Report at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting - March 13th 2016
Given by Rev Helen Mitchell
The readings referred to are the readings for that Sunday: Isaiah 43 16-21, Philippians 3 4b-14, John 12 1-8.
In the absence of a Priest in Charge, the Churchwardens have asked me to give the usual priest’s report on the work of the previous year.
It does seem so fitting that this year, our annual parochial meeting should fall on Passion Sunday because 2015 was a year in which we have all walked the way of the cross with our Lord.
This was of course absolutely true of Greg who suffered and died this year, in such a way that I am sure that the passage we heard today from Philippians applied to him, that he shared in the sufferings of Christ, becoming like him in his death, so that he came to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.
In so doing he taught us all so much. He showed us how a Christian may die in trust and faith.
And one of those who were truly inspired by that, in facing his own death with such courage, was Stuart Attride, who we sadly lost so soon afterwards.
The wonderful work that Greg had done in the name of Jesus became very evident at his funeral when so many came, each one having a story of how he had touched their lives. The funeral was in itself a real witness to the people of Sudbury of the love and hope of life in Christ.
As a church we have also walked on this way of the cross.
Our troubles have been a challenge and a spur to a deeper faith. A faith that is not just strong when things go well but can face the depths of loss and know that God is with us in it.
Prayer 48 provided an opportunity to reach out to others in trouble and pray for them from our own sharing in grief, and a chance to pray together and receive support and comfort from that over a longer period.
The making of the beautiful quilt gave solace and helped us to begin to come to terms with our loss.
Throughout we have continued to worship God and to witness to the love of God in Sudbury.
As always hundreds, if not thousands of people came through our doors for baptisms, weddings and funerals as well as the Civic and Remembrance and School and Christmas services, and with our new facilities we were able to give an even better welcome.
We have remembered those less fortunate than ourselves in our mission giving and in collecting for the “Jungle” in Calais and for Storehouse among others
And as our booklet again gives witness, all the many activities which take place at St Gregory’s have continued over the year.
For all this thanks are due to so many people that it would be entirely invidious to name any, because so much is done by so many people to keep the worship and the mission of this church not only going but flourishing.
So when I say thank you, I mean you.
And your simply turning up faithfully to worship God week by week is vital. Believe me, your presence does matter and your absence is noticed and also matters. We come together as the body of Christ and every member of that body counts and has a part to play in the worship of the whole.
But on the far side of the cross is Resurrection.
The church is always orientated towards the power of the resurrection, we are a resurrection people. As God says in our Old Testament Reading, “See I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
We are looking now for the new thing that God will be doing amongst us.
We have heard the exciting news the Bishop has appointed a new priest in charge for our church.
For the benefit of those who did not hear earlier, the Revd Canon Cheryl Collins, currently Rector of Suffolk Heights and Acting Rural Dean of Clare Deanery has been appointed to be our new Priest in Charge.
Cheryl comes to us with a wealth of experience. She previously served in Ely Diocese where she was Priest in Charge of three villages close to Cambridge and Rural Dean of Bourn. She was made an Honorary Canon of St Edmundsbury Cathedral in 2015 and has served on Bishop’s Council since 2013.
She is looking forward to new opportunities for ministry in Sudbury and we are very much looking forward to the new things she will bring.
Cheryl’s leadership will build on the wonderful legacy that Greg has left us but also bring something new, her own unique contribution to the life and mission of this church and through us to the people of Sudbury who so desperately need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
We give thanks to God for this appointment and pray for Cheryl as she prepares to take this up. I am sure you will give her that warm welcome and loving care that St Gregory’s is famous for.
I would be neglectful if I didn’t say something about the money. You will see that the Centenary Project is not quite paid for and also that we made an operating loss last year of £9. 000.Amongst other reasons, this is partly because the parish share went up, as it will again this year but also because our regular giving went down. Whatever wonderful work our new priest will do, it will all need funding and the only place that money will come from is from us.
Greg was a wonderful example of Christian giving. Not only did he work so hard for us, he also always gave a tenth of his income to the church. For Greg, that was simply what Christians do.
If you wish to honour the memory of Greg, there would be no better way of doing that than following his example in the matter of giving.
Our gospel reading which Lynda was talking about earlier, is a wonderful example of generosity in giving. The woman poured out a precious, generous gift on Jesus and Jesus commended her.
We have the poor with us always, but the chance of a relationship with Jesus Christ is the most precious thing we can give to anybody and giving people that chance is what the church, our church of St Gregory’s, is all about.
We pray that under Cheryl’s leadership we will be able to reach more people with that precious gift.