“In view of God’s mercy, offer yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1)
Sacrifice is a challenging word, isn’t it? Yet it’s a word that is part of the DNA of this church community. Almost exactly 60 years ago, the foundation stone was laid of this church building. This was thanks to both vision and sacrifice. Bishop Neville Gorton, motivated by a deep longing for the people of the new Allesley Park estate to encounter Jesus, had the vision for a church community to form and for the building to be a base from which God’s mission would be carried out. This vision would have stayed a vision, a mere pipe dream, without very real, gritty sacrifice. In February 1956, in announcing this new church community, the Rector of All Saints, Allesley, Rev. F.W. Moyle, commented, “This is a colossal challenge! If we are to answer it to the full, every man-jack of us must think and pray and give to the point of sacrifice.” The people of Allesley bore a great financial burden to ensure the new church building would be built. They rose to the challenge and the new church building was consecrated on 26 March 1960.
We are here today, because of that initial sacrifice, but also of the sacrifice God’s people have made ever since, giving their time, skills, and money to sustain the work of the church community here. In some ways the challenge has never been greater than it has now. We have to adapt to a rapidly changing culture, we have to constantly rediscover what it means to be the people of God here in Allesley Park, what it means to be a church that fulfils our vision of “Living and loving as God’s family”– and this works most effectively when we all play our part.
When I look back over the past year, there is so much to encourage me. Not least, last weekend, when so many men were involved in serving at Mother’s Day Café Church. I hope the ladies appreciated this! I’m especially grateful to Tom Borrasand Stuart Hartfor their hard work last Sunday, which is characteristic of the kind of work they do behind the scenes on behalf of the church community week in week out, Tom, who with Pauline Bluntserves excellently as a church warden. St Christopher’s Church is full of these “behind the scenes” people – Stan Aldridge, who with Graham Foxwell, Tina Veaseyand Louise Hicks, helps us as a church steward our financial resources effectively; Garry and Jo Cooke, Diane Harrison, Angela McCannwho help keep the church grounds neat and tidy; Sylvia Cliffoversees the team who beautifies the church through their flower arranging; Jim Patrickhas installed wifi, the TV aerial and other bits and pieces. Various others serve teas and coffees. Heather Beasley, as our Parish Safeguarding Officer, works tirelessly to ensure we keep our children as safe as we can. This is no mean feat, so thank you, Heather for your vital work. Pauline Bluntas churchwarden has a wonderful eye for detail and her oversight of the rotas besides many other aspects of church life makes sure Sunday mornings run smoothly.
Speaking of Sunday mornings, I’m so excited about what God has been doing as we gather together each week. It’s lovely to share the preaching ministry with Matt Woodand Ali Grimley, who bring their own insight and experience of walking with God to the Word of God. I’ve been encouraged by our “Fingerprints” slot as people have shared their experiences of the ways they’ve seen God at work in their lives. We also had a wonderful Sunday morning in October as we held a celebration of Confirmation and Renewal of Baptism Vows, led by the Bishop of Warwick, John Stroynan.
We have remained a church of and for all ages. Numbers of children have remined strong and I’m so grateful for the ministry of Chris Dunkley, Mary Abamwa, Thanize Borges, and the newly formed creche team, who give their time to serve our young people. Liz Marchand Louise Hickswill share in coordinating our children’s work together, which is deeply appreciated.
Our youth group continues to thrive under the leadership of Thanize and Dave Boyle, and the fortnightly discipleship group for young people is well attended. We would love for more church members to be involved with this exciting work with our children and youth. In addition, Thanize with the rest of the Pais Coventryteam work in schools across Coventry, including Blue Coat, Allesley Hall and St John’s, leading lessons, lunch clubs and assemblies, helping children lead services at Christmas, and Easter, setting up prayer spaces, etc. They also run an after-school club here in church on Wednesdays. Though Thanize returns home to Brazil in July, the work through Pais will continue next year, as we will hopefully receive another apprentice, although this is dependent on someone within the church being willing to provide accommodation for our next Pais apprentice, as Liz and I are doing and Louise and Mat Hicksdid in the autumn. Could this be you next year? Could you host, even for only a term?
I am grateful for the ministry of John and Frances Langlands who moved on in June to serve churches in Ansley and Arley.Pam Stoteretired as Associate Minister in January, and we miss her pastoral work and support of the life of the church, although I’m excited that she’s planning to return in September as a member of the congregation. One of her legacies was the team that led all age services each month, and we’re so blessed to see that continue, and Louise Hicks, Katy Coupeand Laura Greenwayhave done a fantastic job taking this on. Louise deserves special mention for leading the service at her son, George’s baptism!
Thanks to the partnership with Nexus Institute of Creative Arts, where students study theology and worship education as well as popular music, we’ve been blessed by the presence of Ruben Zantema, Peter Jennings, and Jon Lidbetter, who have got thoroughly involved in the life of the church, and are now serving our worship ministry, which is overseen by James Bowman-Powelland Emma Beasley – very soon to be Mr and Mrs Bowman-Powell– I’ve been so grateful that they’ve been able to take on such a vital area of the church’s life, and it’s flourishing as a result. Susan and Lisa Borrasalso faithfully serve in this area. Another exciting development has been our monthly evening service, Pursuit, where we have spent more unhurried time worshipping, listening to God’s word and praying for each other, and this is growing – there were over 30 of us in March. I think God will do something significant in the corporate worshipping life of our church over the next year. The best is yet to come.
