December at All Saints’
December will be a busy month at All Saints’. The Advent Carol service will be held on Sunday 2nd December at 6.30 pm. This is a beautiful service “from darkness to light” with music and readings for the season of Advent – do come and join us.
The Toy service is on Sunday 9th December at 9.30 am. This is a parade service and everyone is encouraged to bring an unwrapped gift or voucher. These will be given to Welcare after the service for distribution to local children who might not otherwise receive any gifts at Christmas.
The Mayoral Civic Carol service will be held on Tuesday 11th December at 7 pm. This service celebrates all the public and voluntary work in our community within a carol service. This year the service is combined with th Mayoral Civic service and will be attended bythe Mayor of Bromley and many councillors and others who work within local government in Bromley. The collection will be given to the Mayor’s charities, the British Legion Poppy appeal and Bromley, Lewisham and Greenwich Mind. There will be some seasonal music from the children of Blenheim School as well as the Church choir. Everyone is very welcome to come to this service which will last about 60 minutes and be followed by refreshments in the church hall.
The Traditional service of Nine Lessons and Carols is on Sunday 16th December at 6.30 pm, with readings telling the Christmas story and carols sung by the choir and the congregation. The collection will be given to Crisis, a charity working with the homeless. There will be mulled wine and mince pies in the hall following this service.
In the week before Christmas (17th – 23rd December) Evening Prayer will be said in the Old Church at 5 pm using the special ‘O’ antiphons anticipating the birth of Christ.
As well as the 9.30 am Parish Eucharist on Sunday 24th December, our Christingle service will be at 4 pm. Everyone is invited – especially all children – to this service, where the children from the Kingfishers group (with help) will form a Nativity tableau. Every child will receive a Christingle (come along and find out if you don’t know what a Christingle is). The moment when the Christingles are lit in a darkened church and all the children sing “Away in a Manger” always signifies the start of Christmas for many of us.
The Christmas Day services start with the Midnight Mass which begins at 11.30 pm on Christmas Eve, preceded by carols sung by the choir from 11 pm – so come early. There will be a said Holy Communion (BCP) at 9 am and the morning Sung Eucharist will be at 10 am (note the later times than usual).
Light in the Darkest Hour
On Monday 12th November at 6 pm we will be holding a special service of remembrance at Canadian Corner – the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in All Saints’ churchyard.
This is in conjunction with the Shorncliffe Trust, which was set up to preserve the old military camp near Folkestone dating from to Napoleonic times. Under Sir John Moore it was the basis of the modern British Army. The Canadians were billeted there in WW1 and had two military hospitals plus a large cemetery there.
Members of the Trust are travelling to Mons in Belgium where there is a large WW1 cemetery and monument. Lanterns will be lit during a ceremony here and used to light smaller lanterns to be placed beside the headstones of the graves of the first and last British and Canadian soldiers to die in WW1. The Trust is having two lanterns, “Maple” and “Tommy”, lit and they will be travelling, lighted, back to the UK where candles will be lit at the headstones of the military graves on Remembrance Day/Armistice Day, in the Shorncliffe Military Cemetery. The two lanterns will remain alight and be brought to Canadian Corner in Orpington on Monday 12th. November.
Candles will be lit from the lanterns during a short service attended by the Mayor of Bromley together with the Mayor of Thunder Bay in Canada, whose delegation are here to sign a Friendship Agreement with the borough of Bromley. The service will include short addresses by Chris Shaw (Shorncliffe Trust), and the two Mayors. The service will be lead by The Rev’d Canon Tim Mercer and Pam Mercer.
The ceremony will start at 6.00 pm and we hope that people will be able attend this last event to commemorate the Armistice which brought WW1 to an end.
Our grateful thanks go to Chris Shaw and the Shorncliffe Trust for including us in their commemorations as a gift to the church. Further information on the Shorncliffe Trust and the “Light in the Darkest Hour” commemorations can be found here.
Meet God in the Silence
A Quiet Day with reflections led by
Br Steven Hawes CR
(From the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield)
Saturday 6th October 2018
Children, Young People and Family Ministry
Trying to build the future on Solid Rock – Children, Young People and Family Ministry
In a recent article, Fr Kevin Smith, Priest Administrator at Walsingham, laments by saying that “The absence of children and teenagers (and their parents), evident in many of our churches today, is a real cause for concern and demands our prayers and attention”. The decline of families in church is well documented and we only have to look around to see the effect of this decline on All Saints’ in recent years. An aspiration coming out of the Parish Away Day was that All Saints’ might once again increase its children’s ministry so that average numbers might grow to match those of the country at large – around 18%.
