Seasay, is now a member of the board of governors in the school.

9. External partnership:

We have established a working relationship with the Royal Foundation of St. Katharine’s Foundation at East London. The Master of this Foundation, Father Mark Aitkens, visited us in February and we had a fruitful meeting with him. We are hopeful that it will blossom into something great that will enhance our community work.

10. A mission committee

We have also established a mission committee comprising of church members who live in Silwood community. They are tasked with the responsibility of providing practical advice and other support on how our mission in the community will bring the desired results.

11. More community engagement programmes planned for the future. See our Community page.

Conclusion:

We are more than determined to reach out to our community, to love them as our neighbours and to seek for external funding to support community cohesion and empowerment through the love of Christ. Therefore our vision for mission is as follows:

We envisioned a very strong relationship with the Silwood community, ‘our Jerusalem’- listening and engaging with them; in a bid to enhance community cohesion and empowerment through the love of Christ to our neighbours.

 

 

 


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