Dear Friends,

Over the past year and a bit we seem to find ourselves constantly navigating all sorts of changes because of the pandemic. Initially there was a big scramble to try to record services and the re-creation of a system of pastoral care to ensure people stayed in touch and supported one another in the parish. Then the Vestry made a courageous decision to invest in audio-visual equipment to enable us to broadcast services online throughout lockdown.

All sorts of activities and meetings have had to take place online from Select Vestry meetings to prayer meetings to Sunday School and Messy Church. We are currently running our third Alpha course online and it’s inspiring to see the way that people have been able to connect and explore the life of faith together in this way.

Last month’s Easter Vestry was able to take place in person in the church and at that meeting we paid tribute to 2 people who have retired from holding significant offices within the life of the parish. Mike Johnston retired from the role of Honorary Treasurer after many years of
service. There are many dimensions to the role with new reporting responsibilities to the Charity Commissioners and Mike has worked hard to digitise our accounts keeping a very accurate record for all our parishioners of all our financial transactions.

Also at that meeting, Norman Halliday stepped back from the role of Honorary Secretary after many years of steadfast service. Norman’s knowledge of corporate governance, his gracious correspondence on behalf of the parish with so many bodies and individuals and his meticulous minute keeping have been remarkable. We want to thank both Mike and Norman for their invaluable contribution over many years and their wholehearted commitment to seeing the parish develop and flourish through how they did their respective tasks.

As we thank them for all they did, we welcome two new incumbents to those important roles. Robert Crawford has become our new Honorary Treasurer and Linda Leonard has become our new Honorary Secretary. Both of them bring a wealth of experience and a love for the church to their roles and we thank them for undertaking these tasks.

While we have tried to navigate change in how we communicate using mediums like blogging and podcasting and YouTube, the challenges keep presenting themselves! The latest one is a good problem to have. In recent weeks we have been right on capacity in terms of our numbers with social distancing particularly at the morning service. For that reason we have had to introduce an online booking system to regulate our numbers and to ensure we don’t exceed our quota to ensure everyone is safely spaced and social distancing is maintained. People will now have to book online using an online registration form available on our website and Facebook page to reserve a place at our morning service.

For those who don’t use the internet, you can also reserve a space by phoning the parish office on 028 90792793 on either Tuesdays or Wednesdays between 9am and 2pm or by reserving a space with one of our Churchwardens the previous Sunday. For those who are able to make that choice to attend at the evening service it might be helpful if you can do so to free up spaces for those who can only attend in the mornings. We will be continuing to livestream the 11am service on YouTube to enable those who can’t come in person to worship with us. The dial-in service will also continue to be available for those who don’t use the internet on
028 93447225. We recognise it will take us a little while to get used to this but we value your patience and co-operation to make the system work and to ensure we keep people safe.

Can we also ask you to keep in your prayers the process of recruiting a new curate? As this magazine goes to print the candidates are visiting the parishes who are prepared to take a curate and formal interviews and appointments will take place at the end of May and beginning of June. It’s always a stressful time for the candidates and parishes involved as people try to discern, under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, where they ought to serve using the gifts they have been given by God. Very often it’s a significant decision that affects whole families who may have to uproot, find new employment and schools as well as adjust to a whole new way of life. It would be great for the candidates and the parishes if we could keep this process in our prayers, asking that God’s will would be done.

As we start to re-emerge from lockdown and people are vaccinated, we will be working through risk assessments to re-open our church hall for face-to-face activities. We don’t have definitive dates as yet but we will move steadily and cautiously as we have done to date. We understand that there is a mixture of excitement and anticipation at the prospect of returning to some of those activities we have missed so much. This has to be tempered with doing so with responsibility and a wholehearted commitment to protecting people’s safety. Most of us find change can bring us beyond our comfort zone but I am grateful to everyone for their support.

As we have welcomed a new Honorary Treasurer and Honorary Secretary to the Select Vestry, we have also welcomed our 2 new Churchwardens who are doing a marvellous job helping us to respond to these new challenges. Jonathan and Amy brought great continuity and stability by serving a second year and they have been a great support to Greg and Cathy as they settle into these new roles. We are so blessed to have everyone working together in this way to create a space for worship where people can experience God’s love and peace through our worship together.

As restrictions ease, I look forward so much to being able to visit in people’s homes again. During this past year we have only been allowed to visit in situations of bereavement to arrange funeral services and now we can come into people’s gardens with the hope that we will soon be allowed to meet indoors. Small steps in the right direction.

Very best wishes to everyone.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Pierce (Rector)

Telephone 028 90793822