So over the coming months and years, we will be developing our leadership and approach to the way we engage our youngsters, in church, during services, at Sunday clubs and in wider engagement. All this in the hope that we can once again see growth in this essential area of church-life and ministry. Sunday School will become more of a teaching and nurturing group, intentionally looking to teach children the essentials of faith and morality in an age appropriate, catechismal way. We will also be exploring children receiving First-Communion, because this is encouraged throughout the Church of England and is proven to help young people grow in faith and to feel accepted by the wider church community. Families will be encouraged to stay in church together during their early visits so that they no longer feel pressured into being separated during what are often anxious first few visits for them amongst strangers. A children’s corner will be erected to help families feel welcomed and to show them that as a church community we value their presence with us (and that we don’t mind a little noise – better that than they don’t come at all!).
On a more structural note, Sarah Parker-McGee is to be commissioned as our Childrens’ and Families’ Missioner on 9th September at 9.45am by the Archdeacon in our morning Eucharist service (she was licensed to a similar role in Peterborough Diocese after many years of training and experience – please do come and support her!). Even though her role will be a voluntary one (as she works full-time), She will provide our children’s ministry with valuable pastoral care and leadership skills, and a wealth of knowledge on recent thinking and approaches to the spiritual nurture and care of children, young people and families. Her role will, no doubt, develop as she settles.
The PCC has also committed to begin focusing more resources on supporting this essential area ministry, and this will include providing better facilities for our youngsters and employing (on a paid basis) a Schools and Young Persons Officer, to increase what we can do to engage children and youngsters during the working week as well as on Sundays. This is to be funded for a few years out of reserves, by which time it is hoped that it will receive enough wider encouragement and support to be resourced from congregational giving.
Finally, at the appointment of our vicar and at the Away Day, the subject of children in the choir was raised and a mandate given to try and once again grow a children’s element to our Choir. This is something many feel the church has dearly missed these past few years. As with other children’s ministries, there is no magic wand and this won’t simply happen overnight. It will require some structural re-organisation before we can even attempt to begin growing it.
Between these things and with the ongoing support of our current team of volunteers and the wider congregation, it is hoped that these and other approaches may help our church begin to once again see an increase in its ministry to this valuable group.
Please hold our children, youngsters, their families and our various ministries in your prayers these coming months.
Sarah Parker McGee – Commissioned as Children’s and Family’s Missioner
As you may have heard, I am about to be Commissioned as a Children’s and Families’ Missioner for All Saints’ and I have been asked to give you all a short profile of myself, before I begin my role under the Bishop’s commission.
It all began in in 2007. Rob was at theological college, we were all living at the monastery, and I was part of a small team put together to set up a “Children’s Liturgy” group. We offered something similar to what we have here, with a little more theological depth. During that time, I also attend individual lectures on a whole manner of subjects, but most significantly focus weeks on children and family ministry and pastoral care.
In June 2010, Rob was ordained Deacon and we moved to Sedgley, a large urban town on the edge of Wolverhampton in the Worcester Diocese. I was part of the Sunday School and Youth Group leaders team. I also benefitted from working under an excellent children’s leader who was happy to give me the encouragement I needed and enough space to grow as a leader myself. Rob and I led several youth pilgrimages to Walsingham and the Monastery at Mirfield.
It became clear that, the pastoral care of families, children and youth was a ministry I felt passionately called to learning more about and developing further. In 2012, I was supported by the parish and I completed the Diocesan Lay Training for this ministry in 2013. I was commissioned as a Children and Youth Worker within the Diocese later that year.
Rob’s Curacy came to the end in January 2014 and we moved to Geddington in Northamptonshire, in the Diocese of Peterborough. For a year, I supported the existing Sunday School set-up with planning, teaching and supervision. When the Sunday School leader stepped down to become Churchwarden, she asked me to begin to take the lead on Children and Youth Ministry.
Much of the material that was being used was written in the 1980’s and no longer relevant, so I put together a new rota for each term and produced a new syllabus of readings, prayers and crafts that properly followed the lectionary of the church. Rob and I together also put together a one-year syllabus that encompassed an education in Christian tradition and morality (a simple catechism). Each were used alternately over a two-year cycle. In 2014, following some further training, the Bishop of Brixworth Licenced me as a Lay Pastoral Minister with special responsibility for Children and Youth.
