As we begin another New Year, we look forward to the exciting prospect of seeking faculty permission from the Chancellor of the Diocese for the continuance of our plans to enhance the hospitality of St Oswald’s Church building, which outline plans have now been given the blessing of the PCC. With the expert guidance of our volunteer project manager, Richard Raymond (known to many of you as our Deanery Lay Chair and joint organiser of the award-winning East Cheshire Hospice Christmas Tree Collection) we are looking to create an improved kitchen facility within the porch of the former main entrance to St Oswald’s, adding a new part-glazed fire escape door into what is currently the window immediately adjacent to the old porch (for which we have already been granted planning permission by Cheshire East), and building some new wall-hugging storage cupboards at the west end of the nave in place of the now outgrown servery kitchen and former loo space.
Approximately one third of the cost of this mission project will be met by the funds we can claim back from the net proceeds which the Diocese obtained following the sale of the old vicarage on Shrigley Road and the subsequent purchase of a new house on Waterwheel Way (which will become the home of future Vicars of Bollington after I retire!). At our last PCC meeting in November, there was broad agreement that this project is much needed since our present facilities for hospitality are now inadequate for our evolving ministry and mission, but some anxieties were properly expressed about where to find the remainder of the money for these necessary works. We will be able to apply for grant funding from a whole variety of charities aimed at supporting community development, but we will also need to tap into the goodwill of the wider Bollington community through imaginative fundraising efforts and events, in order to achieve our goal. As we heard at this same PCC meeting, in the late 1990’s when it seemed that St Oswald’s dream then of installing a loo and an ancillary tea/coffee making facility was running into difficulty due to lack of funds, the Assistant Curate challenged the Committee to nevertheless take “a leap of faith” and continue on with their proposed plans, which they did – and amazingly the full amount of money needed to complete those works did indeed materialise! The resulting construction has served the church well until more recent years. However, progressively since 2003 and 2009, St Oswald’s has taken on the responsibility of having become the sole focus of worship, witness and service for Anglicans here in Bollington. This has required us find a new way to maximise our floor space once again, to find more efficient and effective ways to offer hospitality, and to increase our ability to meet the needs of the many established groups and future missionary activities that we now aspire to support as part of our church life within the local and wider community.
So please do look out for the imminent launch of our new Kitchen Development Fund! Coincidentally, during the season of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday 14 February, we will be taking time to reflect together, not just on what is the nature and quality of the hospitality we can offer to others, but also on what it really means for God to welcome us all to feast at his table. We will be using a little book by Kenneth Stevenson (a former Bishop of Portsmouth) called “Take, Eat – Reflections on the Eucharist” and I hope you will be able to find time to join us in exploring the implications of daring to accept God’s invitation to grow, to adapt and to change not just the external features of the buildings of which we are jointly stewards, but also the internal attitudes of the everyday lives we have likewise been entrusted to attend to.
The cover of the book says: “Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them!” This intended insult to Jesus recorded in the Gospels captures the wildly extravagant idea at the very heart of the Christian faith: God, in Christ, invites us – deserving and undeserving alike – to be his friends, to sit at his table and to share the feast of eternal life. Nowhere is this more clearly expressed than in the Eucharist. Of all the ways in which Jesus might have asked his followers to remember him, it is in the sharing of bread and wine that we are drawn together as a community and made one with Christ. Such a simple and powerful ritual, yet it is easy for our appreciation of it to become dulled by formality or by repetition. ‘Take, Eat’ is a biblical and practical guide to the central act of Christian worship. It opens our understanding to see how it feeds and nurtures us, and sends us back into the world with the life-giving message: ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good!’
May we take up this renewed challenge to our church community during 2018 to literally enhance our capacity for hospitality and service towards others and to spiritually enrich our understanding about how God desires to wait on us and nourish us as his beloved children around his table, here and now on earth as it is for eternity in heaven.
Every blessing for this new project and this New Year!