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Vicar's Letter for this month


Dear Friends,

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

I hope you are still enjoying this season of Easter. By now, you may have eaten all your Easter eggs, but, of course, it is still Easter! We have fifty days to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection from the dead and to let our alleluias ring out. What a joy it has been this Easter to be singing hymns in church, after the past two Easters unable to sing together in church. Our Easter celebrations will come to an end at the beginning of June with the Feast of  Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth-day of the Christian Church. This year, we will be combining our celebrations of Pentecost with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Do join us for that double celebration on the first Sunday of June.

Meanwhile, we have another busy month ahead in May. Do read through the newsletter and note the special events and services coming up.

Another key concern at the moment is the lack of volunteers – especially on Sunday mornings. We still do not have everyone back in church, and this has an impact on rotas. For the moment, it means we cannot offer refreshments after church on a weekly basis, as we were doing pre-pandemic. This is very sad, and I hope we can soon return to coffee after church as a regular part of our church life. This is important, not only for building up fellowship in our church family, but also to offer a warm welcome to visitors and newcomers. We also want to continue re-building community after Covid, and planning new initiatives to take forward the mission and ministry of our church. We long for our church to grow, especially in the wake of the past two years; to find new ways of reaching out to our community with God’s love; but we need more people getting involved in church life to make that happen!

Despite our longing to see growth, there are benefits to being a smaller church. Robin Gamble, a parish priest in Bradford, wrote a booklet some years ago entitled ‘Small but growing.’  As the title implies, it was aimed at smaller churches.  I was encouraged to read about (and be reminded of!) some of the advantages of being a smaller church.

According to Robin Gamble:

  • Members of smaller churches are usually highly motivated, giving generously of their time, love, energy, and money
  • Smaller churches are more aware of and more welcoming towards new people. There is also less risk of individuals ‘getting lost’ or disappearing in the way they can in larger congregations.
  • Leaders of smaller churches have more time, and their ‘minds and hearts are less cluttered and stressful’ (If only!!)
  • Individual members tend to be closer to the leader or leaders, and so can be more influenced by their vision, ideas, and ways of doing things.
  • Smaller churches tend to have a much richer sense of community where individuals seem to matter more. Communication can be less complicated. It is easier for newcomers to get to know people, become involved and find their place in the life of the church.
  • Members of smaller churches are more aware of the need to grow, willing to change and have a stronger sense of urgency and hunger – I hope so!

I wonder if you agree with Robin Gamble on this, and whether these points resonate with your own experience.

So often we can focus on the ‘problems’ of being a smaller church, particularly the lack of resources, both financial and people, for the things we would love to do. Yet, let’s not lose sight of the good things too. I  particularly value the strong sense of community we enjoy at The Good Shepherd – sharing times of joy and celebration, supporting each other through difficult or sad times.  They are all part of being God’s family here. Of course, we want to grow as a church! But, as we work and pray for further growth, let’s not lose sight of the way God is blessing us now.

O God we thank you for small things, small congregations with wide open arms, small churches with wide open doors…

O God we thank you for vulnerable things.
Vulnerable people showing us how to depend on you, vulnerable places still beautiful to you, vulnerable communities speaking the truth about you.

O God we thank you for fragile things, the grass between the paving stones giving us a glimpse of green, the smile beneath the sadness giving us a glimpse of hope, the faith behind the action giving us a glimpse of your love.  Amen

(The Revd Mandy Ford – Church Urban Fund)

May we always be a congregation with wide open arms and a church with wide open doors.

With my love and prayers.