I took a keen interest in supporting families in other ways too: encouraging them to return to church after a break, children to join Sunday School, Baptism, Communion before Confirmation and Confirmation and supported them during family crises and bereavement. We also introduced annual family trips, retreats and pilgrimages to the seaside, Walsingham and Mirfield.
I was also actively involved in building a more child and family friendly culture in Church. I was part of the team who presented to the PCC the importance of children being able to receive communion before Confirmation, whilst saving the sacrament of Confirmation for when they were old enough to properly engage in it. In 2016, we offered Communion before Confirmation for the first time and it proved very successful, we had a cohort of 10 children and one of the parents decided to join us on the course and was confirmed shortly afterwards. Interestingly, in following years we saw interest in confirmation increase and not decrease as a result. Numbers of children increased during our time in Geddington from around 13% to around 23% by the time we left in January this year.
I am so looking forward to helping lead our children to growth in the faith. Please pray for our Children’s ministry over these coming years.
Love and prayers,
Following the fire in the roof of the Village Hall many families have been evacuated to emergency B&B accommodation, some of them for several months. As part of the Churches Together in Orpington response, we collected Tesco and Sainsburys vouchers for those affected.
When I needed a neighbour were you there, were you there?
Retirement of The Rv’d Jenny Driver as Associate Vicar – July 2018
Firstly can I say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who made my last service at All Saints as Associate Vicar so special and so memorable! Thank you also for the beautiful flowers and the very generous gift voucher! I have very much enjoyed my time at All Saints and am very sorry to be giving up my post.
For those of you not up to date with the story – I broke my spine 10 years ago (funnily enough on a 12th century church font!) and in spite of lots of surgery, lots of metal, screws and bolts the back was never the same again. Having electrodes and electric circuits implanted eased the condition for a while – but 10 years down the line the spine isn’t holding up so well, I’m relying on more and more pain killers and in a nut shell the consultants at St Thomas’ Hospital have said that unless I cut back and slow down considerably I will become considerably less mobile as the spine continues to deteriorate. Hence the reason for my medical retirement from All Saints. It was not by choice – more by necessity!
When clergy retire, for whatever reason, there is a recommended 6 month break from ministry which is what I am currently embarking on. But when the 6 months is up I can apply for a P.T.O – or permission to officiate – which means that I can then take services, funerals, weddings, baptisms etc so if clergy go on holiday or are ill I can step into the breach – so you may not have seen the last of me at ministering at All Saints!
In the meantime, I will be joining the congregation at All Saints after a short break so really, I’m not going anywhere……I’m just changing seats!
The Rev’d Jenny Driver has been forced to retire as Associate Vicar due to ill health. We wish her well and include here her profile from 2013.
“My roots? I was born in Bromley in 1963 and moved to Orpington in 1969 with my mum and older brother after my dad died. I went to Tubbenden Primary school and then Newstead Wood School for Girls; from there I went to Christ Church College Canterbury.
“My Soul Mate? Paul and I were classmates at Tubbenden School and a chance meeting in our early twenties led to us being married at St Giles. We discovered later we had both been born in the same maternity hospital in the same week so had very probably been in neighbouring cots!
“My Family? Paul and I have been married for 28 years and have 2 children, Katie 26 and Matthew 22. Paul is a Lloyd’s underwriter, Katie a regional trainer and Matt is at Lympstone doing Royal Marine Commando training. We also have Barney the dog, Kipper the cat, Boris the Bunny and rather a lot of fish both tropical and cold-water!
Church life? We have been involved in the life and worship in the parish of Farnborough for over 30 years. Paul and I have both run youth clubs and youth discussion groups, Sunday schools, holiday clubs, and annual fetes as well as being church wardens, PCC members and active on the Social committee.
“Ministry training? I completed both the Faith and Ministry course and Developing Ministry programme; then trained as a Pastoral Assistant, licenced in 2000. I was encouraged to explore ministerial training and following selection began at the South East Institute of Theological Training in September 2005.
