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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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"