The United Reformed Church Chesham
December 2016/January 2017 Newsletter
As Advent and Christmas approach, there are many extra things to do, but I hope for all of you there will be the joy of celebrating the coming of Christ, times for worship and reflection as well as gatherings of families and friends. The Elders will be taking over writing these letters in 2017 and I know will do this very ably.
My family and I have been connected with this URC for over 40 years since we moved here when we married. It was a great pleasure when I was invited to be your Minister in March 2005 and in many ways God has blessed our journey together. Like any family, the church family has seen both happy and sad times and we have laughed and cried together. There have been happy services celebrating dedications, baptism and marriages. It has been great to welcome young people as they confirm their promises and also to welcome people into membership. I have ordained five new Elders and I give thanks for the number of committed people who give of their talents willingly and in different ways support the witness of this church. Three of our Elders have trained and take services for us and the others work in teams to help with worship when a minister is not available. It is good to see how their confidence has grown and they trust God to guide them in doing this. The hardest times have been walking with friends through difficult times and we have shared in thanksgiving services that show the good example we have been shown by those who have died.
Church life must be focused on people. Christ told us that we must, ‘Love the Lord our God and love our neighbour as ourselves’. There have been plenty of activities to support this. The home Group and evening Christianity Unwrapped discussions have been important in helping us to learn and grow together. We have held regular training days, Church Days, Quiet Days and children’s days, many led by visiting ministers, which have been enjoyable and inspiring. The Pilots have provided a space for children and young people to share together and have invited the rest of the church to join them on exciting days out. In recent years I have been helping lead the Urchins Toddlers group and it has been good to see the hall filled with busy under threes and their parents, grandparents or carers chatting. Wednesday Mornings the hall is again full with people chatting and drinking tea or coffee at Coffee Shop. Several people stay on for the Afternoon Fellowship, which meets monthly in the afternoon. In May last year, thanks to a grant from our Thames North Synod, we were able to appoint Rosemary Ryan-Bundhun as our Community Link Worker and she has already organised our hall lettings and helped with publicity and outreach events. I look forward to seeing how this work will develop and enhance our outreach to the town.
The National URC is split up into 13 Synods and Chesham has sent representatives who have helped at our Thames North Synod. I have been part of Synod committees and also Convenor and now secretary of the Chiltern Local Area Group. I intend to continue this work. It is good for a local church to link with the wider church and offer support, which I am pleased to say Chesham has done. Part of the URC Statement of Faith says that we will try to work with other churches wherever possible. We have played an active part in Churches Together for Chesham and it has been good to see the Rendezvous Midweek Ecumenical Services continuing in the URC. I have enjoyed sharing closely with Trinity Baptist Church and although Revd Colin Cartwright will be moving to a church in Hemel Hempstead at the end of the year, I do hope these links will be kept. Several of our members have had links with the Salvation Army and it was good to be able to welcome their Wednesday ladies group to Connect Meetings when the Core closed. We have links with the Chesham Methodist Church and join together on Maundy Thursday.
We have been active in helping with town events and it has been good to welcome folk in on annual ‘Christmas in Chesham’ evenings. Hosting the Cards for Good Causes Shop has helped our church to be regularly open at this time of year and to support many charities through the card sales. We regularly support several charities and in particular the local ones, Workaid and the Hospice of St Francis. We try to look not just to the town, but to the situation in the world through our links with Reformed churches worldwide and like many URC’s we give to Commitment for Life and Christian Aid to help those who work to bring aid and help to those in much need.
Part way through my time with you I was permitted to change from non-stipendiary to stipendiary ministry. This was an interesting time of studying at Westminster College in Cambridge and also spending a term in Botswana, working with a minister in a large Reformed church there. I thank you for welcoming me back after this time away and then we were able to complete plans for the church building.
After years of dreaming and then planning, a lot of time and energy led to the amazing redevelopment of the church building, which was much needed. It was a challenge to move out for 7 months to let this happen. We were all very grateful to Trinity Baptist for offering us their upper room to worship in and space for some of our activities to continue. When we returned to our building in May 2013 we celebrated the reopening with a weekend of services. We now have spaces that are fully heated, fully accessible, and user friendly and we pray that they will be fully used to witness to the Gospel. Monitoring the building work was certainly a time of learning that was interrupted by the unfortunate find of a few ancient bones. I now know what should be done if bones are found, although I didn’t manage to discover where the cemetery around the church was removed to when the current building was erected in 1886!
Since returning we have had our listed organ re-leathered and purchased a good piano and clavinova. Our church is fortunate to have some excellent musicians and a good choir and music plays an important part particularly in our worship. A day’s workshop led by Christian Music Ministries last summer led to an uplifting day of music and ended in a performance of Roger Jones’ Angel Voices. May the joy of all things musical continue, including the singing on our steps to engage the town.
Like the national URC, this church has been talking, reflecting and praying over several years about how same-sex couples should be welcomed. At the URC Assembly last July, the national church agreed by a large majority that local URC churches could now vote to register to hold same-sex marriages. The local church meeting in Chesham agreed that this would be discussed at the September meeting and all members were notified. The matter was prayerfully considered and a large majority were in favour. We acknowledge there are some for whom this is not a comfortable choice and we respect their right to hold a different view. This means that this URC will be the first church in Bucks and Thames North Synod to be able to offer Christian same-sex couples a church marriage. We continue to pray and ask for God’s guidance in all we do.
Dreams have been fulfilled during my ministry with you, but the dreaming mustn’t stop - there is always more that can be done and visions need to be shared. Next year will not be an end, but a new start for the church and for me. I shall still live at Ley Hill, but will distance myself from the local church for the immediate future. I give thanks for all the people of every age who have made this time of ministry very special. I hesitate to name particular people, but I would wish to acknowledge the time and energy the Elders and Church Officers – secretary and treasurer - put into looking after the church alongside the Minister. When I was a Brown Owl many years ago we sang the song; ‘Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver the other gold!’ I hope to keep the golden friendships made in Chesham.
I wish you all God’s blessings in 2017 and look forward to seeing your visions and dreams come to fruition.