“My Priestly Ministry? Unfortunately in 2007 during my final year at theological college I had an accident which left me with a broken spine and after several operations I really am the ‘bionic woman’! I was ordained as deacon in December 2008 at St Giles and, having caught up academically with my colleagues, was ordained to the priesthood with them in June 2009. I served my curacy in Farnborough Parish, then becoming Assistant Priest (self-supporting minister).
“Hobbies? I love doing crosswords, logic puzzles and suduko, reading, pottering around my garden, knitting and crafts (which is how I ended up making my daughter’s wedding invites, table plans, etc!) and my animals.
All Saints’ Vision Day.
On 2nd June 2018, some 28 people attended all or part of our Parish Vision Day. During the day we looked at statistics covering the past 10 years at All Saints, central national research into what encouraged church growth, evaluated what might be All Saints most valuable assets and re-imagined what might help in building a bright future.
The Past Decade – The Facts
All Saints is a very active church and many people put in an awful lot of effort and time. We are extremely blessed with people’s positivity and dedication. Any statistics need to be read with this prominently in our minds. Any past church decline cannot be put at any one person’s door. We have gone through unchartered waters as society has changed at a pace many churches have struggled to keep up with. All Saints’ is not alone. All the same, we should not use this as an excuse to resist doing the necessary things that may help turn the tide of decline.
At All Saints’, the past decade has seen our electoral role decrease from 211 to 140 (down 71 persons) and our Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) has decreased by some 55 people (each week). The percentage of children and youth in our congregation has fallen dramatically from 18% to 8%. Thus we have not been able to replace those leaving or dying, with new generations.
Average giving per head has also not kept up with inflation and has in fact stagnated for many years. This is in-spite of most sectors of employment receiving inflationary wage increases and pensioners seeing higher than inflationary increases over that period. This stagnation of giving has, no doubt, significantly hindered All Saints’ ability to resource ministry and mission in the town.
At this moment, All Saints’ has a further difficulty in that we are operating at the lowest level of clerical staffing than it has known in its recent history.
Giving aside, however, All Saints’ is not alone. Many Church of England churches have seen significant decline in the last 10 years. Those that haven’t have had to be rather visionary in the way they allocate and empower mission and ministry. With decreasing clergy numbers and increasing populations, recent research into church growth has identified that churches that have grown have had to re-imagine ministry, utilising the wonderful gifts lay members of the church can offer by way of building community that crosses the generations, taking on the responsibility for visiting and care for one another, administration and teaching.
The Conclusions from Recent Research into Church Growth.
Those at the vision day considered the conclusions taken from recent research into church growth to try and learn from what other churches had been doing successfully.
This research noted some significant general points:
- The ‘style’ or tradition of church did not play a significant factor in growth.
- The biggest increase in attendance was seen in Civic Churches and Cathedrals (good news – All Saints’ is a civic church!)
- Churches that grew showed a flexibility in their approach and a willingness to change
- Churches that grew did not expect new people to fit in, but welcomed them on their own terms
- Churches that grew wanted to grow and were positive and forward thinking, keeping up with advances in publicity, marketing, family dynamics etc.
- Churches that grew committed significant resource into growth initiatives and especially towards young people and families.
- Church that had over 20% of young people tended to grow; 18% of young people remained stable; below 18% of young people tended to decline.
- The most effective paid appointment for growth (after a priest) was a children’s or youth worker
- Fresh Expressions of Church were extremely effective at nurturing growth when they were able to draw people into the main worshiping community.
- Churches that grew had a strong team of lay leadership supporting the clergy – these would often include Visiting Teams, Children’s Work, Administration, Teaching, House Groups, Lay Leadership and Support in Worship.
- The most important factors were positivity, friendliness, welcome and a willingness to embrace change from within the congregation
It also noted some factors concerning young people that had significant effects on church growth:
- Children’s and Youth Workers were the most effective paid lay appointment
- Good Teaching Programmes for Children and Young People
- Churches that grew tended to involve young people in the central act of worship regularly, with regular main services aimed at families.
- Admitting Children to Communion before Confirmation
- A Children’s Choir or Worship Band (depending upon tradition)
- Youth Programmes, Groups and Holiday Clubs
- Youth Camps, Pilgrimages and Retreats
- A Church School
Planning for the Future:
The groups then looked at everything that All Saints’ did well. There were lots of things! Everything from our liturgy and rich music through to our friendliness and enthusiasm. Our Eucharistic tradition is central and that will not change.
