We gave out surveys at church some weeks ago. Nearly 90 surveys were returned. Nicole Hanekom compiled the results. Here’s what we found out…
People come to church for many reasons – but for community, for a sense of peace, to learn about Jesus and how to follow him and to pray scored highly in the surveys. Prayer (rather than personal Bible study, for example) is very important for people in both churches in personal life. At home, about 40% of us live with people who do not attend church.
Most of us walk to church, especially those at St John’s. Few of us are part of Christian groups elsewhere which indicates St John’s and St Mary’s are our primary communities for learning about Jesus and growing in the Christian faith. In both communities there is quite a good spread of older and newer members. We are diverse in other ways. About two thirds of us are white British, but, on the other hand, a third of us are not. Two thirds of us have come from non-CofE backgrounds or from no church background. St John’s also has a wide variety of ages attending.
Coming out to midweek events is not easy for many people – about half say they don’t have much free time during the working week. More than half of us would likely or possibly attend a short service on a Sunday afternoon. The majority of us get our news from the BBC (and some of us even work for the BBC!). Well over half us are checking facebook and using smartphones.
In the comments section of the survey “relaxed”, “welcoming”, “friendly”, “community” were words that came up frequently. St John’s is liked for its family atmosphere, and St Mary’s for its peaceful atmosphere. And the music? About half of us are happy with the way things are – the other half are split between wanting more contemporary and more traditional – so it’s a stalemate!
Our God is a God who loves those who are marginalised and at risk. The Bible shows us God has a heart for children, from the stories of Moses and Esther to the birth of Jesus himself who, though the Son of God, was brought up on earth by the Joseph and Mary. The apostle Paul talks about how we are adopted into God’s family ourselves through Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:5)
In the UK today there is a real fostering crisis as 35,000 children each year enter the care system but there is a shortage of the almost 9000 homes needed for them. As local authorities are stretched and cannot always accommodate the number of children in need of a safe, loving home, more and more children are having to be redirected to private agencies, which can mean they end up split up from their siblings. In particular, there is an on-going and urgent need for more foster families to provide homes for teenagers, disabled children, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, and sibling groups. These children are the ones who are often hard to place, but for those carers who do take them in it can be very rewarding. Being taken into care can be a heart-wrenching experience and I believe that part of our mission in the church is to support and love the children who may have experienced a huge amount of loss and rejection at an early age.
Adoption is also facing similar challenges as the number of children being adopted dropped by 12% last year, which means that almost 6000 children are missing out on being part of a warm, caring family. This Adoption Sunday it is a chance for us to consider our own story of adoption into God’s family while we commit ourselves to help the most vulnerable in our society. As God reminds us in Psalm 82:3 ‘Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the rights of the poor and the oppressed.’
…a Catholic German Monk named Martin Luther nailed a notice to his local church door in the town of Wittenburg. His notice included his 95 Theses – points of dispute he held with the Catholic church about corruption and exploitation which he perceived in his day. Thanks to the invention of the printing press, Luther’s supporters had a way to get his message out quickly and the shy, scholarly Monk soon became famous for his controversial views.
Luther realised that the Catholic church over the centuries and especially in his day had added a lot to the simple message of Jesus and his first followers. To be accepted by God required trust in Jesus – and nothing else, no penance, no church taxes, no special insight from the Pope. God was merciful and through Jesus forgiveness was a free gift. Luther said that only the Bible should show us what it means to follow Jesus and so he translated the Bible from Latin into German for all to read and decided to ignore Catholic teaching which imposed unnecessary rules. For example, despite being a Monk, Luther decided to get married to Katharina, a nun (whom he had helped smuggle out of a convent in a barrel!) because he saw no restrictions on this way of life in the Bible.
Luther’s ideas spawned the Reformation and with it a wave of new “protesting” churches which disagreed with the Pope and some Catholic doctrine. These ideas were very influential in Britain, including to Archbishop Thomas Cramner who advised Henry VIII, which is why the CofE is quite protestant in character and so, for example, allows its priests to marry (thankfully for me!).
So, if you’re stuck for an idea for what to wear trick or treating this Halloween – why not dress up as the humble Monk Martin Luther? Instead of knocking on people’s doors, you could post a notice instead, and you never know what might happen next!
A huge thank you to all those who generously donated towards our Harvest collection. A car load of food was delivered to St Paul’s, Hounslow West, who run the food bank project that we support as a church. Don’t worry if you missed out on giving last week as our usual food bank collection will continue to be delivered there regularly. Please continue to give generously as you are able.
Anna Evans, an Ordinand at St Paul’s who heads up the organisation of the food bank, writes: “We are really grateful for all the support given to the foodbank here at St Paul’s and for your regular contributions. Over the last year, we have seen a rise in the number of clients coming to the foodbank each week, we certainly could not sustain the level of people we help without the invaluable support of local churches, individuals and school.”
St Paul’s has had a big week for other reasons too. This last Tuesday their new vicar, Rev Claire Clarke, was installed to a packed out church. Claire had been a part of the team at St Saviour’s Sunbury and had been trained by Rev Libby Etherington, former vicar of St Paul’s. She has (like me) just finished her curacy training in this part of London. She will be a great asset to our deanery and ministry in this area and I’m really pleased we’ve managed to keep her local! Please remember her in your thoughts and prayers as she begins this next phase of her ministry.
On Monday, I attended a training session offered by Hounslow Council to people wishing to contribute to the Refugees Welcome project that Tom initiated, along with other local organisations and groups. The training emphasised that volunteers can help in a number of ways e.g. befriending, helping to learn English, or providing a welcome meal.
It can be daunting to open our hearts and homes to people who we don’t know, especially when there are cultural differences and a language barrier, and it’s really important to know that support and advice are available. Over twenty-five people attended the session. Mohammed Bashar and Nina Yusof, who led the training, did a great job of providing background information about the Syrian people and their land and customs, and helping us to think about what issues the refugees might be facing once they arrive.
It made me think about how much is possible when groups, organisations and individuals work together for a common cause. In today’s world it seems more important than ever to reach out beyond ourselves to create community wherever we can. The bible gives us a number of pictures to encourage us to work closely together for the kingdom of God e.g. like living stones in a temple (1 Peter 2 v5), or like different parts of the body (1 Cor. 12 v27).
The Shelter Project Hounslow, which we participate in here at St John’s and St Mary’s, is a really good example of this kind of working together. Maybe, over time, The Refugees Welcome Hounslow could be something else that we get involved with as a church? If you would like to find our more do speak to me or Rachel Maclure, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.