Sancroft Benefice started the Germinate journey at the beginning of 2018. Our hope was to bring members from across the benefice together to build and strengthen our group of churches and create flourishing congregations. We spent the 18 moths meeting with Diocese leaders for residential weekends and regularly gathering to hone the strategy and planning in between the weekends away.
Germinate was originally set up 5 years ago with groups across the Diocese, as part of the Bishop’s “Growing In God” strategy. Germinate groups are made up of between 4-6 people, mixing age, worship styles and length of time worshipping from across a given Benefice who are brought together to “think, pray, plan and learn from others”.
Germinate update by Rev Susan Loxton at the Benefice Service on 30.09.2019
Jesus is saying in the gospel passage John 15: 1-8 that true disciples remain grafted into the vine and bear fruit. Which raises 2 questions; how do we stay grafted into the vine, and what sort of fruit??
Let’s tackle the first question, how do we stay grafted in the vine. The vine is God, the way we stay grafted in the vine is by our relationship with him, that includes prayer – listening and talking to him, and obeying his commandments to try and live the way he calls us to 24/7.
I don’t know about you, but I am encouraged by what Claire, Diane and Maria have said: prayer goes on in this benefice a lot. Mondays 4-8 of us pray every week in the rectory – its great, anyone is welcome to join us. Wednesdays at the pub in Mendham again anywhere from 4-8 people meet every week to pray and sometimes have coffee after – we know how to live! Thursdays in Fressingfield similar numbers pray in the vestry. All these prayer groups concentrate on praying for our church family, our wider communities and sometimes wider issues.
The new prayer initiative PEW had its first meeting this month, there were 8 of us to pray for world issues, it was so encouraging to pray together.
Then of course there are small groups who pray together too; home groups, lightwave, Gem, sacred space team…others meeting together to pray.
When the bishops came to visit us, bishop Martin asked me, how do you do it? You have vibrant worship, people talking about God –both bishops were really encouraged. Well here is at least part of the answer – prayer.
The other way we stay grafted into the vine is by growing in our understanding of what it means to live as a Christian. We grow mostly by mixing with other Christians, small groups, various gatherings, discussing our faith and scripture, and living out our faith day by day.
The second question, what sort of fruit, is a little more complicated, I think. Was Jesus talking about the fruit of the Spirit, as we talked about last week at family@church; can you remember the verses?………..
or was Jesus talking about the things that would happen when we pray? The mountains we would move, the healing that will take place.
Well, I think he was taking about both: this passage comes in the middle of Jesus’ instruction to his disciples about how they should live and what they should do when he goes back to the father.
I believe this fruit is what we display, the transformation of our character, looking ever more like Jesus. How’s your patience? Your self-control? Is it any better now than it was say, a year ago?? If we are serious about being God’s true disciples then we should see some improvement in the way we interact with others… and, if we don’t see it, then we need to ask ourselves some serious questions and maybe get help in the form of a spiritual advisor or accompanier.
But this fruit is also about growth – our growth in God certainly, but also growth in numbers; not necessarily more Christians among us although that is certainly on God’s agenda, but growth in the way we are reaching people outside our church communities. The growth in our relationships with people, and how we are engaging people with the things of God – even if it begins with people feeling that they just belong.
I think that is happening. Think about the new families we have coming fairly regularly to family@church, new people going to the gatherings in Metfield once a month, 2 new people have joined the Mendham congregation in the last year or so. Weybread has picked up 1 or 2 more people.
Coffee break, fund raising events, Sunday club and soon cook @church, and then there are the people that come back to us for baptism, weddings, funerals.
So many people are touched by God’s love, when we handle a wedding, baptism, funeral or even a fundraiser with care.
Our schools continue to come into our churches for their celebrations and festivals – those children remember us. I get people calling me their vicar not because I know them, but because they have seen me at a school service or funeral – the same happens to Peter and others like the open the book team, and most of you, because we are out in our communities.
When some of us were discussing this service, and it was decided that I spoke about next steps, I asked them, what are our next steps?? And 2 words came into the conversation that we all agreed were very important; strengthen and consolidate.
Not perhaps the most spiritual words, but we are called to live in the real world and so these words are appropriate.
What do we need to strengthen? I suggest we need to strengthen
- Our own faith and trust in God
- our working together as small groups, parishes and as a benefice.
- Keep praying for all the things that happen, discern what needs strengthening and what might need to fade.
- Also, to strengthen our intention to keep going out into the community with God’s love
What then do we need to consolidate?
- The values, we need to keep going back to them and looking at our own behaviour and making sure we are getting better at them all.
- The new groups that have started up; lightwave, GEM, Ministry leadership team…..
- New initiatives; gravetalk, leadership light and other courses, cook@church, mustard seeds.
- Our learning –
To consolidate also means to combine (a number of things) into a single more effective or coherent whole. I was struck when I lead a confirmation course, how much about the Christian faith and discipleship I assumed people knew – I was wrong, even people who have been in a bible study group for ages, didn’t know some of the fundamental aspects of living a Christian life.
We are going to run Alpha in the spring and hopefully attract some new people or people who haven’t made a commitment to Christ yet, and others who feel they still have a lot to learn. But we need to look at how we take various courses, combine and arrange them to make a more effective and coherent wholesome teaching on what it means to follow Jesus. Perhaps we should go back to teaching people the catechism!
To grow our benefice, we need everyone on board, there is a ministry, a job, some help for everyone to get involved, to play their part, and as St. Paul reminds us, each part of the body is important, not one is any less important than another.
My challenge to you and me is to; pray, pray, pray, get involved, find opportunities to work alongside God and his people in his mission, so that we can all help to usher in the kingdom of God and see a harvest of souls.
I am really excited about what God is doing in and through us, our theme should be; everybody is welcome, everybody involved.