St James' Campaign

 

The Future of St James’ Weybridge?

 

What future do we want to create for our Church and Parish?  The clergy, wardens and PCC believe this to be a vital question and have launched a period of thought and exploration which will involve all of us.  We are doing this because we recognise that any organisation that aims to be sustainable cannot take the future for granted but must continually ready itself to meet it.  We live in a time of great change and much of it poses a challenge for the Church and the community.  We know that if current trends continue the prospects for the Church of England and Christianity in Weybridge are rather bleak over the next 20 – 30 years, with dramatically reducing attendances predicted.  This is not a cause for pessimism, however, but a call to action in our parish where we believe that decline is not inevitable.

Unfortunately, it is not likely that doing more of what we have always done or doing it better will be enough.  We need some fresh thinking.  We are developing a vision of the Church (actually, an old one reinterpreted for our times!) as a place where people gather, not only for worship but also to celebrate all aspects of community life.  We already do quite a lot, but we are thinking now of something on a different scale.  We see the Church building:

  • Open through the week
  • Facilitating a number of new community orientated activities
  • Buzzing with life

And our Church community:

  • Connected to many more people locally
  • Having  a renewed focus on “service”
  • Playing a greater role in Weybridge life. 

Not everything this might involve would happen on our own premises but it will be important to ensure that the buildings – the church and parish centre – are fit for these enhanced purposes.  You may have heard me before talking about the idea of making the Church’s interior a more flexible space for events and meetings throughout the day as well as worship.  The headline here is the proposal to remove the current pews and replace them with moveable, stackable pews (NOT chairs) and create a level floor in the nave.  Similarly, the parish centre is long overdue for a major refurbishment/upgrade that will bring it up to standard for a range of existing and new uses.

None of this is fixed or decided, however.  These are big and expensive ideas (capital costs alone are likely to be in the region of £1m) and that does not take into account the challenge of sustaining whatever we start in terms of new activities.  It is vital that together we think all these ideas through thoroughly and carefully and make plans that are realistic as well as ambitious and ensure that they are right for us.  We need to test out what God may be calling us to. 

It is clear if we progress we will need to commit to raising substantial sums of money from external sources (we are not expecting the Congregation to find £1m!) and such funders will only help us if we have detailed, credible and considered plans.

To that end we have established a steering group to manage the thinking and planning.  Various workgroups have or are being set up to address specific aspects of the project, all reporting to the Steering Group, including:

  • The Vision Group: to articulate the Church’s purpose, values and hopes for the future
  • The Community Group: to research needs and opportunities in the community and to pilot new activities (such as the Friday music night)
  • The Fundraising Group: to start to think about where the funding required will come from

There is or soon will also be a Legal/finance Group and a Communications Group.  In addition we have engaged Keith Elford to facilitate and advise on the process and to carry out some of the tasks involved. The help of volunteers will still be necessary and is always appreciated.

So, planning and research work will go on, mostly in the background, until Christmas.  In the New Year we will be sharing the developing thinking with the Congregation.  We are not sure yet exactly when and how, but everyone will be invited to at least one gathering at which the thinking will be set out and your views will be sought.  Every view counts will be heard and will influence the final decision and plans.  Our aim is to have an agreed vision and to be in a position to make a decision on whether and how to proceed by the end of April 2015.

We all love St James’ but, in the end, this is not about saving a well-loved local institution.  It is about our ability to continue to represent the Christian Gospel in Weybridge.  It is a challenge to our individual and shared Christian discipleship.  We will, therefore, also be creating some special opportunities for us all to deepen our faith and understanding over the next few months.  These include:

  • A series of sermons in Advent on the different ways Christians see and describe what it means to be the Church
  • A new programme of discussions on issues from a Christian perspective at the Emmaus Group
  • A new opportunity to explore and learn about the Christian basics using the Church of England’s’ new ‘Pilgrim’ Course starting early year.

More details on these will follow.  In the meantime please direct any questions you have to me, Theresa, Keith or the wardens and keep all of this very much in your prayers.  Whatever the future turns out to be we are confident that God will guide us and that it will be good.

 

 

Brian Prothero

Rector


St James' Campaign
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