Autumn is upon uS!

It feels appropriate as the leaves start to fall and the days get darker that our dear Queen Elizabeth ll should leave us.  It has been a sad few weeks, but also a time for remembering. I have been touched to read the entries into our two books of remembrance.  We mourn our loss, but look to the future with our new King Charles lll – Long Live the King!

In our communities this is a time of returning especially for those with children – it feels like the start of a new year and it can be hard to gear back up to life lived in the fast lane.  How grateful so many families are to have such wonderful support from grandparents as they juggle competing priorities.

At the church the new term has meant a return to visits to the school to take assemblies, a return to governor meetings and the starting back of our Children’s work on Sundays in both churches and Messy Church and Tots Praise at St John’s!

At St Paul’s we have re-launched our Children’s work and have been delighted to see two new families join us.  We are also exploring how we can make our non-communion services more contemporary – watch this space!

What’s new A group of children from several churches in the local area are meeting in the Baxenden Vicarage to make and eat pizza, play games and talk about their faith using the great Alpha Videos in preparation for Confirmation in December.  We have our second meeting this Sunday and are excited to get to know such great children and young people.

We are also about to start our Connect group for House Group leaders which will meet for the next couple of months weekly in preparation to launch home groups in both churches from January. Richard and I will be leading this group, but we will all take turns in cooking a meal, leading worship, leading each session and leading us in prayer.  We will be working through material from the Generosity Project that we hope to bring to our home groups in the new year.

Buildings and Finance I am pleased to say that we have been given a 50% reduction in our Parish share that we pay to the diocese due to the great support from our Finance team.  St John’s have a huge programme of building work to do and we are so grateful to our church wardens and deputy church wardens in both churches who tirelessly work to keep our buildings water-tight.

Many of you will know that the church hall at St Paul’s got vandalise a few month’s ago and has been out of action over the summer.  Despite mainly smoke damage there is a lot of work still to be done to get it ready to be used again.  We had hoped to use the hall for toddlers and their carers, but we still hope to possibly start that at the back of church until we can return to the church hall.  You may know St Paul’s are still hoping to raise enough money to buy a new boiler and hope the November fete will help us reach the final target.

Service for the local Mother’s Union deanery  A couple of weeks ago Maureen Birtwistle hosted the service for the local Mother’s Union deanery at St Paul’s.  I was delighted to meet the deputy Mayor and Mayoress who used to be regulars at our church.  We also welcomed Gill Ireland, the Mother’s Union President for the diocese who talked about the importance of prayer.  Ann Hindle gave a lovely talk about how the Mother’s Union set up Toast Time to support carers and toddlers in the local area and our hopes to get it started again after Covid.  We had a good turn out and members of St John’s church attended to swell the choir, which was another sign of our coming together as two churches.

Cost of Living Crisis Our hearts go out to those who are struggling with the cost of living crisis and we have recently given a sizeable donation to the work of the Foodbank, run by members of both our churches.  The need is great and we are working hard to ensure the people who most need the help are being given help.  A number of us have been thinking hard about the right way to give help – sometimes ‘hand outs’ are not the complete answer – we need to find ways to give people a ‘hand up’ instead – that maintains their dignity and involves them in taking ownership of their own problems. 

What Next?  Look out for the new St John’s Parish News that Donna Singleton has put together – you should see some of the articles in this Parish Magazine.  Our desire was to improve the way we connected with those in our parish who do not have access to computers.  Donna is keen to get as many people to contribute as possible, so please let her know if you have a good story or want to advertise anything.

Harvest time is upon us and we will be hosting both schools in church for harvest services and St John’s will organise a Light Party for the children and Hot Dogs for us all as we have another joint service on 30th October.  Do try and join us for this special day.

As I finish, I want to give thanks for the group of people who do so much for our elderly folk in both churches – for the community coffee mornings, the knit and natter groups and the pastoral visiting that goes on unseen.  Whenever I visit people, I often find that others are already involved: taking people to hospital, giving support and encouragement, a listening ear – your good deeds are not forgotten! I want to leave you with this special verse.

The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.  2 Chron.16.9

May God bless you,