Chairman's Report

to the APCM of St. Faith’s, Great Crosby
S. George’s Day, April 23rd, 2012

Since the last APCM finance has occupied much of our discussions and deliberations. Our recent campaign, of which much has been said, was both a necessity and also, in many ways, a success.

For some years now people have been quite vocal in complaining when I have spelt the facts and figures out. Yet, as the recent campaign highlighted, much of what we have said and printed still hasn’t reached all congregation members! I hope the personal visits and conversations that happened as a result of the campaign have helped to dispel the myths, although I doubt that the financial facts are easy to swallow!

My grateful thanks must go to all those PCC members who were part of the planning of the campaign and were responsible for putting together, with Chris Price, the various documents that were needed. Thanks, too, to those of you who undertook personal visits.

Having said all that though, this is no time at all to rest on our financial laurels! Before the campaign began, we heard that something like 20-25% of people who call themselves regular members of the church were not pledging any financial support for the church at all. At the end of the campaign, that figure has not altered significantly. Two wrongs don’t make a right, we know, and if everyone took that attitude then we would certainly not be here now. But it does concern me that the message has only got through to some, and not others. It is a serious cause for concern. Perhaps my successor will be more successful than I in reversing this trend!

We have finally paid a month’s large amount in full to the diocese. Long may that last! But the thing to bear in mind is that we only need to lose one of our ‘generous’ givers and we will quickly fall into the vulnerable category of not being able to meet our obligations. So whilst I don’t want to be a prophet of doom, what  we have achieved is making ourselves stable, not flush! But it’s the strongest position we have been in for many years.

Despite a period of uncertainty in the music department our musical tradition has been maintained and we are pleased that Daniel Rathbone is now among us as acting Director of Music. He is in fact our permanent director of music though not on the same formal contractual basis as Sam; that said, we have him here for as long as he is able to be with us.

Thanks must go to a whole host of people who do all sorts of jobs, some are obvious and seen, some are behind the scenes and unseen; and the different reports from the various groups who serve the Church and the Community show what a vibrant and busy year it has been. We have managed to rise to every challenge!

We welcomed Helen Coffey on a long placement last summer and have continued to welcome other Mirfield students with us in the past year. Five students came and gave us some memorable Lent addresses for the second year running. I know they all put a great deal of time and effort to come and be with us, and on their one free evening of the week! At the May Devotions service next month there will be a chance to thank them formally for the link we have enjoyed during the past few years. The Ministry to sick and housebound continues to be one which is shared amongst us and I am grateful to all who share in this vital ministry.
Although the news that I am to move on to a new post technically belongs to next year’s APCM (for it didn’t happen before 31st December 2011) nevertheless it would be remiss of me to make no mention of it. It will be with a heavy heart, and most definitely mixed emotions, that I move on from St. Faith’s and St. Mary’s in June after some 13 years of ministry here. Life has never been short of its challenges in this United Benefice and there will be some time for me to share my personal thanks and thoughts before I leave. But I do believe that after 13 years God is calling me to a new phase in my priestly ministry. My close friends will tell you that I had no intention of ever leaving the north – having assumed the role of an honorary ‘scouser’ – but it is an added bonus that my next parish will take me so much nearer to my family in Plymouth and Portsmouth.

As I reflect on my time here I realise there are mistakes I have made, but I hope there have been some achievements too. I hope whoever follows me will be more successful in the area of bringing in young people and families than I have been, for example. An area which most definitely needs developing.

Not only do I believe it is right for me to move after 13 years; but I also believe that it is right for the United Benefice. Being adult about it, there are questions which need to be faced about the future of our United Benefice which will not be explored whilst I am still in post. The time is right for you, as well as me.

I know I’ve said this many times before but it does concern me that so few see the need to embrace the area of mission. Growth is a long, challenging and often painful process; it won’t happen overnight and it won’t happen when our energies are channelled in the wrong place! Spiritual growth is not the same as always getting what we want when we come to church. Growth has to start with us as individuals though. As the Methodist minister Neville Ward once said, unless we change, we cannot grow. St. Faith’s is blessed, more so than many churches, with so many talented, capable, generous, hard-working and experienced people. All those gifts need to be focussed in a positive way to work together for a bright future – something which we believe is possible under God’s guidance. We are not short of challenges in this parish and in this United Benefice, but as an Easter people we must never be short of hope or short of the enthusiasm which God alone can provide.

Back in the 1990s when he was Bishop of London, David Hope received a letter from the parish of All Saints Margaret Street. They were in interregnum and had to describe themselves for the parish profile about to be put together. They said they were…

”Demanding, intelligent, eccentric, crazy, sad, muddled, confused and, sometimes, part of the holy people of God, but never boring!” [p.54 “Signs of Hope” – Archbishop David Hope, published 2001 by Continuum]

Sounds pretty true of this place too! And I thank God that for the last 13 years you have allowed me to be a part of that colourful mix.

Fr Neil

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