October letter from Revd. Simon PitcherSeptember 27, 2018
From the minister – Creationtide
The heatwave this summer was a powerful reminder that our planet is not disposable! The evidence that carbon dioxide is heating the planet is seen in melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels and extreme weather. In the church September and early October is designated Creationtide, a time to reflect on God as Creator and Sustainer of all life. God loves the world (‘cosmos’) so much (John 3:16), referring to the entire universe. Do we share such love for God’s world, in our care for it?
Our harvest celebrations in September and October coincide with creationtide. As we give thanks for the fruits of the harvest, we recognise that God “saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1 v25) He has blessed us with life, and in his love for us, his purpose is that we would live a good life in partnership with him as stewards of all that he has made. We give thanks for the work of farmers, those in the food processing and retail industries, fishermen and all who work at sea transporting food to markets. In all this we pray for sustainability and responsibility in caring for the world’s resources.
In St Edmunds in September we enjoyed a beautiful flower festival, celebrating “all things bright and beautiful” in the world around us, and raising funds to support the Marine Conservation Society in their work of tackling plastic pollution in our oceans. We can all make a difference and serve as good stewards of God’s creation by lessening our plastic use, choosing sustainably sourced and fairly traded food, and recycling waste. Simple steps help to build a fairer world, and help us to honour God’s good creation.
Money is an important subject for the Christians. How do we use our money to serve and honour God? God is a generous God. The most famous verse in the Bible is John 3 verse 16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” God gave in love his most precious gift to us with the promise that we would find in Christ life in all its fullness.
As we worship a generous God it is natural that the church would be generous because it is made up of people who are generous.
It is my hope and invitation that we might in Sole Bay grow in generosity in order that we might in our churches become more Christ like, reflecting the sacrificial love of God. Our attitude to money, and our willingness to be generous with it, might reflect our sense of gratitude for the love that God has shown to us.
Each year the Sole Bay Team churches contribute over £130k to the operating cost of the Diocese. We give thanks for the generosity that makes this possible. The Church of England has historic assets, and these help meet costs but are not enough on their own. Our Diocese has very few investments. It costs £7 million a year to meet the annual costs of the Diocese and over £6 million of this is met by the money people offer each Sunday. The money is used to pay for priests, other ministry, the Diocesan office, training, safeguarding support for church schools, and other things. The Church of England vision is to sustain a Christian presence in every community. However we are not finding enough money to sustain this vision. Each year our Diocese receives about £500k less than it needs. The shortfall is made up by making people redundant, cutting the number of priests and selling Vicarages. We have had to lose four priests from our local deanery in the past three years. To reverse this trend we might together pray about a new spirit of generosity in order that the church might flourish and be a blessing to every community in Suffolk.
In addition to the £130k that the Sole Bay Team contributes to the Diocese we also have our own local costs. In a typical year St Edmunds Southwold contributes £60k of the £130k paid to the Diocese, and requires another £40k to cover running expenses. These include, for example, building insurance, heat, light, maintenance, cleaning, flowers, staff costs, office expenses etc. Other team churches have proportionate costs to meet. We are grateful and thankful for all that people give in love for the sake of our local church, but we are not making ends meet in every one of our churches, and several PCCs are dependent on using historic savings to meet running expenses. We would like to do more things to help our work with children and young people, to improve and adapt our church buildings, to engage with our community, to support global mission partners and charities.
During October we will be talking about stewardship and thinking and praying together about our generous response to a generous God.
Its not just about money. Time and talents are also important. We are ready to welcome new bell ringers, choir members, musicians, PCC members, people to work with young people, flower arrangers, caterers, treasurers and churchwardens, intercessors and lesson readers, sidespersons and stewards. Might you have time and talent to offer? If so please do let us know.
If you feel that your days of bell ringing are behind you, we need people who pray for our church and communities and no one is too old to pray! To aid our prayers we are offering everyone a Bible study booklet called Generous God Generous People. Please do take one and read it, and let us be a generous people, generous to God and generous to one another so that we may embrace Christ’s future together.