Exploring Ways to be the ‘Mother church’ of Sudbury
One of the ways in which I often hear St. Gregory’s church described is as the ‘mother church’ of Sudbury. As you know, there has been a church on this site since at least the eighth century, Civic and community services such as the Remembrance Day Service are traditionally held here, and many families in Sudbury have come to St. Greg’s for baptisms, wedding and funerals for generations. But of course, there is more to being a mother church than this, and recently we’ve been exploring in the Ministry team what else we can be doing to serve our town and show our neighbours the nurturing care we associate with mothers.
Hope into Action
As you’ll remember just over a year ago Antony Arbuthnot, Teresa Bishop and myself spent a night sleeping rough in the church porch to raise money for homelessness work. The response we received not just from the congregation but from many people in the town showed me how concerned people are to help those who become homeless, recognising that in today’s fragile world it can happen to anyone. I’ve become involved with the Community depot that Teresa runs, offering the Rectory garage as a storage space for furniture which is in the process of being recycled to those who most need it when they finally get somewhere to call home. Members of the ministry team and myself travelled to Ipswich to see work being done by churches there in running the Ipswich Night Shelter and a Hope into Action house. The Night Shelter is a time-consuming project, and fortunately there are not so many rough sleepers in Sudbury (though one is more than enough) to make it a pressing need. Hope into Action is a Christian charity which provides homes for those getting their lives together again after a period of homelessness, offering support and the building blocks for a new life.
I’m excited to say that we now have a group of investors who can provide enough capital to buy a house in Sudbury (it’s actually a very good investment with a 2% p.a return- see the Hope into Action website if you might be interested or speak to me). The charity then leases the house from the investors and takes care of repairs and maintenance, finding tenants and administering tenancies and provide specially trained support workers for the tenants. A local church partners with the project in prayer, in offering in friendship to the tenants and in recruiting a small team (3-4 people) to build deeper relationships with the tenants. At our most recent PCC we voted unanimously to partner with the house which will be purchased in Sudbury. On average tenants stay in Hope into Action houses for about 18 months while they get back on track, it will be a privilege to be part of their journey.
Please continue to pray as, along with other Christians, I see the need for some kind of accommodation for those who do not fit into the usual boxes but nevertheless deserve safe, secure and homely accommodation. We also dream of offering more drop-in’s, more meals and more opportunities to gain life skills.
Another national initiative that seemed worth exploring when we visited the launch of the Cinnamon Trust in Suffolk, was Parish Nursing. Parish nurses are experienced registered nurses who work in partnership with local GPs and other health services. They do not prescribe medications or administer treatments but they fill a gap in providing whole person healthcare. So, for instance they might undertake health education and advice, offer short-term transitional nursing for those recovering from illness or injury, assist and support self-management for those with lifelong illnesses and conditions and offer non-specialist palliative care as appropriate. A number of parishes in Suffolk already have them in places such as Felixstowe, Capel St. Mary and the Moreton Hall area of Bury. We plan to visit and learn more with the aim of setting up a scheme here, hopefully in partnership with St. Andrew’s, Great Cornard who also see the benefit that such nurses could offer in our community. Please pray about this. I regularly find myself trying to support congregation members who need nursing care, and although I am always happy to help as I can I recognise that I don’t have the specialist skills or contacts that could really make a difference.
Our role as mother church in the town was in our thoughts as we thought about where we should give our tithe of church income. Of course, there are so many worthy charities we could support, and we will always look to give a portion of this to brothers and sisters overseas, but we felt that the main portion could be used to ‘partner in the gospel’ with other local Christians who were undertaking work that we couldn’t do ourselves. So, for 2019 we shall be giving £1,000 each to Edens Youth Project in Gainsborough Street, to Future Vision who work in schools providing chaplaincy, support and Open the Book to children and staff, No.72 North Street which provides a Christian drop-in centre with support and advice available to all and the Storehouse Foodbank which is run by the Vineyard Church and needs nearly £20,000 per year to run as well as our donations of food. We will continue to send the Christingle service collection to the Children’s Society and to we still have some money available for responding to desperate needs in different parts of our world which will arise this year.
Finally, when we talk about nurturing I can’t forget our Lay Elders who visit individuals and many of the Care Homes in Sudbury, taking Home Communion and offering friendship and care. We will shortly commission many of our Elders for another three years of ministry, but I wanted to publicly thank two Elders who won’t be continuing with this ministry at the moment. Irene Harding Payne, who has done so much in friendship and practical care for so many, and helps me keep abreast of who is sick or in need, is now hanging up her Lay Elder badge and taking a well-deserved rest. We send her our love and prayers as she continues to deal with her own health issues. Sam Hobson has found that her own demanding professional role nursing at WSH and support needed by other family members with issues means that she must lay aside this role for a while. We hope and pray that she will be able to pick it up at a later date.