May 2022 Pewletter 

Dear Church Member
You would be forgiven for thinking that this should be called the summer pew letter.  It is bone dry and even the little rain we had the last week has had little effect on the parched ground.  But summer doesn’t officially start until 21st June so Spring it is.
I watch nature carefully on my daily walks with the dogs and May is when mother nature changes up a gear and bursts into life with unstoppable vigour.  This is of course a gripping metaphor for the life we Christians should live after the events we celebrated on Easter Day.  “For death could not hold Him nor the grave contain Him”.  The tragedy, the desolation and the hopelessness of Good Friday is turned on its head as Jesus conquers death, smashing down the barrier that separates us from God.  Easter Sunday was a fantastic celebration across all 3 services with almost 400 people joining in.  It was so encouraging to see the church so full once again and many new faces joining us.
The challenge that always faces us though is how we take this Easter joy into the rest of the year for after all, we are called to be an ‘Easter people’.  The last couple of weeks have been tough with my sister-in-law being diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer and then hearing about our own much-loved Michael Greig also with a diagnosis of a serious cancer.  Two people who I love suffering and with those around them struggling to come to terms with their diagnoses.  But in the pain and amongst the tears I have been so encouraged by Michael’s faith.  One of his email updates ended with the words “God is good; all the time”.  How can someone so ill say that?  I cannot imagine how someone without a faith can face a situation like they are both facing.  Without faith there is no hope through prayer, no eternal life (where there is no more pain, tears or suffering) and no reunions with those we love in the ‘new heaven and new earth’. For death cannot have been beaten and therefore really is the end; life snuffed out once and for all.  But as Easter people we can look to the risen Lord Jesus Christ as our help and saviour.  We can look death square in the eye and ask “oh death, where is your sting?”.  We may fear the process of dying but need have no fear of death itself because Jesus has beaten it and shown us the resurrection that all those who believe in him can attain.  To be sure we are allowed to weep, wail and lament for the pain of separation is bitter but as that wonderful talk by Revd Samuel Lockeridge says: “its (Good) Friday but Easter’s a coming”. In the time we have ahead of us we must live our lives to the full as ambassadors for Christ, making the most of every God-given opportunity to share our faith with those who are spiritually lost and blind, confident in the knowledge that we are loved by God and destined for heaven with Him.
I wanted to take this opportunity to mention that I have had to become somewhat less available and perhaps even a bit less visible to you all.  This is a result of the extra workload caused by my serving on General and Diocesan Synods and also by my leadership of the Oxford Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship.  I have become aware that it all adds up in terms of my diary commitments which means you all have to see and hear from me less than would have been the case last year.  Not being able to devote myself entirely to the parish is I know less than ideal but I hope you understand that these roles are important ones particularly as the Church enters some very choppy waters where prophetic voices and strong leadership will be at a premium.
I am delighted and excited that Ope Ayileye will be ordained deacon in July and will be serving his curacy with us.  Ope is already a gifted preacher so will be a huge asset to the team.  Ope’s calling is to what we call ‘self-supporting’ ministry so whilst we will see him every Sunday he will have his day-job during the week so his time will be limited.  Ope is already a part of the church family and Tosin his wife sings in the choir.
We would love to resurrect the Families’ Worker role.  We were planning on doing so in September but sadly our finances don’t stack-up (yet!).  I hope and pray that our income rises so we can consider making an appointment this year and not have to delay it by a year. [News hot off the press after this letter was printed is that some incredibly kind person(s) has made a significant donation to cover the first year of this post – God is amazing!]
We, like many churches, have struggled as we exit the pandemic with a dip in income and a shortage of people offering to serve in our ministries.  The latter is a real issue as it means those that do serve end up serving too frequently which can lead to frustration and burn-out.  We’re devoting the talks on last Sunday and this coming Sunday to stewardship and this Sunday I’ll be preaching on making use of our gifts and calling as disciples where I hope everyone can consider how their gifts can be used by God to grow His Kingdom.
We have an exciting programme ahead of us.  The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations will offer us a great opportunity to draw people up to BPC.  On Thursday 2nd June we’re hosting a beacon lighting event as part of a national network of beacons.  Refreshments and bites to eat will be served from 9.15pm and at 9.45pm we will light a beacon atop the church’s roof, hear a piper play and sing the National Anthem.  On Sunday 5th June at 11am we will host a Jubilee Civic Service for the community to give thanks for HMQ’s life and service.  Everyone is encouraged to attend.  That afternoon at 3.30pm we are holding a combined service for all the congregations for “Pentecost Praise” which will also include baptisms.  This will be followed by a hog roast for all the church family.  I hope and pray that as many of you as possible might attend one if not both services.
This year, as we have the parish weekend away, there is no church camping trip to Focus so the next major event will be Holiday Club which will run 23rd – 26th August (22nd is the set-up day).  We are hoping and praying for a huge increase in attendance and so will need an equal uplift in the numbers of those who can help.  If you can help please let one of the team know.
We constantly reflect on how to welcome newcomers into the church family and we will be recruiting a team of what we will call ‘befrienders’ in each congregation to accompany newcomers as they get to know people.  More on this anon.
Finally, the high point of the year will be our parish weekend away.  We’re all off to a lovely conference centre called ‘High Leigh’ over the weekend 9-11th September.  The venue is very well appointed with every room en-suite and no room sharing and the food is excellent.  We have invited Canon John Bavington as our speaker and I know we will have some inspirational teaching.  I hope and pray that as many of the church family as possible will come.  I know it isn’t cheap but bursaries are available so do please ask; we don’t want anyone not coming because they cannot afford it.  Booking forms are here and available at the back of church.
I do hope that the rest of the summer term goes well,
With much love