DEAR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST,
“May the name of our Lord Jesus be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Greetings to you all. I hope you don't mind my rather comprehensive letter to the parish but it felt necessary and good to share with you my own reflections at this time, and with them the hope and joy I feel in knowing what God has started and will indeed finish here at All Saints.
But first it is fair to say that the last 6 months have been extremely difficult. It has been sad, challenging, and messy. The impact of a community not being able to gather, not being able to pray together, not being able to talk, eat or sing together has been manifold. Beyond the church, people have been impacted in profound ways by social isolation being forced upon them, unplanned financial challenges, health difficulties made real, and bereavement in the family. I could go on. Nobody is immune to these things. During this time, the usual anchors, safety nets, checks and balances have been put under pressure, some have even collapsed completely. Having said that, there have been many examples of how new anchors, and safety nets have emerged as people support people, and the church supports the wider community. This has been particularly evident within the pastoral team, the foodbank team, the Acts 435 team, Children’s Clothes Bank, CRRN and the continued online presence of AA, Singing for the Brain, and the various other groups that in the past have been used to meeting at All Saints. These groups, led predominantly by volunteers, have touched the lives of those for whom the impact of Covid19 has been overwhelming.
These challenges have also been the backdrop to significant areas of change and growth in the church planned well before Covid19 was ever a concern. Transforming Mission was planned and prayed for in 2018, and the Lifehouse Project in 2016. In 2016 we also made a decision to open the doors of the church to the wider community, to hand over space, time and resources to likeminded organisations to serve Truro, and as a result the profile of the church as a place of sanctuary, support and healing is now well known.
In light of this I want to share with you what I feel God is asking of me and maybe, if you concur, the church as a whole at this time. It is very simple. This thought/vision has not left for me for some time and comes from Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica. A church that was experiencing many trials but had been given an incredible gift. Although Paul was speaking specifically about persecution, his summary in chapter 1 verses 11 and 12 share something that is very relevant to us.
“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
His message to the church during great trial was simply this… that the name of our Lord Jesus be glorified. In other words, as they lived their lives, sometimes in real affliction and trial, they could nevertheless live them in such a way as to bring honour and glory to our Lord. (As we face our lives, in different walks of life, in different opportunities for service, is it true of us, as it was of these Thessalonian believers so long ago, that our lives are the means of bringing glory to the Saviour?)
Each of us will have many things we are hoping for, praying for and looking for at this time. As with Paul’s words we pray that by his power God may bring to fruition every desire for goodness, and every deed we have set out to do by faith. Transforming Mission and the Truro Lifehouse are both God ordained plans for this church, and beyond, and we pray that they will be brought to fruition even in this time of great uncertainty.
I realise that for many of you it will feel like these plans for resourcing the church and building the Lifehouse are actually making the church you once knew well, feel very different, especially, at this time, when we are all having to learn to live in an unfamiliar and disturbing ‘Covid world’. It may feel like some of the spiritual anchors, words, services and people that you have long appreciated feel more distant, and maybe even lost in the midst of all this change. And so, I want to be very clear to you all when I say, that through the Transforming Mission and the Lifehouse Projects we hope to build out of where we are rather than replace who we are. There have been significant answers to prayer over the course of these projects, and at each milestone we have been reminded of what God has instore for His church, and it is good. The foundations laid down over many years are what we are building from, and it is only from this strong base, of fellowshipping believers called to serve Highertown and beyond, that we can fulfil the vision that God has called us to live out. As we do this, in all ways, we should always keep at the heart of our work the joy we experience when the name of our Lord Jesus is glorified in what we do for him.
Over the course of the next 12 to 18 months we will be striving to further live out the words of our vision statement, ‘To be a Christ-centred, Spirit-led, growing Church that proclaims the love God in word and deed, in faith and justice to the people of Truro and beyond.
The statement is already a word of intent, but in our desire to be outward looking and affective in the world we can too easily miss the implied instruction too, i.e. to live it for ourselves; “to live a Christ-centred life, to live a Spirit-led life, to live in order to glorify him…”
It’s a bit like the difference between swimming against the current and catching a wave. If we take the aims of our vision and share them as if they were an indicative statement of our faith and not as words we live by, we will feel ourselves paddling against the force of the Spirit. But if we seek to deepen our relationship with Jesus, and centre our thoughts and actions on him, we are putting ourselves in the best position to catch the wave. When our work lines up with God’s hope for His church, the power of the Spirit is more likely to wash over us, and help us move forward together. Together is important here, fellowship is important here, and what we mean by church is important here. These projects and the life of the church in this season are tasks that are beyond us all, but it is not beyond God.
I’m not a surfer, but I do have a wetsuit. I have never worn it out. I know, I feel the shame. A vision that is hung on the wall and never lived out, is as good as a wetsuit that’s never seen water.
I am told that when the right wave is caught by a surfer at the right time there is a peace that is deeply felt. Some have said that it is like a profound sense of being safely carried by a force far greater than ourselves.
