In our Gospel reading Jesus appoints the 70 and sends them ahead in pairs with one of the most quoted sayings about church life,
“The harvest is plenty, but the labourers are few!”
He asks them to step out in faith, carrying no purse, bag, sandals etc.
If they get welcomed great and if not move on but all equally charged with “curing the sick and proclaiming the kingdom is near”.
Well, we have just appointed 2 churchwardens, 3 deanery representatives and have 9 other PCC representatives along with the staff team. We also know that there are many others who volunteer in other capacities to assist with worship, or welcoming, pastoral care, practical premises, or other administrative tasks. Many are involved in growing the kingdom through evangelism and outreach, children’s or youth ministry as well as working with other like-minded groups locally. All this points to a lively vibrant community and yet there is always more to do and there are constant requests for help with a variety of tasks – ‘the harvest is plenty, but the labourers are few’.
So, what if we gave up worrying about the tasks, Lockdown has been great in forcing us to let go of previously held rituals and traditions. What if we could get back to the call of this Gospel message, ‘to cure the sick and proclaim the kingdom’?
As a physician St Luke enjoyed a ministry of healing and this is an aspect of church life that Christ Church has previously hung its hat on believing it to be part of our unique calling and mission, which it rightly should. In Mark 2:17 Jesus stated "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." And in Luke 5:31 “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
For Jesus, the purpose of his mission was not for those who believed in him and then followed him but those on the fringes who did not yet know their need of salvation. Maybe we could examine our last 12 months in the light of this. What have we been doing that proclaims good news to our local community?
At our last outdoor service at the beginning of Creationtide we identified 7 core values that we wrote on these leaves, values that we wanted our church to be known for and I have found it helpful to use these themes as a hook for my reflections.
· Environmentally aware
Over the last 9 years we have increased our commitment to prayer at CC. This past year saw many people engaging with a 4-week course on ‘How to Pray’ and the increased buy in for Thy Kingdom Come week was heartening. We have supported the ecumenical 24/7 prayer room and the fence ministry with the new outdoor chapel has been greatly appreciated. Both David, Jen and I are frequently stopped by people who tell us how encouraging and inspiring these prayers and spaces have been in providing a focus and opportunity for meaningful engagement in a way our closed building could not. The increased number of hits on our social media in particular for the short liturgies on global or national concerns has made the effort worthwhile. Last week 17 people joined in a virtual quiet day and I know the resources that have remained on our YouTube channel have been welcomed.
We were delighted to achieve the Bronze Eco Award last autumn and are well on the way to hitting the silver standard. Obviously, some of the initiatives like the swishing evening had to be postponed however ‘No Mow May’ and the outdoor services were a powerful witness in this area proclaiming good news for creation. Healing of the earth is ultimately every Christians concern and undoubtedly Lockdown has provided a real breathing point for our planet, but we cannot be complacent. I hope that the holy habit of Ecology and Stewardship will be our primary focus for 2021.
Well we have not let this past year defeat us. Although personally I cannot say I have felt particularly joyful as it has been an exceedingly difficult year, I know that the knitted angels and their message of peace and joy bought much pleasure last Christmas.
I have been so impressed by the way CC has stuck together over the last 6 months. I mentioned the pastoral team specifically in my vote of thanks earlier as they have been instrumental in being the glue in our community. However, there are many other networks that have been keeping an eye out for one another, homegroups, Mothers Union, musicians, bellringers to name just a few and it wonderful how we have been caring for one another.
I am going to put the last 3 values together as they too are things CC prides itself on and they stem from our caring. Being friendly, welcoming, and non-judgemental. New people have joined during Lockdown and folks from other churches have appreciated how they have been embraced as do those who come for the occasional offices.
Sadly, I cannot comment on any social events other than Bertie Pearce who was magical! I hope that there will be more fun next year and that we will be able to pick up again our long-term vision of being a Living Well, a resource for the local community however it will probably be a very different vision from the architects model 2 years ago. Lockdown has highlighted how it is not necessarily the buildings that provide a focus for this but each of us in how we conduct ourselves, our living well in our interactions with others, being good ambassadors for Jesus, offering healing and hope for those in need of a physician.
We shall obviously need to recover our finances to enable the living church to pay for the living ministry, hence the importance of making Ecology and Stewardship our intention for next year. The blessing of recent legacies does mean we can fund activities we would not be able to afford generally such as improvements to our technology. These technological advances have undoubted challenged us but hopefully they have cemented Christ Church even more fully in offering a ministry of reconciliation as no one is left out, all are truly welcome to join in, at home or in church as we live steam services and produce quality recordings for our new website. Both were mere aspirations back in February but now just part of what it means to be church in the 21st century.
The harvest is plentiful, and I believe ripe for the picking. It is everyone’s responsibility to pray for and work towards growth. So, let us commit ourselves afresh to doing that now.
God of Mission, who alone brings growth to our church
send your Holy Spirit to give vision
to our planning, wisdom to our activity, and power to our witness.
Help Christ Church to grow in numbers,
in spiritual commitment to you
and in service to our local community of Epsom
through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.