At a time when we hear of great challenges for the Church in Wales concerning lack of finances, smaller congregations and fewer clergy , I have to say, that the Monmouth Group of Parishes is bucking the trend. But it is doing so, not by some sheer, fortuitous and inexplicable fluke. No, it is bucking the trend, because of the hard work of you – the people of God gathered in our churches, who create and contribute to the common life of our worship and work to build God’s kingdom by the warmth of your welcome; the sincerity of your prayers and the gift of your time and talents.
But it is not numbers that are a sign of growth. Growth is what happens when those numbers – those individuals come together as the Body of Christ. The Monmouth Group of Parishes has the potential to continue to develop if we offer our lives as committed disciples of Christ. The church is not going to grow and be an attractive place
unless we all get out there in the communities which surround our churches and pledge ourselves to serve the community in any way it needs – showing compassion for those who are struggling and suffering; showing how to forgive; to heal; to BE God’s transforming love.
Over the last year the Rev’d Catherine Haynes has been effective in beginning conversations with the local support agencies (Christians Against Poverty; CAB; Monmouth Partnership Forum; Transition Monmouth; Monmouth Churches Housing Group – to name but a few). A newly energised ministry of mission to the poor and marginalised is emerging in both our urban and rural areas. St Thomas’ Ty Price has set the pace with a diverse range of activities which provide community support. St Mary’s Priory has similar plans beginning with a joint scheme to provide a supplementary lunch club for the lonely and needy – the one at Ty Price is heavily over-subscribed. The Priory Church is currently engaged in the Threshold Project – a project of refurbishment to enable the church to welcome the local community over the “threshold”. St Michael’s, too, is well on the way to refurbishing the church with
disabled toilet facilities and state-of-the-art kitchen and flexible seating.
I have recently accepted the post of rector of Holy Trinity Church in Bristol. They need an experienced priest to help forge links with the wider community and to develop ministry to the church school. After almost ten enjoyable and busy years in Monmouth, I now feel called to help this parish in the city of Bristol to develop its potential, as I leave you to continue to develop yours.
Lesley and I will most probably be leaving Monmouth at some time in the autumn. We shall leave with very happy memories of a place where we brought up our three children and have made very good friends. There will be time for thank-yous and goodbyes later in the autumn. Until then, it will be business as usual, with all the plans which are gathering momentum for developing mission, outreach and partnership in the Monmouth Group of Parishes.
Yours in Christ