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Leytonstone United Free Church Sunday 16th May 2021

Welcome

Today we have our Annual General Meeting where we look back and reflect on last year which was undoubtedly an historic year for the world and as a Church we have not been immune to the challenges and changes that COVID19 has brought about.

Having spent much of 2019 defining together a new sense of vision and values for us as a community, we started 2020 with a clear framework to share with the world. At a time when many Churches are known for what they stand against we were keen to tell the world what we stand for: Worshipping God, following Jesus and impacting the world, as we hold the values of being worshipful, inclusive, generous, and active in our faith.

The year started positively with February gifting us the celebration of several baptisms by full immersion. We were full steam ahead for our Easter Narnia themed holiday club but by the end of the same month we were encouraging people to stay home if they were sick and to wash their hands vigorously.

Our AGM will look somewhat different this year, but it is important for us to both mark the challenges and celebrate all the things that we can for God has been with us and God has been good.

Call To Worship

Psalm 1

Blessed is the one, who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take, or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither - whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Opening Prayer

God of the seasons turning and the years passing, another year has come and gone and once again we gather for the Annual Meeting of this Congregation.

To this place we bring all the celebrations and hardships, the joys and the sorrows of the past 12 months.

We remember those whose lives we celebrated and said farewell to in 2020.

Through a tough year we try to pick whatever highlights we can, having had to continually reset our expectations.

Here also we gather to look forward to what the coming years have in store, especially as we discern the calling of a new minister.

We know that times will not always be easy, that life will always have a mixture of easy and difficult.

As we meet and reflect the life and work of this part of your family we pray that you would be a part of our gathering.

May your Spirit move in our hearts, opening them to hear and be inspired as to what we can offer, bringing light to both possibilities and realities, drawing us always to consider what you would have us be and do in this time and place.

Remind us that we are called to be bearers of Christ’s life, light, and love to all we meet.

Help us to live in such a way that we draw closer to your vision for us and journey faithfully in your Way.

In this time together we celebrate the many gifts we all have to offer.

Help us offer what we can to your service and your glory, mindful of our great giftedness in so many ways throughout our lives.

These things we pray in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, the one we call Christ, in whose name and hope we gather together as a community.

Amen.

Song 1

Review

Worship & Discipleship

The change in how we gathered in this year has seen many gifts expressed during our times of worship.

During 2020, the ‘normal’ worship group on Zoom emerged as having 3 couples and each of the couples having been able to select songs that they are able to play from within their household’s gifts, range and style. This has seen new members grow in confidence as they sing alongside others and we may not have seen these new talents without the situation being like this. It also meant we have had some sung worship that we would not have experienced in the ‘normal times’. As time has progressed more people have felt able to participate in leading sung worship and particularly during Advent and Christmas time as highlighted above and it would be great if this continues into the future.

Our congregation has adapted well, with many of us being able to join on Sundays over Zoom online and using the phone. Hosting the meeting, letting people in etc requires people to know how to do this. Several members were able to support this but hosting also means being available after the ‘service’ for chat.

Adobe Spark was introduced in the first week of lockdown in March. Utilising this tech each week has enabled some members of the congregation to worship at home, outside of the Zoom meeting, using the same material. The link to this is sent out electronically at the end of every Sunday Service..

Some members requested written paper services and our minister put together packages of full service sheets, song lyrics, reflections etc and posted these out each week and in advance of the Sunday service in question. During Advent and Christmas, the DVD’s were shared so instead of paper copies she sent a postcard each week relating to the Advent theme.

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name;

thy kingdom come;

thy will be done;

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation;

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

the power and the glory,

for ever and ever.

Amen.

Song 2

Review

Fellowship

Pastoral Care

2020 has really cemented the use of the pastoral care groups. Group leaders have been vital in keeping in contact with the wider congregation on a regular basis over the phone and we are so thankful for this. The system will also stand the church in good stead for the transition period and for the future of ministry. In 2020 it felt to our minister that this shared aspect of worship in looking after each other has grown and we are thankful to all those that have stepped up and into their group leader roles.

The Table

At the start of the national lockdown, we moved The Table online, using Zoom. With the young people away from school and extracurricular activities connecting in a safe space became vital. Together they read the book of Mark, undertaking daily readings and coming together online to discuss the passages. As school returned in September the contact lessened to return to a more ‘normal’ pattern.

Towards the end of 2020 much discussion turned towards the future of The Table as it was announced that our minister was leaving, two of our members were ‘surprised’ with a Disney themed proposal as the young people asked them to lead the group in 2021, thankfully they said YES!

Café 55

In March, as we closed the building, we were able to quickly take our regular Friday coffee morning online, using the gift of Zoom. The informal drop in space has acted as a point of contact for members of the Church family and we think this is important to continue whilst the COVID situation continues to keep people apart.

Bible Reading

John 17:6-19

Jesus Prays for His Disciples

6 “I have revealed you[a] to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of[b] your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by[c] that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[d] the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

Review

Mission

Nightshelter

As the night shelter season was drawing to an end our minister joined with another local minister in campaigning for Waltham Forest Council to accommodate the night shelter guests rather than relying on a decreasing volunteer force. After a weeks stay at Blackhorse Road the council finally worked with the Greater London Authority to house our guests in temporary accommodation with access to en-suite rooms.

Building Hire

Closing our building was about so much more than our Sunday services. It acts as a home for so many different community groups during the week and we pride ourselves at our building being a safe space in the community for everyone. Closing in line with government guidance meant admitting that our building was no longer a safe space and we all lamented this.

By September we were able to offer a home once more to a number of groups. Making our building as COVID secure as possible required a lot of behind the scenes work and risk assessments needed monitoring with every twist and turn as the government changed its guidance. We also had to make practical changes to the building, ones that alter and change the feel of the space. For the building to be open stewarding is often needed and paperwork for test and trace needs to be collated. Supplies need to be monitored and purchased.

It was important for us to support our recovery groups, recognising that these are vital, life altering services. Many group numbers remain low though, this may remain a financial challenge for the groups and therefore our room hires in the days ahead.

Bible Reading

1 John 5:9-13

9 We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Concluding Affirmations

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Governance

Our formal membership started the year at 59 and finished at the 31st December as 60.

Three of our church councilors were re-elected for a further four year term each. One council member stepped down from council and our secretary stepped down for health reasons but continued as a co-opted council member. The duties of secretary we shared out amongst council members.

Two current council members are up for re-election this year as are two co-opted councilors.

2020 was a very unusual year due to the Covid Pandemic which caused major disruption to society in general including the church’s regular activities. From March 23rd 2020 a countrywide lockdown was introduced and all activities at the church were suspended. Most of the rental activities from that time stopped although some groups have had periods of meeting but with restrictions. The AA groups on Monday and Tuesday have continued to meet but with restrictions. As a result of the pandemic, the accounts for 2020 should be seen as an anomaly and not representing a trend making comparisons with other years difficult.

In summary despite a difficult year the church finances have remained in balance, leaving the church in a financially strong position.

Song 3

Intercession

We pause to offer prayers for those people and situations that are close to our hearts:

For the world......

For our country......

For our community......

For our church......

For our leaders......

For our family and friends......

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Amen

The Grace

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

and the love of God,

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us all,

now and evermore.

Amen.

Let's go in peace to serve the Lord.

Credits:

Credits for opening prayer to Gord Waldie (http://worshipofferings.blogspot.com/2008/02/opening-prayer-for-annual-meeting.html). Created with an image by jplenio - "forest sunlight sunbeam"