Rev. Toby’s January message.

Dear friends

I hope that you have had an enjoyable Christmas.  We have certainly had some lovely times in both churches and I would like to thank all those who have contributed to, and supported, our various activities and services.  Amidst everything, particular tribute must go to the Christmas Tree festival team.  All Saints’ Church looked magical indeed and it was a lovely opportunity to open up to the community in a fun way.  Thank you, too, from all of us at the vicarage, for your kind Christmas wishes, cards and Christmas gift.

I am very conscious that it hasn’t been a happy Christmas for everyone.  Sadly, sudden deaths and other tragedies seem to hit more frequently, not less, at this emotionally charged time of the year.  I pray that the true message of Christmas may bring encouragement in the darkest situations.

Now the new year lies ahead.  I pray that it will be a peaceful and happy one for you and yours.  And I pray that it will be a year in which things internationally and in our own society get better and not worse.

Some of you will have heard my sermon on Advent Sunday (or Wednesday) – the beginning of the church’s new year.  In it I set out my hope that this year will be one in which we will grow in our sense of belonging and commitment together as church families in our own churches (and across the benefice, too).  A number of this year’s activities will hopefully help this.

One is a review at All Saints of ways in which we might join together for social events which can help us get to know each other better and share in fellowship.  In the new year our consultation group will get to work again, this time asking what social events people would enjoy.  We don’t want to put things on ‘for the sake of it’, but things people would want to engage with.

One specific event which will really help bond together those who go will be our trip to Scargill House in September (Friday 28th to Saturday 30th).  The PCCs have kindly agreed to make places for all children FREE to make it more affordable for families.  The cost for adults is £135 (or a bit more for en-suite) and includes all meals over the weekend.  There will be worship and some input from the team, but there will also be lots of time to socialise, enjoy the countryside, and relax.  The programme will be designed with all ages and all stages of Christian commitment/church involvement in mind.  Whichever parish you belong to, why not come along?  Booking forms will be out in the new year.

Thirdly, there will be a focus on stewardship this year.  Stewardship stands for our Christian understanding that all we have, including our time, talents and treasure, comes from God, and is entrusted to us to use wisely and generously, not just to hoard as if it was really ours.  Part of that stewardship is the responsibility on all faithful Christians to contribute to the life of the church through the gift of some of their time, talents and treasure to God’s work through the Church.  A stewardship renewal campaign is an opportunity to think about the response each of us makes to God’s claim, in response to his amazing generosity to us.  Along the way, it is also an important opportunity to learn more about the facts of church finance and how much it takes to maintain the ministry here, the buildings, our contribution to the costs of the wider diocese and national church.  I hope that this whole process will help us all grow in our sense of being responsible members together of one body.

Talking of things financial, Altham St James is looking at another major funding effort.  You will recall that the nave roof was renewed in summer 2016.  It was whilst this was being undertaken that the state of the chancel and aisle roofs was found to be worse than thought and they need to be attended to.  An application was made to the National Lottery church buildings fund, but was unsuccessful due to high competition. The PCC is examining options for grant applications, but all friends of this beautiful church will need to pull together once again if we are to keep a sound roof on the building.

It’s not just about money, it’s also about time and the sharing of responsibility.  We are still looking for a new churchwarden for All Saints’. Could this be you?  Do have a word with me or Sarah if you are interested in exploring this area of service.

Fourthly, and most importantly, I hope that we can draw together in prayer.  To help us pray in common, I have made available in each church a very simple leaflet which lists a psalm and prayer for each day of the month.  I’m asking everyone to take part in this if they can.  We can be encouraged by knowing others are praying the same thing, and as we use them month after month we can allow the words to sink in.  Next Advent we’ll review how it’s gone.  If you haven’t yet got one, please collect one next time you’re in church, or ask someone to collect one for you.

With my prayers for a blessed and peaceful new year

Love from Toby