Reflection by Stewart Perry

Last Saturday I received an email from the office of the Executive Director of the Parishes and Missions Commission in our Diocese. That’s not unusual in and of itself, I’ve got a lot of correspondence in recent times from Stephen Harrison and his team as they have faithfully, diligently and carefully sifted through the ever-changing advice, requirements and restrictions. It was fitting that a number of speakers at our recent Synod gave recognition to Stephen and his team for their effective but challenging work in recent times.

The great news in this particular email was that it was now possible for church goers, once seated, to remove their masks during the service and including when they were standing and including when they are singing… now I don’t want to get too excited because I know in a heartbeat this could change but as someone like me who delights in expressing their love for God in music and song to not only be able to sing out in full voice but to hear others sing out in full voice was just a true sense of joy.

I’m not sure if it was a coincidence or not but it was also great to see our physical attendance numbers increase last Sunday with some new people coming along as well as some others, including families returning.

In recent years I’ve built up a great relationship with Stephen Harrison. He’s been to our church and preached on the Anglican Board of Mission’s work some years ago but has also been a great support and advocate for our church and other churches who might be trying to do new things in an Anglican context.

As much as I am thankful for his and his team’s work during the pandemic and acknowledge that without it many of our churches would be in a right mess, I have been impressed by how he’s continued to prioritise the mission and work of the church particularly in encouraging and enabling a platform from which we can grow. He has realised I think that his initial time frame for seeing fruit produced may have to be rethought but none the less he has been faithful and committed to serving the churches and mission agencies and not only encouraging us to position ourselves to grow but rolling up his sleeves and helping to make it happen.

In our little part of God’s kingdom we also had to attend to the necessary elements required to be able to adapt and reposition ourselves during these challenging and uncertain times. It has taken the staff team and many of our church members an extraordinary amount of energy and time to be able to do this. On the one hand we could lament at what that energy and effort could have been turned to if we had not been in a pandemic, but on the other hand there is the possibility of rejoicing that we are still a vibrant community of faith, and while a little weary and battered and bruised by our experience in these times, we can still find a way to sing out our praises to God.

This week I have felt more encouraged than I have in a long time about where God is leading us but also what we have learned through this journey. God may not have grown us in the same way we’ve grown over the last 7 years in terms of seeing more ‘bums on seats’ on a Sunday morning but I think we’ve grown significantly in maturity. From this position God will continue to challenge us, transform us and position us for greater things to come.

Pastor Sue Baynes who spoke on Thursday morning at the Lord Mayor’s Prayer breakfast shared a word from God she received the night before. It was:

“If not us then who; If not now then when.”

She thought it could apply to many in the room and I have a strong sense it applies to our church. I know that greater things are yet to come in this city… but I am also expecting greater things are yet to come for this Church.

Lets not be overwhelmed or distracted by the times we are living in, lets raise our voice whether we are required to wear a mask or not, lets come along side each other in service and prayerful support but above all let us continue to trust that God is at work in and through us and that God will continue to be known and that we have a role to play in that mission. How can we keep from singing?

Have a great week.