Recent letters and articles
LENT FAST by Annie di Castiglione
Try using Lent to fast from thinking and speaking negatively.
Find out what the Bible says about you, about God and about how God sees you. Try to read and meditate on the chosen verse each day that week. Then turn each Bible verse into a declaration you speak out loud over yourself. Enjoy!
Villages Letter - November 2015
A question that keeps popping up goes like this: 'Who is church for?' It is one everyone can have an answer for, whether or not you happen to attend a local church or do your best to avoid the experience! I hope you will look at the question - whether it be in an arm-chair, at a PCC meeting, with friends over a meal or in the local pub.
It is always an urgent question. George Carey, our Archbishop of Canterbury through the '90s, often says: 'The church is only ever one generation away from extinction.' I suspect he has often used it as a sort of wake-up call to a significant number of sincere churchgoers whose preference appears to want the church to remain as it is or even revert to a form and modus operandi they enjoyed in bygone days. What Carey wants us to grasp is that if we really believe in the role of the church we will want it to make sense to generations to come and not just be there for the remainder of our lifetime. Another well-know leading cleric once out it like this: 'The church is the only organisation that exists for the benefit of non-members.'
But is there another answer waiting for us to find; a perspective that says the church exists first and foremost for God?
I am often challenged by the briefest mention Jesus made of the church. He said it is his to build and the task he gave his followers was to go and make disciples,rather than grow church attendance figures! Not that I am agin people going to church - far from it; but I do believe the first call on practising Christians is to be church and do church for God. I suspect it is a perspective that could have far-reaching and subversive consequences.
I am still finding my way around and just starting to unearth the many amazing people in the 14 villages that are covered by the Papworth Team Ministry. I am very struck by strong community bonds and often close inter-relatedness of people. Earlier today someone called out asking if I had seen 'so-and-so at such-and-such this morning' only to discover that she was referring to her mother and the church I had been to earlier was the one she had been married in.
I find that FAMILY is about the best motif for a group of Christians who meet regularly and feel bonds of fellowship with one another. This should not surprise us because we meet God as family in the Bible - we approach and pray to 'Our Father', we acknowledge Jesus as both Saviour and Son of God; and (whilst it is often harder to grasp) many (inspired by St Augustine in the 5th century AD) have come to understand the Holy Spirit as akin to the love there is between the Love between Father and Son.
What is abundantly clear to me is our churches have a pivotal contribution to the community and life of the villages we serve. This stands out as we mark some important dates in calendar. We have just celebrated Harvest. We are now in the season of Remembrance and very soon will hurtle into Advent and Christmas. Please keep you eyes and ears open for the details of special services close to where you live.
All of us are very aware of the importance of serving others who are facing struggles often bigger than our own. It's what families do instinctively, what many people do as good neighbours and people of generosity and compassion. In recent years Food Banks have become a vital means of supporting people facing acute hardship. I suspect they will continue to expand as poorer families have to face up to imminent cuts in Tax Credits. One practical way of enhancing what do already is to look for '2-4-1' offers when we do our own shopping; and, if such offers include items that local Food Banks can use, I encourage everyone to seize the moment and give the extra 'freebie' to a Food Bank near where you live. I know some offers are often not as good as they first appear but, in the end, if we are to give something away there has to be a measure of sacrifice and cost.
For me this is one thing that God is looking for in such a time as this and most of us may be able to do just a little bit more.
MOVING FORWARD - Next Steps in the Papworth TM Organisational Structure - October 2015
One of the last significant pieces of work overseen by my predecessor, Fiona Windsor, was steering through agreement on the sort of staffing structure - both stipendiary and non-stipendiary - we envisage coming into being over the next few years. This was approved by the Team Council at the start of July 2014, incorporated into the Profile leading to the appointment of the new Team Rector; assuming our mutual desire to see growing churches having a growing impact in growing the kingdom of God in the villages we serve.
When I (Nigel) was appointed I knew it was only a matter of time before we would, sadly, have to say farewell, again, to Alexandra Clarke; because the call of God was already prompting her to seek a new appointment. Since the start of September this year Alexandra has been working 3 days a week as a School Chaplain whilst continuing short-term her House-for-Duty responsibilities, as she and Chris find then secure a new home for the family. It now seems that Alexandra will be laying down her engagement in ministry with us no later than the end of February next year. This will be a substantial loss to the Team but we wish Alexandra well in following what God wants at this point.
The 2014 Plan envisaged that, in due course, one of the 2 stipendiary posts (mine as TR) would be based in Elsworth and hold active day-today responsibility for the Elsworth and Papworth Clusters; whilst the other would be based in Bourn with hands-on responsibility for the Bourn and Eltisley Clusters. In both cases (North and South) we envisage the emergence and recognition of additional ministry practitioners - in all the recognised patterns of authorised ministry offered to us in the Ely diocese.
Having taken some time to reflect on these things and taking counsel within and beyond our Team, I am delighted to say that The Revd Steve Day has agreed to take responsibility for the Bourn and Eltisley Clusters from the point at which Alexandra steps down; and that at a suitable point in the course of next year he and Janice will move their home from Papworth to Bourn. On the one hand this will mean a seamless change in terms of ministry resources based in Bourn, the input of Steve's particular skills and style across all parishes in the southern part of the Team; whilst on the other side a short-term period of loss and fresh change.
This means, as and when the vacancy for a House-for-Duty minister occurs, we will be looking for a suitable new colleague whom we expect to be based in Papworth with a particular responsibility for the Papworth Cluster in due course. I hope you will be pleased to know also I have begun talks within the diocese in the hope we can secure a really good appointment as a Curate from the summer of 2017. Please pray about how we go about both appointments; and bear in mind that it is better to wait for the right person than to press ahead too hastily with someone who may be well-qualified but finds themselves not so well-suited to the context of mission and ministry offered by our 14 villages.
CELEBRATING GOD'S GOODNESS
- October 2015
Lower Pendrill Court
Ermine Street North