By Rev Dave Gough
For the first time in the five years I have been at St James, 2015 has been a relatively quiet year with little change in terms of the services we offer and the things we have been doing. However, that does not mean that God has not been active and working in people’s lives. We have seen many folk growing in their faith and seeking to live out their beliefs in all that they do.
Our Discipleship groups for both men and women have been places where God has encouraged and given confidence to people to put themselves forward for many different tasks which they may not have otherwise seen themselves doing. It was with some sadness that we said goodbye to Ollie and Jo and their family, but through God’s good graces and growing confidence in our congregation that all the good works he was involved with have been able to continue. It is good to know that all those things that Ollie learnt whilst with us are now being a blessing to others in Buxton.
One of the highlights of the year for me was the Christmas tree festival weekend at the beginning of December. It was a pleasure to welcome so many into the church during the weekend and in the ensuing weeks in the build up to Christmas. Many people commented that they had never seen St James looking so good and the atmosphere was very vibrant and a real sense of God’s presence. During this period we welcomed both local Primary schools for their Christmas services and again it was wonderful to see the children, staff and parents worshipping in St James. It is good to know that we will once again be hosting a Christmas tree festival this year as it proved to be so successful.
Our work in the local schools continues to be a real source of joy and a great way for us to engage with our local community. We once again partnered with them to bring in gifts for harvest and together we collected over 100 shoe boxes for Operation Christmas child. Our Tots group has also seen significant growth and many parents who have attended have commented on the welcoming atmosphere and love for God they find there. The Tots group continues to be a ripe area for God’s mission with many from the group bringing their children for baptism and joining our congregation on a regular basis. Both the family service and Messy Church continue to thrive and brings many blessings to both those who come and those who volunteer.
God really does continue to bless us here at St James and to see many people coming to a new understanding of Jesus is a privilege to be part of. I hope and pray that this will continue into 2016 where many new and significant challenges await us. As a PCC, and I hope as a church, we felt that we had been truly blessed with the provision of a family and childrens worker for three years and during this new year we again have been able to secure funding for a Youth Worker. This will be a very different appointment and we are pleased to welcome David to this new role, along with his fiancée Esther. We know this will be a challenging position and I encourage you to pray for David as he begins to seek God’s will as to where he may direct his efforts to engaging young people in our community. Practically please offer him your support where you can, welcome them into the family here at St James and generally encourage them as a couple, as you have done so wonderfully for both Oliver and Joanne and of course Verity and I.
Another challenge that we will need to face this year is how we might work with other parishes in our local deanery. Over the last few years the Diocese has had to reduce clergy numbers and in our deanery at present we face a number of parishes who are in an interregnum situation and a couple more later this year. If we are to take God’s call to be God’s church in every community seriously then we as a church need to engage fully in what this might mean for us as a parish. This may well entail some tough decisions for us and for myself in particular in how I continue to minister here in Woodhouse and potentially in a wider area. As deanery plans become firmer I will make sure that you are all informed of what this means to us as a church. Please pray that good decisions will be made and that God’s will is clear in this difficult situation.
In September the PCC formulated and agreed a new Mission Action Plan for the coming few years. We felt God was calling us to pursuing a youth worker, those who are isolated in our community and how we might make sure that St James is ‘fit for purpose’ in terms of the building and hall. I will be pursuing conversations with our ecumenical colleagues regarding the elderly and isolated and as you know plans to change the hall have been mooted for the last few years and I now feel that this is something we need to seriously pursue over the next year or two. Again please pray that we will be able to seek God’s direction in both these things and for a real sense of progress over the coming months.
Once again this year finances have proved to be a challenge but can I take this opportunity to thank all of you for the generous giving that you do towards the work here at St James. Please continue to seek God in all that you give to the church and to God’s work, without you we could do nothing, you are very much appreciated.
I look forward to seeing where God will take us this year and hope to see more people come and know the truth that Jesus loves them and the very real change this can make to their lives. Praise God for all that we are blessed with here at St James.
Rev Dave Gough