For Bramhall Annual Parochial Church Meeting, 2011

A SOWER WENT OUT TO SOWLuke 8.5: and that has been the business, the occupation and the joy of this household of faith in the whole of the past year. Sowing seeds. And even watching some of them raised to fruition. Collaborating together, sharing in ministry, we have known what some theologians have called “the companionship of empowerment”. Seeds for a harvest in ministry have been, are being, and will be sown in hearts and minds and souls and bodies in every area of our church life. “Messy Church” is coming soon!

Many are engaged in the task of pastoral care – in and around local schools, elderly person’s care homes, private homes and within the body of church and community life and worship. Some have been engaged in training with the Diocesan Foundations for Ministry courses. Soon we’ll have a new Licensed Pastoral Worker in John Baker, and Paul Deakin continues in the process of discernment about ordained ministry. Ann Hyde has carved out a distinctively Ann-shaped ministry amongst us (and I do bless her for that), and more recently Fr David Stoter and Moira have joined the family. Our Doorway course is underway.

Service rendered by these clergy, together with churchwardens Tricia Munn & Ralph Luxon, Ann Walker as PCC Secretary, & Graham Knight and Wendy Luxon in the Treasurer’s “department”, our Parochial Church Council, Readers, Pastoral Team, Sidespersons, Administrator, Sexton, Musicians, Vergers, Gardeners, Parish Giving Officer and helpers, Young Church leaders – and by the faithful lives and deeds, in so many areas of church life, of very many members of the church family, has been, for another year, quite outstanding.

The last year’s labours on the part of the Newala Link committee have just culminated in the blessed visit of Bishop Oscar and Mama Agnes. Heartfelt thanks are due to each of them, and to all who have prayed for, and financed the success of the early stages of this highly treasured friendship.

I want also to mention the sterling efforts of Ann Combes in co-ordinating our missionary giving – and especially in growing awareness amongst us of what we’re giving to support. This year’s Mission Sunday was especially rich.

I look back on a whole year of Centenary Celebrations with a mixture of delight, deep gratitude and pride. Far, far too many people and organizations (including our local schools) were involved in this multi-faceted celebration to single out individuals or particular groups, so let me just say that the involvement of every single one of you has been immensely valued by me – and if by your merely mortal present parish priest, then how many times more by the Love of God? – Who we were celebrating! How glad I was to be able to welcome our bishops, Robert and Peter, into the heart of such a vibrant, joyful celebration.

As I write this our parish seems (for a little while only, I’m sure) a slightly less colourful place since Bishop Oscar and Mama Agnes of Newala came to the end of their wonderful visit. I found in Bishop Oscar a brother, a teacher, a preacher and a faithful pastor. I ask you to join me in daily prayer for him and his. I know that he prays for us.

Today I welcomed our new Archdeacon Ian Bishop, and Rural Dean Rob McLaren to St Michael’s. We prayed together in our parish church and we will seek to support their ministries as they support and pray for ours.

I continue to thank God for the Resurrection faith that has brought comfort to us all as we have commended the loved ones who have entered into his nearer presence. May each of us in this world aspire to a deeper nearness to God: our hope and our inspiration, our joy and our crown. And may our faith, hope and love be source and sign of warm welcome to those newly born amongst us. In the richness of God’s Love: Simon Marsh