At our AGM this month, there will be at least two “joyful” items on the Agenda.
The first is the affirmation of two new Elders. Following the Nomination process (with many thanks to all those of you who took part), I am delighted to say that Angela Liddell accepted the Nomination of Pastoral Elder and Steve Bebbington accepted the Nomination of Church in Community Elder. In a busy church such as ours, we always seem to be asking for volunteers for this and that. It must therefore be deeply encouraging to have the names of two people prepared to serve presented to you for the affirmation which I am sure you will gladly give.
The second is the seldom-if-ever seen Agenda item, entitled “Money to Spend!” Rather than the usual requests for more money, we have a delightful decision to make regarding how we spend money we have been given. A legacy of £20,000 is to be given from the estate of the late Diana Campbell and gifts for the church, at present totalling £250 have been received in memory of the late Ann Mitchell. Both families would like to see the money spent on something specific rather than just disappearing into the General Fund, so we can spend some happy moments at the AGM deciding how best to use these gifts.
You will see from the Church Service plan for May that we shall be exploring the last on the list of Holy habits and that one is “Making More Disciples.” And the question to be asked right at the start is whether we are buying into “a culture of decline?” Have we more or less resigned ourselves to the prospect that the church as we know it will almost certainly not be here in 30-40 years’ time? So why bother even attempting to Make More Disciples?
There are undeniably times when the future for the church does look gloomy and we cannot and should not ignore the warning signs. But nor should we fail to see the signs of new hope. Yes, we are always asking for more volunteers, but we do generally get them. Nothing has yet had to close for lack of help. And so far, God has raised up for us the Elders as we need them. And yes, we are always in need of more money but so far we have received all we need and have been able to be generous in our commitment to the wider URC and in our extra giving for overseas projects.
Every year, one URC Minister makes it his business to analyse the figures in the URC Yearbook and send round a summary of numbers of members, ministers, churches. As you might imagine it makes depressing reading with numbers of church members declining fast and numbers of ministers declining even faster. It is a true picture. We cannot deny it. But one of our Deputy General Secretaries made the comment that, although this is a true picture, it is not the only picture to be seen. There are also stories of innovative new outreach work, creative use of old buildings, fresh expressions of church, green shoots of faith showing in unexpected places.
So in exploring the Holy habit of “Making More Disciples,” let us look for more than one picture of faith and church. And at our AGM, let us celebrate the rich generosity of faith, time, service and money that is being offered to us in the name of Jesus Christ.
With love and all good wishes,