I love the story of St Peter. He’s a loud mouth who all too often speaks before he thinks. He jumps in where even angels fear to tread, probably without any thought as to the consequences of his words or actions. He’s 100% – all or nothing, black or white, at the centre or nowhere to be seen.
At the last supper, first Peter refuses to let Jesus wash his feet then he wants a bath. He’s sure he’ll never let down his friend and teacher, but soon goes on to deny that he knows him three times.
But something happens to Peter at Pentecost. It’s as if the last three years suddenly click – it all falls into place. You can almost hear Peter saying to himself ‘now I finally get it!’
Pentecost is when the Holy Spirit empowers those faithful followers of Jesus. And they’re never the same again.
I’m sure that Peter was still loud and boisterous. It’s not as if he became a different person. I’m sure he was still impatient, still jumped in and was still always first to speak.
But when the Holy Spirit filled Peter and the others, everything changed. No longer were they hidden away in a locked room, frightened of the authorities. Now, Peter spoke bravely to the crowds, calling them to follow this Jesus who, just weeks earlier, was crucified.
It was empowered by the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Jesus – that Peter and the other members of that very first Christian Church started to understand the mission they had been given. Now they understood what Jesus meant when he called them to be his witnesses. Now they began to see that God was with them in this task. On their own it was impossible. With God, empowered by the Spirit, anything was possible!
For Peter, Pentecost changed everything. But what about for us, 2000 years on?
As Christians, we’ve been given the same Holy Spirit. He’s there to empower us and equip us to be Jesus’ disciples and witnesses. He never leaves us!
Sometimes we can all too easily forget this. Sometimes we can be so despondent with what we see in the world around us that we lose sight that God is still working in and through his Church. Sometimes we can forget that Jesus is still building his Church today; he wants each of us to play our part in doing so.
At St Wilfrid’s we’ve spent considerable time developing our new vision:
To be a vibrant, welcoming and consistently growing church
that is seen by our community to be its heart.
This is all well and good, but dreams without any plan for how they might be achieved simply drift away. So we’ve also spent much prayer, thought and effort on what it means in practice for us to fulfil what we believe God is calling us to be and do.
The result is what we’re calling The Way Ahead. It’s a five-year strategy as announced at our APCM (please pick up the leaflet if you don’t yet have one). At its heart, we want to grow – to see at least double the number of people regularly worshipping at our Sunday, midweek and Messy Church (and maybe other?) congregations. We want to see many more people find hope, peace and life in Jesus, choosing to follow him as his disciples and witnesses. We want to dramatically grow our home groups and find other ways of helping people develop as disciples, recognising that our current model doesn’t always work when you’re working shifts or have a young family. We want to grow our presence in Cowplain, not just through being known as the local parish church but by building friendships with local schools, community groups, businesses, authorities – indeed everyone living and working locally. We want to double our income so that we can invest in supporting those currently outside our church as well as doing a better job at helping all who feel part of St Wilfrid’s.
Photo: A braided rope representing the five congregations here at St Wilfrid’s: our three Sunday services (8am, 9.30am and 11.15am; our Thursday morning congregation and our Messy Church congregation as well as our The Friday Group. This coil was created at our APCM and represents our different congregations coming together as one church.
To do all this, we’ve identified five priorities. Number one is Spirit-filled prayer at the heart of all we do. We see prayer as the key to being in tune with God’s vision and allowing him to shape and equip us. Our second priority is growing our culture of invitation and welcome. We recognise that we need to redouble our efforts to be united as one church and are actively looking for ways of building friendships across our groups and services. Any ideas are welcome! Thirdly, we are focusing on growing our presence in Cowplain. How can we best engage with our community? Our local schools present exciting opportunities, but that’s only one area.
Our final two priorities present an immediate financial challenge. Priority 4 is to employ a full-time children and families’ leader to start summer 2018 and we want to raise funds to cover three years employment. This is to grow our work, not least outside the church as we pray many will be drawn in to a living faith in Christ. Our final priority is to update our church infrastructure and facilities in ways that will enable our ministry and mission to grow. We want to update the kitchen with a new cooker, improve our PA and visual system, update our signage, improve our foyer, renovate our exterior woodwork and staging, and build a small Quiet Room.
None of this comes cheap! That’s why we’re launching the St Wilfrid’s Growth Fund to raise £180,000 over the next couple of years. It seems a challenging target, but let’s remember Pentecost.
Peter and the first disciples were transformed at Pentecost, never to be the same again. They were inspired and equipped by the Holy Spirit to do remarkable things as Jesus’ witnesses.
I believe that Jesus is calling St Wilfrid’s into a new season. We also need to be filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, willing to be surprised by what he does through each of us. What part is he calling you to play?
St Wilfrid’s best days are ahead of us!
Building our church’s future on the foundations God has laid
Please join us on Saturday 17th June to hear from members of our congregation about how St Wilfrid’s has transformed their lives. How can we work together to bless Cowplain and beyond?
Come along for a ploughman’s at 12.15pm or 5.30pm, and chat about our plans as we launch our Growth Fund.
For more information please visit our page http://www.stwilfridscowplain.co.uk/growthfund/