But Church, of course, isn’t only about Sundays or services. The majority of church members are part of Life Groups– from the standard Bible study groups to solving jigsaw puzzles together or doing craft, there are some wonderful opportunities to gather together and form community throughout the week, which is in itself an important part of the precious gathering of Coffee, Cake and Communion. Do become part of a Life Group if you’re not already. They are such a blessing. Also, if you have a good idea for a Life Group that’d bring people together, then please let me know. Church Fellowshipremains an important part of the life of our church – thank you, Irene Foxwell, for leading this ministry, and on her behalf, can I issue an invite to everyone – there’s room for more members of this group, for all ages in the church and wider community.
Over the past year, we’ve had lots of fun as a church family – in the summer we had our World Cup Final Family Festival and Wimbledon social – and it was lots of fun planning the event with Irene and Graham, Tom and Pauline, Katy and Tina, and we have lots more fun planned for future events, so watch this space. In addition, we had lots of fun with the Strictly Come Dancing final. Jan Joyled a brilliant team for the Christmas Fair, which was a glorious community occasion.
Our wonderful ministry to toddlers and carers Christopher Robin, is led by Liz March, Caroline Pedley-Minnett, Bev Patrick andHeather Wood and remains a significant ministry to those who don’t yet know Jesus. Please pray for the growth and flourishing of this group.
The danger of naming names is that I miss out people, so I apologise if you feel like you should have been mentioned.
This is an overview of our church’s life – it gives a picture of a vibrant community that I’m proud to be part of. But what might be in store in the next twelve months?
Romans 12:1 speaks of the calling for each of us to be living sacrifices, to be wholehearted in the way we follow God. What does that look like? Let’s have a look through the lens of the different parts of our vision.
Growing in God
I am passionate about helping people grow in faith. This is why I write our Bible study guides and why I’ve produced the reading guide and daily reflections for Luke’s Gospel. It’s not too late to join in with this. I think it could be significant for us as individuals – Jesus promises, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” (John 15:5). We all long to be fruitful, don’t we? I know I do, but we each need to take responsibility for our own growth in faith. How are you Growing in God?
I am convinced that the only solution to the world’s crises is Jesus. I don’t think it’s coincidental that as a church we’ve been led to make Jesus and the Gospel of Luke as our main focus for our Sunday teaching over the next year or so, in this year that we celebrate 60 years of the life of this church community in this building. It feels like a call to re-lay our foundations, to rediscover our love for Jesus. It’s all about him and all for him.
On our church foundation stone, laid almost exactly 60 years ago is our calling to be a house of prayer for all nations. How can we better live out that vision, become more of a praying people?
Loving each other
I love the community God is building here. To be a church, one family of all ages, every decade of life from 0 - 90s is truly remarkable.
Fellowship times are key - after service shared lunches, evening socials - strictly final, Eurovision, summer party - these are all so important.
We’ve also just formed a pastoral care team under the leadership of Pauline and Rosemary Lavens, which will mean we have a new system of visiting and home communions. Speak to them if you are aware of those who need visiting.
Serving in various roles is part of loving each other. We need more people to step up and give their time. At the moment it seems like fewer people are filling key roles. Need someone with an administrative gift for serving as PCC secretary, as well as someone to step up and ensure smooth transition for new church warden to replace Pauline next year. Filling unglamorous roles all part of what it means to love one another. Please consider doing something. There is a danger that people will burnout - we have a track record of this, people taking on too much and then needing to stop. Certain ministries simply need to be done. What could you do?
Serving our Community
I’m so thrilled that we were successful with our grant application for £40,000 to refurbish the church hall. I think God’s hand was on this, as I was alerted to the existence of the Veolia Trustjust a week before they had a grant application deadline and the rest, as they say, is history. I’ve been overwhelmed by your response to the challenge of raising £4,000 in order to release the grant – the full total came within a fortnight. This is amazing. The hall will look so lovely once the work is done in the summer. I know this will be a blessing to the community. But hall refurbishment is only part of the dream – we still hope to be able to add an entrance foyer along the side of the hall to provide an attractive meeting place for the community. Will require sacrificial giving to reach this, as well as God’s providence, but I think we’ll get there. I truly believe in the Scripture that says, “God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20).
In my induction service in September 2012, Steve Burch had a word for me and for the church, that as in the parable of the sower, there would be a process of removing rocks from the soil. As this process happened, there would be tears. He then quoted the promise in Psalm 126:5. “those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.” We’ve known more than our fair share of tears in the past, haven’t we? However, this last verse has been repeated to me by a few different people in recent months. It’s as if God has been saying, that he hasn’t forgotten, that he will keep his promise. We’ve had our time of digging through the soil, removing the rocks and rubbish, to create good soil. We’ve had our weeping. It’s time for the reaping. It’s time for joy.
May God lead us into his good future. May we be able to rejoice in all that he has done for us and through us. May we give our all to the one who gave his all for us.
St Chris Youth report
Hear about the fantastic work that happens each week at St Chris Youth.
Pais Coventry report
We work in partnership with Pais Coventry and Christchurch Cheylesmore to bring the good news to young people in churches and schools across Coventry. Watch the report to find out more.