Reverend Rebecca Newland
Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany — 23 February 2014
In place a sermon, Rebecca read the following report:
The Governance of the Diocese Ordinance requires that the rector present a report at the AGM on "the general state of the parish and on the rector's strategies and plans for the work of the parish in the coming year".
General State of the Parish
Due to unforeseen circumstances this report is late and of necessity short. However, this in no way reflects the state of our parish and the plans for the year ahead. If you read carefully and closely all the other reports it is very clear that as a community we have achieved a great deal this year including the installation of buildings, reorganizing of space, development of policies and the growing of new ministries and initiatives. For a parish of our size it is truly amazing and I cannot thank all members of the parish enough for all their commitment, hard work, patience, good will, humour, encouragement and support. The work we are doing here is I believe a sign of God's love in the world.
There are two key parts to the life of a church, our mission and reason for being. One is to be a place where God's love revealed in Jesus Christ is proclaimed and where all people can come closer to God, where they can find love, reconciliation, hope, belonging and a foretaste of the Kingdom of God and where they can worship God in spirit and truth. The second is to be a community that is God's hands and feet in the world—a gathered group of people who love unconditionally, particularly those most in need. It is a great privilege and honour to be leading a parish that does both these things with such grace and goodness. Of course no community is perfect. No church or group of Christians gets things right all the time. Yet, it is in our imperfection and stumbling attempts that God's power and grace is consistently revealed and we find Christ's way and love shining. This is the great blessings and beauty of a Christian community.
One of the blessings of St Philip's is that it is a very exciting place to be at the moment. So many things have fallen into place over the last twelve months and so many things are still on our plate for completion. I spoke at the beginning of last year about the energy that was about the place—energy to make the building vision a reality and energy to find ways to serve the people around us more effectively. I think that sense of energy still remains along with a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. However it has taken an enormous amount of effort to bring us to this place and there is still more to be done in terms of the site redevelopment. The bulk of the work has been completed but there is still more on our plate.
As I look around at what we have been doing I see it very much as part of our overall plan and focus. We are a community that believes strongly in living the love of Christ in real and practical ways. The new building, the new office and studio arrangements, the refurbishment of the parish sheds, the loving care of the gardens and surrounds is all about providing the physical facilities to make our ministry, our practical loving, more efficient, more welcoming, pleasant and volunteer friendly. We are a church that values relationships and caring. The work of this past year and the year ahead means we will have the facilities where people can gather to build connections and reach out to others. The heart of our life together is our life with God. Making sure our facilities are as good and used as wisely as possible, means our worship space is truly a place of prayer, proclamation and praise.
However, our activity has not just been focused on buildings and facilities. They are a key part of the work we do with people from all walks of life and part of the way in which we worship God. Our cross-cultural ministry continues to grow and our ministry to families and children is developing. The Friday night youth group is a place of welcome, fellowship and teaching. Pandora's loving presence in the community has gone from strength to strength. Our Dinka brothers and sisters are firmly established at St Philip's and engage in their own significant outreach in the community and beyond. The work of the Northbourne community team continues to be a source of encouragement and support to some of the most disadvantaged people in our community. The ministry at Kankinya Nursing home means that in very practical and simple ways the love of God is shown to those who are 'housebound' and shut in. Our music ministry continues to bring joy and delight, to move and motivate and to glorify God.
Last year I spoke of how we were a growing and changing parish with some significant challenges including an increase in the complexity of management, leadership and administration. This still holds true although the administrative support now available and the new office facilities have made these areas more sustainable. As I look at the year ahead, I believe the two big challenges in all of this work we do and the continuing building project before us is sustainability and financial resourcing. Many people have put in a huge effort to get us this point and our ongoing ministries require continued commitment and energy. Speaking as the rector and overall leader the nature of my role has changed somewhat due to new initiatives and facilities. My workload has also steadily increased and required new skills in supervision and training. The two critical areas of sustainability are the financial support for the cross-cultural program and the servicing of our loan repayments for the Lamerton Centre.
I have tried to present an honest appraisal of our 'general state'. Despite some of the challenges I believe St Philip's has all we need to meet the challenges. This is great place to be a parish priest, which I never tire of telling any one who will listen, and I can report that my general state is enthusiastic, hopeful, healthy and at peace.
Strategies and Plans
Addressing sustainability and financial resourcing.
A Christian community is founded solely on Jesus Christ who is the rock that underpins all our endeavours. Without a continual turning to God through Christ and the ever-present help of the Spirit we will loose strength and energy. We also need to work lovingly and carefully with the nuts and bolts of our parish community—that's you and me! All the activity we do is here is done by people, people who give of their time and energy generously and graciously.
We can model our strategies on Christ and the early Christian communities who seemed to know something about sustaining ministry.
And so some strategies:
I would like to encourage everyone to prioritize their relationship with God, their prayer life and their spiritual disciplines whether that is meditation, reading the bible, church attendance, fasting, silence or some other activity that helps you draw close to God. All things are found in God—loving care, energy for the journey and motivation to act. Your prayers do make a difference in the world and in the life of this place.
Finally I would like to thank you all—for your faithfulness, support, encouragement and work. There are always so many people to thank and it is impossible to include everyone effectively. However, I am only too aware of the contribution you all make in whichever way you can. I do want to particularly mention our 2013 Parish Council: Ian Cousins, Roger Sharp, Robin Shannon, Helen Palethorpe, Leighton Mann, Shane Woodburn, Rebecca Palethorpe and Tim Gulliver. It has been a joy working with these committed and faithful people. It is a joy being part of this community and I look forward very much to the year ahead, journeying with you, celebrating and worshipping as we step out in faith, trusting always in the gracious God of all.