Easter Vestry Address 16th April 2018
It’s said that time passes more quickly as you get older! That must be true, as it certainly doesn’t seem a year since our last Easter Vestry meeting! This is an important meeting, as we look back over the last year and look ahead to the year that lies ahead. We will receive our finance report and elect new wardens and a new vestry, yet for all the ‘business’ of the meeting, we meet together as the family of God here in Drumglass Parish. Being a church family really matters; it is as a family that we offer each other loving security and encourage each other to grow in the family likeness of our Heavenly Father and to use the gifts and skills that he has given us, to allow his family to grow and flourish.
I want to use, as an example, two aspects of the work of our vestry over the last year, which can be a metaphor for what we seek to be as a church family.
This time last year, extensive scaffolding was being erected around these halls to facilitate their re-roofing. The old flat roof had served us well, but with every heavy shower a new leak seemed to appear.
The work was carried out in a very efficient manner, by the contractors David Kerr Roofing Ltd and I’m delighted to say that £110,000 later, we really do have an excellent job. Not only is the building water tight, but the insulation that was fitted as part of the process, has made a marked difference to what always were cold halls. A roof, as all of us know, is a really important thing - without it a building is in jeopardy!
I want to use the image of a roof as a metaphor for who we are to be as the family of God:
all should be welcome under our roof.
Do all find a welcome in our churches? I’m not just talking about a friendly smile and a warm word or two. Are we a parish that has room under our roof for anyone? No matter what their background or lifestyle is.
I remember hearing the story of a pastor talking to a woman whose life was a mess and when he suggested she might come to church, her response was, “Do you not think I feel bad enough about myself?’ Under our roof, there needs to be a welcome that is a mirror image of the unconditional love of God.
under our roof we need to be a place that offers security and love for all.
In this family, everyone needs to know and feel that they are valued, respected, loved and cared for.
under our roof we need to be a place where people want to be. That means our worship and teaching needs to be attractive, engaging and relevant to where people find themselves.
The great roof, over all that we do, has to be our love, devotion and service of God - from that everything else flows.
Psalm115 verse 1, ‘Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory because of your love and faithfulness.’
The second aspect of the work of the vestry that I want to use as a metaphor for our Christian discipleship, is the new window that was placed in St Elizabeth’s shortly before Christmas. I know most of you will have seen it by now.
It beautifully represents three of the ‘I AM’ sayings of Jesus: ‘I am the Light of the world’, ‘I am the gate for the sheep’ and ‘I am the true vine.’ The window is a beautiful piece of art and craftsmanship executed at the skillful hand of Campbell’s Glass Studio, Belfast. The window was paid for by the generous donations of both parishioners and non-parishioners.
I want to think of the window, firstly as something that we look out to the world through. Maybe too often we make a definition between church and the world that gives an assumption - church good, world bad! Yet all of us live our lives in the world and are called to be Christ’s ambassadors to the world. The problem can often be, that the church ‘circles the wagons’ and doesn’t engage with the world outside. But God has entrusted us with his message for a needy world. When you look through a stained glass window, it makes the world look like a different place; it brings colour and added beauty. God calls each of us to look at the world with his eyes and with his love. When we do that, we are motivated to serve the world around us and to love the world around us.
Last year, at this meeting, I highlighted the commitment of volunteers who make the life of our parish flourish and grow. One of the highlights of this past year, was when nearly 150 of those volunteers gathered together for a ‘thank you’ meal in the church hall. There was a wonderful atmosphere of friendship and fellowship together and I hope it allowed all of our volunteers to know that they are important and indeed invaluable, if our parish is to thrive. So once again, I want to say ‘thank you’ for all who offer their time, skills and gifts to Drumglass parish.
I want to thank our staff team for their hard work and dedication. I feel so blessed to minister alongside Elizabeth, David and Danny. They are all deeply committed to this parish and their love for the Lord and His church, is so evident in the way that they serve week by week.
On your behalf we extend our ongoing thanks to Kenny McIIroy and Karen Robinson for the diligent and exemplary way they care for our buildings. We also are so grateful for our parish administrator Anne Greenaway, for her efficiency and commitment. We are blessed with two remarkably gifted organists, whose music is not only a reflection of their talent, but also of their faith, as they lead us in worship.
We are always blessed by excellent churchwardens and this year has been no exception. Ian and Natalie and Janet and June have been exemplary in how they have fulfilled their tasks.
Our vestry has worked diligently throughout the year and we give particular thanks to our secretary, Maureen McKeown and to our finance team. The oversight of the financial well-being of the parish is a huge undertaking and needless to say of vital importance. Thank you to our excellent finance team, Mavis Kerr our treasurer, Tom Forsythe our FWO secretary, and for the wise advice of Ian Steenson and the work of our counting teams.
This year the vestry will be giving particular attention to the ongoing renovations of these halls.
We are working on three guiding principles :- (1) disability access
(2) the provision of another meeting room and (3) improved storage space.
We have examined a number of possibilities, most of which have been prohibitively expensive. We have almost come to a settled mind on it now:- access from Church Street with a ramp to the halls; converting the stage into a multi-purpose meeting room; improving the access to the under stage storage area and providing a new entrance from the car park to the main hall by the steps to the garden. We are also going to put a permanent division between the minor and main hall - allowing for two halls with separate entrance etc. but much more of that later.
I was personally very moved by all of your kindness, prayers and concern shown to me at the death of my parents. Your sympathy and care meant so much to me and the family. Personally it was a difficult year, but it also had many highlights including the way you so generously marked my 10th anniversary as Rector and 25th of ordination. Heather and I are just back from Prague thanks to your generous gift. Thank you!
This is a great parish with great people and an even greater God!
I look forward to all that He has in store for us.
Next year marks 150 years since the building of the current St Anne’s. What better way to celebrate that milestone, than by rededicating ourselves to the love, worship and service of the Lord Jesus Christ.
To Him be all the glory.