Another new beginning …
The name of this month, January, comes from the old Greek god Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions, of gates and doorways. It’s a good name for the first month of the year and I thought it might be good to use it as an excuse to do something a wee bit different in this article. I want to look back a little – and forward a little – and reflect a little on both.
2012 was a full, busy and interesting year in the life of our church and congregation. Much happened and most of it has been good though fairly ordinary when it comes to our ongoing life. It has been a year of challenges and of accomplishments, of new beginnings and of, well, more challenges.
The past year began with an enormous blessing. Following the great sadness we all felt after receiving Ian Handley’s resignation because of illhealth, we were able to appoint Phil Hotham to be our Organist and Director of Music. Phil continues the high level of musicianship we have come to expect from our organists and brings to us the benefit of a distinguished career in education and church music, added to which is his superb skills as a musician. Harnessing the talents of our church choir, Phil has used much of the past year to begin developing the scope of our choral music; and, together with the choir, ensured that some marvellous music could be enjoyed during our times of worship. Their particular contribution to our weekly worship is absolutely indispensable to our liturgy; and though usually simply taken for granted, our ‘musical team’ deserve all the plaudits that come their way.
By the grace of God and the generous dedication of so many, regular activities of our church groups and organisations continue. Led, administered and organised by people who would not consider themselves, or what they do, to be in any way special, as a congregation and, indeed as a community, we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to all those many individuals who give so much of their time and abilities to the Church’s cause and witness. Bothwell Parish Church may not be all that is perfect, but in and around our congregational life we are truly blessed in being able to have people witnessing to their faith as best they can and working together in so many varied ways.
All of this speaks of different forms of outreach.
And that is vital. It is part of our lifeblood, or essence, as a congregation.
Our attendance at Sunday worship remains solid. We regularly enjoy a delightful influx of guests and visitors, with some very regular worshippers travelling to be with us from surrounding areas. This is important. If they sense we are fulfilling a particular spiritual longing, we need to be aware of it – not for our self-gratification, but so that we can work hard to even better be the source of God’s love and grace. In short, during this coming year, we need to pay more attention to ourselves and to one-another. We need to notice and to enquire whenever we don’t see a familiar face on Sunday. And we need to be very deliberate about being as welcoming and inclusive as we all want to be and often like to say we are.
Let’s remember …
We also need to remember two things:
The first is that we are a strong and healthy parish; and as a congregation, we have a viable and important mission in Bothwell – God wants us here!
The second thing always to remember is that we exist for the sake of our ministry and mission, both within our parish/ community and beyond it. We exist as a congregation to proclaim in every way we can possibly think of, the relevance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as we have received it. We exist to love, to serve, to care, to listen, to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. In short, we exist to be a blessing to one another and beyond one another. It is something many do very well. But we must always be learning how to do it better.
Two other things … Finance and Restoration
Two things I have not yet mentioned – Finance and Quire Restoration.
Over a period of years it is not unexpected that the Membership Roll of our congregation has taken a knock because of the death of members. Theirs has been a loss in many different ways, to their families and to us. One very practical example has been the financial impact. Though not especially huge numerically as a congregation, we are a generous people. It is now some years since a formal approach has been made to the congregation to raise income levels and, as a result of both time and friends passing, the mind of our financial experts is now being exercised on how best we can do this. I have always thought it best simply to be frank and open. There can be no hiding the truth. Like every other congregation and household, we need to balance our books. And, like every other congregation, we need to do more – much more – than that. We need to be able to ‘be’ Christ’s Church in this place and for his people, whoever they may be. That is simply why we exist at all. I hope you will respond positively by contributing regularly to further the work of your church, realistically.
Perhaps the greatest physical challenge that confronts us at this time is the Quire Restoration project. As you may know, a team of highly qualified and tested professionals has been brought together and, along with our own Management group, are now developing the shape and scope of the main phase of the restoration itself. Overall costs have been projected at £2million.
Numerous applications for grant funding have been, and are being, made. Since the summer some £500,000 has been raised or committed. Support for our project has been voiced from Governmental agencies, local Government, the Churches and other national organisations and institutions. Very soon, a national and international Appeal will be launched. Members of the congregation and friends will have opportunity to make personal contribution. This we are doing, not because we need the Quire to be part of our church for worship, but because of what our church Quire is, and represents. For centuries, it has been a vitally important witness of the history of our nation and its people. It remains part of what our culture has valued and our traditions have shared. It is simply a building too precious and too sacred casually to let crumble and ruin.
So, now, it presents us with a challenge.
Maybe, it’s the challenge of faith.
It’s the challenge to decide where we stand and in what we are prepared to believe.
What does our Sunday worship mean to us ?
Is it something real or pretend; inclusive or exclusive ?
In all that we are about as a congregation, this is a time of enormous activities and possibility.
Let’s rejoice in it all and work, together, towards the realisation of all our hopes and dreams.