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Dear Church Family,
There are so many things to be encouraged by in the life of our church. We have new people joining us, we are seeing more children actively playing a part in our worshipping life. Our hope is that this will continue over the next few weeks and months.
A couple of weeks ago the PCC met for an away day, to reflect on what’s happening in the life of the church and the challenge of growth that we have to face. We had a number of conversations based around this, and we thought it good to update you on what came from that time together.
Firstly, we came up with a set of values derived from the conversations we had at the vision evening in June. We’ll put some descriptors against them in due course but the top level values are:
We believe these are things that we should embody as a community of faith, and so we therefore commend them to you. You are given permission to hold us to them, and to start to point each other to them as the way we want to operate as a church.
We spoke about the way worship is currently shaped at BFPC. Currently the Sunday with the largest attendance is the 3rd where we’re running 2 services, the 9am Traditional Eucharist, and the All Together at 11 Service. We recognise that the majority of our worship gathering at 10am each Sunday have an uneasy tension between traditional and contemporary, and that most of us go home not completely satisfied. Whilst worship is not a consumer activity, it is nevertheless easier to encounter God in a style which matches the way you personally meet with God.
With that in mind, we recognised that we can only ask you to hold the tension for so long. The PCC have agreed that at the latest by post-Easter 2023 we will move to 2 services (9am and 11am) for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Sundays of each month, retaining the joint 10am Communion Service on the 1st Sunday. We’re telling you now so that you know what’s going to happen well in advance, we can start planning what these look like with you, and so you have hope that there will be a regular service that caters to your worship preference in the parish in the foreseeable future. Can we suggest that it means you can start to invite others along to join us – especially those who might like the 9am? We are committed to having a regular Traditional service of a high quality within the parish.
We (Chris and Wardens) were reflecting this week that whilst worshipping in the Parish Centre we’ve reached about 80% capacity – which statistically is the ceiling of capacity which people are likely to come into. With new people joining us, we need to consider how we increase the capacity within our gatherings. We may need to accelerate the process mentioned above if this continues to be the case. We will of course try to communicate any changes to service times clearly.
The PCC recognised that the challenge we face to grow (especially in the initial 3 yrs) is quite a steep one. It requires significant vision, resource and effort. Whilst we have made a good start, and there are some very encouraging signs of life, the pace of change needs to be sustained or possibility accelerated… which will be hard to do given our current age demographics and size. We therefore identified the need for extra resource and people who could assist us with enabling the change journey. It’s a sad fact that like attracts like, and so we need to have additional 30, 40 and 50 yr olds as members of church to accelerate the growth we need and desire.
Before I (Chris) was ordained, Cat and myself were part of a graft of 30 people from a large Anglican church into a small church 400 meters down the road. We were a group of people who responded to the call of God and the church leader to join that smaller church with a vision to see it grow and thrive. We moved churches and committed to belonging, serving and giving for at least 2 yrs (we were there for 5yrs in the end). It was the start of my journey to ordained leadership. Today that church stands at about 200-250 strong and is about to embark on the journey to plant churches for itself.
The PCC have agreed that we send out a request for such support from a spread of churches around us – who are of a size and nature to support and resource our vision. Our desire is that whoever joins us will be from a spread of churches, not seeking to implant a culture, but seeking to come and join us, belong with us, serve alongside us, and give into the life of the church. Yes they will bring fresh vision and energy – but surely that’s what we’re looking for?
Chris is currently in discussion with a few families who are already discerning whether to make that move across to us from elsewhere having heard him speak at The Lantern a couple of weeks ago, and that’s exciting. We hope that we will see more of the same in the next few months from other churches. God is working in our midst and people are sensing that and want to be part of His purposes and plans here in Blandford.
Lastly, we’re on the final hurdle of our vision discernment journey – looking at what could be. Can we encourage you if you can to come along on Weds 20th July at 7,45pm where you will all have a chance to speak into the direction of travel for Blandford Forum Parish Church. This is your chance to shape the future – Our desire is for you all to play a part in this process, as then it will have more credibility than if it’s just me imposing a vision that no-one agrees with. As our values above say, we want to be a church where we are collaborative and work as a team, and that includes the way we discern vision and God’s calling on us as a church.
We realise there is a lot that is happening at the moment, and that some will find the pace of change unsettling. Firstly, we want to say that this is change for a purpose rather than change for changes sake. Secondly, we want to help every member of church through this change and so please do come and speak to any of us about any concerns or worries you may have.
Many blessings to you all.
Chris, Heidi and Dave
Lead Minster and Church Wardens