St John's attracted me, all the way from England, in 2012, when I was asked (following a funeral in one of the small Devonshire villages I was Vicar of) to apply to the position of Incumbent to this Parish. It was a surprise, as I wasn't looking to move and I was quite fulfilled in my role both as Incumbent of The Five Alive Mission Community in East Devon (Diocese of Exeter), and as Rural Dean of the Honiton Deanery. There was also the vague possibility of a TV series focussed on characters around these village communities in which I would have been the connection between the different worlds which intersected, a reality TV show which didn't get beyond the 'grab tape' stage (a teaser shared with the networks) - and which looked like it would be taken up if I stayed (the call came for filming just as all of my belongings were packed up in boxes ready for shipping to Canada). Anyway, if you want to see a glimpse of the show that never was try this:
Anyway, that wandering into memory lane notwithstanding, I came to St John's because I was so excited by the profile which was sent to me describing the hopes, experiences, challenges, and commitments of this community. This church is expansive, welcoming, affirming, and progressive - and that was well represented in the profile and has, indeed, proved to be the case.
In the six and a half years of ministering here we've undergone two major visioning processes, and are now towards the end of revising our Strategic Plan as passed by our Annual Meeting of Parishioners (Vestry Meeting) in February of 2019 - the substance of the plan isn't being changed but the priorities and timelines are being examined and reapplied. I'm excited about ways in which this community has already begun to engage with and act upon the areas of action in the plan, and the ways in which Property, Finance, Worship, and many other groups within the community are using the principles of our plan to create their own strategic plans and address areas of need and of growth within their own fields of expertise and vision.
St John's has for many years been a place of advocacy, social justice and social action. It is at heart a spiritual community which, powered by a love of, and desire to grow in a, living and active faith, puts what it believes about the value of all people and the love of God into real, practical, action. We are firmly rooted in the Anglican Tradition in our worship, our structures, our part in the Diocese of Islands and Inlets (also known as the Diocese of British Columbia, its colonial name). We continue to tell the story of faith within the bigger story of the Christian tradition, and particularly the Anglican Tradition.
In this we continue to appreciate the support and guidance of our Bishop, the Rt Rev'd Dr Logan McMenamie, and the staff of our Diocesan Synod Office, we are growing in our partnership with other Anglican Churches in our area, including our Cathedral, and in sharing Youth and Families Ministry with the staff and people of St George's Cadboro Bay and St Luke's Cedar Hill.
Our Liturgical provision continues to grow, including the addition of an extra Evening Service on the Third Sunday of Each Month, and Daily Eucharists of many different styles from Monday to Friday. From the first week of Advent (2nd December) we will have a 1pm Simple Eucharist in our Garden on Mondays, a 12.10pm Meditation Eucharist in our recently refurbished and beautiful Walking Together (Emmaus) Chapel on Tuesdays, a 7.45am Eucharist in the Chapel followed by breakfast on Wednesdays, and a simple evening Eucharist followed by Soup at 5.30pm on Thursdays in the Parish House (Denson Lounge).
From the beginning of 2020 we are hoping to add to this opportunities to pray the daily office together during the week - at present we are consulting on this and seeeking to work out what pattern of Morning, Midday and Evening Prayer will best serve the needs of our, and the surrounding, community.
Alongside this we are creatively engaging with the space which we use for worship - including an experiment in changing the space on the south side of our Nave to remove the pews and create room for Art Installations, differing activities, and socialising. The pews will be removed on Saturday 30th November and we will see how that space feels, and consult throughout the next few months up until Easter 2020 when we will make a decision on how best that space is used and how we wish to move forward, including the possibility of re-installing the pews should that prove the most appropriate response.
We continue to study, pray, learn, and socialise together. We are considering our many and varied ministries and how best to resource them both financially and with regards to personnel. We are active in our local communities and committed to allyship with all those working for a more just and fair world.
I personally am inspired by the Team I get to work with - my Clergy and Lay Colleagues, and the incredible volunteers who make up our Wardens and Officers of Council, our Parish Council, our Alter Guild, our Worship Teams, our Pastoral Care Team, and so much more. St John's is, for me, a place of life and love, a place where we share our hopes and concerns - a church community which is alive and filled with the Spirit of God.
I recently had cause to spend some time in reflection as to the journey that St John's has been on in the past few years; where we were, where we are, and where it seems we are going. I am excited about what we have done, and what we continue to do, and look forward to a future filled with hope and hard work, of joy and challenge, of faith, and love.