Outward Generosity (Sept 2017 onwards)
– In response to God’s generous and self-giving love,
we will reach out to others in every way we can;
giving all we can, to sustain and develop this work.
The church first adopted a yearly theme in September 2015 with ‘A Christlike Welcome’ (see below) and followed that with ‘Whole Life Worship’ from September 2016 (see below).
In the coming year we are looking at Outward Generosity a variation on the fifth of the five practices in Robert Schnase’s Book – ‘ Five Practices of a Fruitful congregation’ (Abingdon Press).
Watch this space as the theme unfolds in the coming months, with both a practical focus on the generous giving of not only money but also time and expertise, and a spiritual dimension on living and giving for the sake of other and not for ourselves.
See the pastoral letter for September 2017 which introduces the theme to the congregation ahead of special services, an Away Day in late September and a Harvest Celebration in early October
A Christ-like welcome ( Sept 2015 onwards)
We offer a Christ-like welcome when the needs of others are put ahead of our own needs, where we offer a generous unconditional love. Those who have experienced such a rare and precious gift describe it in this way – ‘ they exhibited a restlessness for they really cared about me and wanted the very best for me. I was not just a number. What was done was done with excellence and attention to detail and they were not just passively reacting to me but actively anticipating my every need even though we were initially strange(rs) to them’.
A Christ-like welcome is a very good place to start in being a fruitful congregation as for the first time visitor, the first impression is often key. During this year we have begun a discussion on how Christ-like we are, how welcoming and user-friendly we are – to all people – not just people like us.
In an Away Day we looked at the following passages
- Romans 15:7 – ‘Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God’.
- Matthew 20:28 – ‘Jesus said, “I came not to be served but to serve’
- Matthew 25:35,40, 18:5 – ‘Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family you did it to me”, “Whoever welcomes a child in my name welcomes me”‘.
- Hebrews 13:2 – ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it’.
- Deuteronomy 10:19 – ‘God says welcome the stranger, the sojourner, the wanderer – Why ? ‘For you were once a stranger yourself (in the land of Egypt)’
- Matthew 22:8-9 – ‘Go into the streets and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet’.
The bible shows how Jesus reached out and met people where they were, in ways that were real and understandable to them. Whatever their background, education, age, gender etc. he loved them and welcomed them into the kingdom, encouraging them towards greater commitment, but willing to move forward at their pace; and through it all loving them unconditionally as those who were unique and special to God.
How that welcome is expressed in our welcome at the door, our notices, our guidance through the service, our choice and style of music and teaching, our fellowship over coffee and our follow up is part of an ongoing discussion at the quarterly worship consultations.
One project that has been completed is a refresh of all our church notice boards, notice sheets and the website you are on now, to make them more helpful to visitors and passers by. Further changes to leaflets and other publicity can be expected.
Whole Life Worship (Sept 2016 onwards)
This theme tied in neatly with an ongoing focus on practical Discipleship with the two ‘Follow me’ books being used by the church’s many small home groups in the run up to Advent and during Lent. A look at a Celtic approach to being a follower of Jesus, was also a natural link.
Sunday worship is one of the ways in which we are regularly reminded of God’s love for us in Jesus, and then invited to respond to that love. The two great commandments of Jesus invite us to Love God with our heart and soul and mind and strength and to love our neighbour as ourself. These two are linked as we cannot say that we love God unless we show that love in practical ways to others, and indeed our care for others and ourselves, honours God and is therefore part of our worship.
To love God with our whole being is therefore to worship God with our whole being, using our heart and soul and mind and strength, and we love our neighbour and indeed ourselves as we continue that worship in our daily life, in the way that we care for others and for ourselves. You can see how worship is now being seen as so much more than just what happens for an hour or two in a church on a Sunday. But our worship on a Sunday is still central, and needs to be planned and led so as to encourage this wider worship and not simply be an end in itself.
This means that our worship should aim to engage us emotionally with our heart, and to make us think with our mind. It should create the space in which we are open to the leading of our spirit by God’s Holy Spirit and it should encourage real commitment and the sacrificial giving of our time energy and resources in the service of others. To love God with all our strength is an act of will and dedication that may not come easily.