At times, over the last few weeks I have felt carried, but I am also very aware that due to the very reactive nature of the last few months, there are a few things that have been missed and have slipped a little. One of these things has been good communication, and another is the need to empower people in prayer.
We have been so used to holding church meetings after our morning services to help keep the church in touch with progress on TM and the Lifehouse, and it has been difficult to replace these with phone calls and online newsletters. Over the coming weeks however, our newsletters will be shorter (much shorter than this one!) and more frequent, they will also be topic specific so that we can focus more on the different areas of our church’s life.
We will also be returning to the Q&A format in our in-person services so that I can personally share how we are progressing; giving people an opportunity to ask their own questions. This will be broadcast and recorded so you can catch it online if you can’t be with us.
Prayer has never stopped at All Saints. Morning prayer has continued throughout lockdown and has been made available to people as a recording online and on our telephone service. And I know that many of you have been praying for the church and for all that’s going on at the moment in the world. I also want to share that the pastoral demands on the church, and in particular, its clergy have felt like an enormous weight at times especially in light of the kind of profile the church has in our community. All Saints Church continues to be a point of contact for those who are struggling with mental health, financial worries, spiritual matters, and grief and loss, and all these things require a great deal of care, time, prayer and support. Holding these things in prayer is the only way to sustain this support to those beyond the church. And so, I will be looking to those of you who are called to prayer ministry and intercession to take up the task of praying for your clergy, and for praying for those the church walks with and ministers to.
Lastly, I want to say that I am enormously hopeful. All Saints has been gifted with a clear and distinct vision, that was brought about by the Holy Spirit through the body of believers here. This vision will not only draw people to Jesus today and tomorrow but for many years to come. Nothing worthwhile is ever achieved from of a spirit of doubt, but everything is achieved in hope; more specifically, in the precious hope that comes from knowing Jesus our Lord. Godly plans are not fulfilled by money, they are fulfilled by faith. As Jesus said, “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” So, let us seek to glorify Him who gives us hope. Give ourselves to His way, and we will find the way.
Yours in Jesus Christ
Revd Jeremy Putnam
Priest in Charge | Resource Minister for TM Truro
This question has been my companion over recent months and years, not least because Reader Ministry was never in my vocabulary growing up, neither was it on my horizon as an adult moving through the various faith stages of growth prior to my latest challenge - no doubt a hangover from my Protestant background - Cassock, Surplice and Scarf!
Decisions we are faced with though, rarely stand in isolation; how often they follow God’s nudges woven into the canvas of our lives, as the Psalmist says - from the womb throughout the whole process of transformation, even before we were overtly seeking God. Jamieson’s analogy of the Chrysalis reflects perfectly my own journey to this point, as he considers the hidden transformation of a caterpillar to butterfly including its periods of disturbance, dissatisfaction, disillusionment, disorientation and disorder.
Jamieson writes that before becoming a butterfly, a caterpillar sheds its skin and hangs upside down on a leaf of the plant it has lived on for its whole life; this period of metamorphosis can be tricky, messy, a time of darkness, stillness and silence as changes occur under its skin before splitting open to reveal the Chrysalis. This phase also brings both crisis and a sign of new life, - it’s a new and unfamiliar space for simultaneously letting go and letting come, a temporary time of transition. Whilst the Chrysalis contains the caterpillar’s original DNA but little else, what emerges is inexplicable, fragile and born out of a period of profound grace; it seems God’s work can’t be man-handled by human hands and short cuts, without risking clipping the wings of a butterfly at birth and first flight, whether to Reader Licencing or something else.
Yet, being licensed for Reader Ministry on the 3rd October is not really about me and a Cassock! It’s about the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ who calls each of us to a make a unique and personal response to follow him by wholehearted faithful discipleship to “live in the grace of Christ” (Gal. 1:6) – it’s less about what we each do, or our reputation or even the church, it isn’t always comfortable and it definitely takes courage. It’s costly, it’s risky, it can’t be faked, whilst the encounter with grace eventually leads to freedom of flight.
As I prepare to ‘emerge’, on many levels, for the licensing service on October 3rd, I’m struck by these words: “I wonder where the responsible people are who will intentionally enter the public square for God with their stories. Then I realize anew that I am one. As are you. Our theology matters, and now is the time to share it.” (S. Codone). Now, during this unprecedented time of change in both society and church……, us.
So to the Cassock! It is quite old, and has been lovingly ‘passed on’ to me by a retiring Reader for which I’m very grateful, mostly because it reminds me that this is not about me and that I follow in the footsteps of others as part of a whole community of disciples. The surplice is new, the Reader scarf is blue, and I’m reckoning on borrowing your prayers…………..
Debbie Mitchell, Reader in Training
Jamieson A: “Chrysalis – The hidden transformation in the journey of faith”. Publisher – Paternoster.
A collection of thoughts and reflections from the people of All Saints.