June 2017

I am very grateful to all those who have given time and energy to a pretty serious round of Spring cleaning at the Old Church in May. On two successive days, Linda organised groups to go through areas of the church and to clear through cupboards that have been left untouched for many years. There were certainly some surprises lurking in the nooks and crannies, and not a few items that were obviously made with significant care, but whose purpose was quite difficult to discern all these years later. It was a real voyage of discovery!

Speaking as a relative newcomer to the church, and as a historian, I must say that it all felt a bit like a visit to a slightly dusty archive. As we worked our way through old service books and as we peeled back the layers and got towards the back of some of the cupboards it felt a bit like getting in touch with past generations of the St Bartholomew’s church. I certainly got a palpable sense of the love and passion which those who went before us lavished on the building that it is now our privilege to enjoy. As the current custodians of not only the building, but also of the Christian message for our community, I believe that it is incumbent on us to look to the future and address ourselves to the task of making that message known and ensuring that there is a worshipping community at the Old Church when our own races are run.       

In January this year we began a process called Leading Your Church into Growth (known by the slightly unwieldy acronym LYCiG). We held 6 meetings throughout the Spring to which the whole congregation was invited and in total we had 27 people attend at least one meeting. At the heart of each meeting was a video presentation given by a group of  church leaders with experience of leading churches into growth. Along with the videos, each participant was given a series of interactive handouts and each session had a large element of small group discussion. At the end of each session participants were invited to consider, “what could I be doing?” and “what should we be doing as a church?” The answers given to these questions then formed the basis of a planning exercise which has led to our Plan for Growth which we are launching on Pentecost Sunday (June 4th).


One very happy outcome of the course has been that it has provided a forum for people who might have seen each other in church regularly but never really got to know each other, to meet and form new friendships. We will certainly be looking at other ways to achieve this as it was (thankfully!) a positive experience for all concerned to get to know some new people.


The input from the course itself was reassuringly simple and accessible, showing that doing a few relatively simple things can make it much easier for new people to join the church and that a focus on growth in three areas: numbers, spiritual commitment and service to the local community can help a church to flourish even in an age of declining religious commitment. I was particularly struck by the question asked by the main presenter on the videos “If you aren’t leading your church into growth, then where are you leading it?”. The Plan for Growth that we have developed in the light of this course is really about evolution rather than revolution, and I’m really excited to share with you what we have come up with together.


I wonder whether you would join with me in making our church’s LYCiG prayer, which we use at all our business meetings and that is often part of our intercessions on a Sunday, a part of your own prayer for the Old Church:


God of Mission

Who alone brings growth to your Church

Send your Holy Spirit to give

Vision to our planning,

Wisdom to our actions,

And power to our witness,

Help our church to grow in numbers,

In spiritual commitment to you, and in service

to our local community,

Through Jesus Christ our Lord