Team Rector’s Report – Review of the Year: 2019
(Prepared in March 2020 for the APCM originally scheduled for 29 April 2020, but due to Covid-19 delayed to 20 October 2020)
This is the time of the year when we look back in order to set our sights to the future and take stock of who we are, where we are going and what we are for.
I have now been in Bridport for 18 months. Enough time to start to feel rooted, to let Bridport get under my skin and to appreciate the distinctiveness of this place and all the church communities that make up the team. Time enough to be more convinced than ever that our future lies in building up the team, in finding more effective and life-giving ways to work and live together and take seriously what it means to be the body of Christ here in Bridport.
The Rector’s Ramble which happened last July is for me a picture of the Bridport Team. We are six churches – but we are so much more than that. When the Bridport pilgrims set out to walk from church to church on that gorgeous summer day, the church buildings were markers of our community of faith. But the living church, the body of Christ, was in truth the people on the journey, and those supporting them in prayer and those who welcomed them back to a delicious cream tea. It didn’t matter which church building they worshipped in on a Sunday morning. In all the different ways in which we took part we were the body of Christ.
In the last year we have taken some steps towards building up the team. The team pew sheet, the return of team services on the fifth Sunday, the pilot for evening worship as a team which will get underway after Easter, the regular Wardens meetings, treasurers working together for a stewardship campaign and the continuation of the team Lent course to name a few.
I am blessed to work in a wonderful ministry team. The support, encouragement and good humour of colleagues including Wardens, other officers and wise advisors across the team is invaluable and heartening.
In particular our Team Vicar Pete Stone has been generous with his time, patience and insights about the parish he clearly loves. It has also been a huge privilege to work with Lorna Johnson and see her grow into her role in this diaconal year. Our associate PtO priests and lay ministers are generous and offer a wealth of experience.
The themes in the year that strike me as I look back over the year are of emerging vocations coming to fruition in the team. Lorna Johnson was ordained deacon and has blossomed in her ministry across the team. Maggie Crosby our ordinand training part time at Sarum College while juggling a busy job. Martin Whiting has been commissioned as a lay worship leader and he and David Coe have also been commissioned as lay pioneers. Chris Newton made her profession as a third order Franciscan at Hilfield this month. Soon we will welcome Helen Croud into the team as she is ordained deacon in June the day after Lorna’s priesting.
Others in the team are exploring vocation and we as a team have been asked to help support the discernment of several people here in Bridport.
There are others too who are following their vocation in other ways. Caroline Whitaker and Yvonne Welch leading the Centring Prayer group based at St Swithun’s, our house group leaders, those who run our tots’ groups, brunch club, serve as LPAs and the brave souls who are reading the Bible in a year.
During this year we have also been encouraged – often by our Team Vicar – to look outwards to embrace our wider community through our prayers, our planning for what we are called to be as a team and in where we put our resources. This year we have marked education Sunday by inviting teachers from St Mary’s to talk to us, and hospital Sunday when members of our own congregations gave us insights into their vocation. Aaron has preached in all our churches and outlined his work in the youth worker project. We also have an application in for the Deanery Ministry Experience Scheme.
We have welcomed Mountjoy Special School into church and that relationship is deepening. The district Scouts service was hosted in the team and we are strengthening our relationships in our schools. This is particularly true in the work that is getting underway to establish the Bridport Community Hub. The question at the heart of this initiative is to ask what would make the lives of young people in Bridport better in the next ten years. Pete Stone is taking a lead in this work with Lizzie Whitbread, advisor for work with young people at the diocese.
Communication in the team and to the wider community always needs improvement. This year we are working on improving our team website and we hope to relaunch The Bridge in the coming year too. There is more we could do to improve how the parish office works by organizing how we use Di Sinclair’s time more efficiently and perhaps create a team of volunteers who might help out with some of the routine tasks to free Di up to use her administrative and creative skills more fully.
Last year the team welcomed the Ven. Penny Sayer for our Archdeacon’s Visitation which involved a huge amount of work for our Wardens and many others. It was a valuable opportunity for us to scrutinize our systems, policies and paperwork. But most of all it brought us together. Good practice was shared across the team and we shared our skills to produce a great result across the team – commendations from the Archdeacon!
Safeguarding was the most important areas to be looked at. We are very fortunate in the team to have Coral Hatton as our Safeguarding officer and in the last few months she has delivered Safeguarding training within the team.
Other highlights in the year include the 80th anniversary service at St John’s and the 130th anniversary service at Bothenhampton, the brilliant Bible in a Year initiative led by Lorna which has got us out in the cafes of the town buzzing with excitement and exasperation at Holy Scripture. The on-going work of Cupboard Love and our wonderful volunteers under the leadership of Carrie Gamble. From January to October 2019 a total of 1,053 parcels were given out. This provided food for 2,483 adults and 527 children. This is a shocking number for Bridport town and its surrounding villages.
The Bridport Nativity was as ever a real joy and we had our first folk carols – led by members of Xalt and friends which were wonderful, and we hope to do it again.
Based on the statistics for mission as a team we have on average 192 adults and 4 children attending weekly. At Easter 393 people attended an Easter Eve or Easter Day service. Over Christmas 2664 people attended a service of some description. (Pete worked out that meant 15% of the population of Bridport attended!)
Across the team we conducted 24 baptisms, 5 weddings and 100 funerals (including burial of ashes). Our team’s regular worshipping community is 256.
Finally getting back to that picture of the team summoned up by the Rector’s Ramble. My question for us all in the coming year is how can we be that kind of pilgrim people? How can we attend more to being the body of Christ across the team in order to serve God’s people in Bridport?
At our last PCC meeting I outlined my thinking in addressing how we operate as a team. It sounds dull, I know, but our governance, the way we work together is important in expressing who we are and what we are about. Currently our DCCs are the main focus for our meetings and these structures have become so elaborate and formal that they cause us to be inward looking. The DCC has no legal power and is a delegated gathering from the PCC. Within our team we have five DCCs each of them producing lots of paper, lots of meetings and lots of duplication. We are looking to address this irregularity.
In the coming year we need to simplify our local structures to free us up to see the bigger picture. This time next year my aim is that our DCCs will be informal, occasional gatherings to take care of our buildings and other specific issues delegated from the PCC. And the PCC will bring us together so that we can work across the church sharing skills and resources in order to be the team, the body of Christ. I will speak more about this at the APCM.
I am passionate for us to work together to build a church which is not seen simply in our buildings, but in our common life. To nurture disciples looking outwards to serve this community.
And as I look back at what we have achieved in the last year, to the challenges we face, the signs of new life in our midst and our hopes and dreams for the future, I am excited to know what God has in store for us.
The Rev’d Deb Smith, Team Rector of Bridport