St Margaret of Antioch

Fernhurst


in the Diocese of Chichester
Copyright ©
St Margaret of
Antioch Fernhurst
2016
 
 
St. Margaret’s Vision Weekend and Patronal Festival 20/21st July 2013

Open Church: A synopsis of the Vision Presentation given by the Revd. Nick Haigh, Priest-in-Charge,
Saturday 20th July at 5:00 pm


Why are we here?
o To celebrate our common life and journey as a community of faith and prayerfully consider how we move forward together.

o The vision that we seek for our church community and mission is God’s.   Remember, the Kingdom of God is much bigger than us…

o When visiting a large shopping centre or similar, it’s usual to find large plans of the layout at intervals to help people find their way around - and there’s always an arrow labelled ‘You Are Here’ indicating one’s current, actual, location. It’s important for us, as a local church community, to have a ‘You Are Here’ moment - thanking God for what’s gone before, while being realistic & honest about the reality of our current situation. To move forward we need to know where we are now…

What is the vision?
o The vision before us this weekend is summed up by the expression
‘Open Church’. Tonight we will consider two main focus questions:

1. What being ‘Open Church’ might mean for our church’s life, ministry and mission,

and

2. How we each use our gifts, time and resources in the service of Christ & this community

FOCUS ONE:  What does ‘Open Church’ mean?

o ‘Church’ - building or people?  The Church is the People of God, those who respond to the call to follow Christ; the church building, ancient as it is, is simply where the Church meets for worship.  But both people and building are important in conveying God’s story, because the building says a lot about the people who call it their spiritual home.
o How might people interpret a closed, locked church? What might it convey about the community of faith who meet within its walls?

Open Church’ means…
§ Living openly and authentically as God’s people
§ Being ‘Church without walls’ - i.e. breaking down barriers, perceived or actual
§ Putting relationships before reputation
§ Being committed at the core but loose around the edges! i.e. allowing people the space to ‘come and see’ (as Jesus said) without any preconditions
§ Being genuinely welcoming and accepting people at whatever point they are on their spiritual journey - inviting them to ‘journey with us’ as part of our community, whatever their culture, so that they may seek God in a community context


So what about the building?
o St. Margaret’s is our spiritual home, as well as our identity - the church community is called ‘St. Margaret’s’; the building is an icon of our community.
o Lex orandi, lex credendi’ ‘as we pray, so we believe’ - we, as the community of St. Margaret’s, both tell God’s story and are shaped by it through our worship in this ancient place

Group discussion 1:  How does this ancient building tell The Story?
o Following discussion in groups, the following points were identified (in no particular order):
Continuity, welcoming, stability, refuge, comforting, open, space, great sense of peace, history, symbolism, people, friendship, framework for the story, not ‘locked door syndrome’

In summary, an open church building offers:
o ‘Sacred space’
o A welcoming home
o A place of encounter
o A connection with community

It’s worth mentioning that all of the above points were commented upon positively by the 90 or so people who visited the church during the Open Day today. Other (written) comments included: “lovely, well kept and very inviting”; “really friendly”; “must use the building more as in the past, a community meeting place” and “continue to be as inspiring and lovely as you are”

So what about the people?

Group discussion 2:  What does ‘Open Church’ look like, sound like and feel like?
o Following discussion in groups, the following points were identified (in no particular order):
Interest in others, welcome, involved in community organisations/life, loving interactions, taking church into community/service, sharing our faith, being visible (outside)

‘Open’ in what sense?
o To God, to each other, to our community
o In our hearts, attitudes and motivations
o With our use of time, talents, money, resources
o In our homes, services, meetings, church events & buildings
o In our ‘public face’ e.g. newsletters, website, involvement in village organisations

FOCUS TWO: How do we use our gifts, time and resources?

o What is God saying to us all at this particular time, in this particular community, with our particular gifts & networks?
o Remember the idea of a ‘You are here’ moment. We must guard against the dangers of getting into projects & activity that are neither rooted in the reality of where we are as individuals & a church family, nor in tune with where God is already working in the community.  The best definition of ‘mission’ that I’ve come across is “Wait on God, discern what He is doing, and then join in.”
o Remember also that the challenge to all who follow Christ is to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength - and your neighbour as yourself’.  This means that we are called to offer all that we are and all that we have on the altar.  And this has profound implications for how we use our time and our talents, etc. - and our money.  St. Margaret’s is still running at a slight loss, and we can’t, and shouldn’t, use legacies to make good those losses. God’s mission, throughout the centuries, has always been dependent upon the generosity of those who love and serve God and their neighbour.

What are our networks?
o NB This is not a ‘tick box’ exercise!   The important thing is our genuine relationships with others in those networks, which can serve as ground for all sorts of growth.  Remember, in God’s economy there is no ‘sacred/secular divide’
o A quick, and far from exhaustive, survey of those present identified:
Lunch club, Choral society, Fernhurst Revels, Good Companions, Fernhurst Centre, Youth Club, Village Hall, Fernhurst Primary School, Parish Council, and many more

Personal reflection:
o So, as we consider the vision, what is our response?  The Church is described as the Body of Christ in Scripture, and we are all therefore important, with a personal role to play in the work of God - and in this church, his Body here in Fernhurst.  We all need to play our part and work as a team.  I, with the church leadership, will be doing an audit of what people are currently involved in as well as offering training/input on areas they may wish to explore, so that we are all exercising the gifts we have been given as much as we can.  Nothing, at this stage, is off-limits for discussion!  The two questions that I would like each and every person to ask of themselves (and of God) are:

ŘWhat can I offer?

and

ŘWhat would I like to explore?

Conclusion:
I think that we are at an exciting point in the life and story of St. Margaret’s.  There are huge possibilities, not least because we, as a church and as individuals, are already so committed and involved in the life of both church and local community.  Where are we as a church?  The picture that presents itself is that of a gate leading into a large open and sunlit field; a wide field of possibilities, unknown corners to explore, new people to meet, wide pasture and space within which to grow, all within a framework set by God with us and all his mission in Fernhurst in mind…

‘Open church’ - opening up possibilities…

Next gathering: October 19/20 - Harvest festival
oCelebrating together and carrying on the conversation…

The Vision