The groups then considered the challenges ahead and, having done that, they imagined practical and workable solutions that might begin engendering growth. The group recognised that this might be a long process and that there would be ups and downs along the way. The main solutions put forward were:
- Improve Hall Facilities
- Prominent Children’s Area in Church
- Holiday Clubs
- Children/Youth/Families Worker
- Daily Café – to get the church open and to encourage more people to visit.
- Rule of Life: more Prayer, Away Days and Retreats – to improve our corporate prayer-life and keep us connected to God
- Study Groups and Teaching – to keep us growing in the faith and stop our faith becoming stale
- Use Bells More – to let people know we are here!
- Upgrade Service Sheets – add colour and teaching, make them more friendly to newcomers
- Youth Council – to increase young people’s voice in what we do
- Youth to serve and fill more roles at All-Age Eucharist Services
- More diverse music at All-Age Eucharist Services
- Turn Basement into Youth Rooms – to upgrade our youth facilities (as we are a long way behind neighbouring churches)
- Improve publicity (especially quality of)
- Grow visiting team and house group leaders
- Look into service times – are they convenient to most?
- Make financial information and how to give more prominent in the church
As you can see, the outcome of the day was extremely positive and bodes well for a bright future. But some of these solutions will take some time to organise. Our decline is not something we can ignore any longer, but neither is it something to panic about. So long as everyone is on board and positive, it can be overcome in time. All Saints’ already has an awful lot to offer and is, in many ways, ahead of the game. Our liberal, open Eucharistic tradition is a real asset and unique in this area – our congregation is friendly and willing to embrace people of different genders, sexuality, cultural background and all ages. We do not have a narrow conservative view of faith. Our welcome is already very good. We have reserves to begin investing in the future (although this does need backing up with increased income if it is to be sustainable and have long-term effect). We have the most beautiful building in the area and we are the Civic Church for Orpington, which is a real opportunity.
The PCC will now take responsibility for moving these things forward, but they will also need your support and encouragement along the way. All Saints is your church. The church IS you! An old headmaster once said to me, don’t just sit and complain, do something to help. Don’t be a part of the problem, be a part of the solution. I’ve always taken that to heart. It is good advice, I think.
Youth Service – April 2018
Sponsored Walk (Delayed util 8th April by bad weather)
Holy Week 2018
Induction and Installation of The Rev’d Fr Robert Parker McGee SR
Despite the weather there was a good congregation at the Institution of The Rev’d Robert Parker McGee, as Vicar of All Saints’, on Wednesday 28th February. Ther congregation included the Mayor of Bromley, Councillor Kathy Bance MBE and the local councillors as well as representatives of the wider community. The Bishop of Rochester safely negotiated the snowy roads between Rochester and Orpington but unfortunately the inclement weather meant that parishionersfrom Rob’s previous parishes were unable to make the journey. Rob’s first Sunday as Vicar will be 4th March and all are welcome to the 8 am Holy Communion service (said) and the 9.30 am Parish Sung Eucharist.
Youth Service – January 2018
New Vicar for All Saints’
The Rev’d Robert Parker McGee will be instituted as Vicar of All Saints’ on Wednesday 28th February at 7.30 pm by the Bishop of Rochester. Everyone is very welcome to this service.
Rob is at present the Priest-in-Charge of Geddington with Weekley in the Diocese of Peterborough in Northamptonshire. He is married to Sarah who is a qualified accounting and HR practitioner and also a Licensed Lay Minister. They have two school-age children, Jasmine and Thomas.
Rob is very much looking forward to coming to minister in Orpington. Please pray for him and his family as they move, with all the challenges that that brings, and for him in particular as he takes on a new role and ministry as our Vicar.”
We have also received the following letter from Rob.
“It is a great privilege to have been asked to become your next Vicar. From the moment I came across All Saints’, it was clear that it was a very special place, has a rich history and serves an important spiritual function in the life of Orpington. My family and I are very much looking forward to the next chapter of our lives in this special place and to joining in with the wonderful things that God has in store for All Saints’ over the coming years. With your help, I very much hope that we can begin to discern how it is that God wishes us to grow, in prayer and outreach, so that more and more people can find the richness and stability in Jesus that will bless them and those around them for a lifetime. I pray that the parish may have a holy and blessed Advent and Christmas and look forward to meeting you all in the New Year”.
The Revd R.T. Parker-McGee MA (Res), BA (Hons), SR, SCP