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Our Aims and Vision

Our aim and vision for the Pastrow Benefice is ‘to share the Love, Grace and Truth of Jesus Christ.’


How to do this is rather more complex!  We do, however, want to identify, encourage and develop the gifts and talents of our worshipping communities to share in Christ’s mission and to work collegiately within the Pastrow group of churches.


Since I started in October 2015, we have been on a journey of gathering information to formulate a clear vision of how we can work together.  This started with a small group developing a benefice questionnaire called ‘The Big Ask’ which stared after Bishop David came and launched this process in February 2016.  In total, we received back 128 questionnaires from around the benefice, which represented just under 42% of the worshipping community and consisted of 4 key questions:


1. Where are you on your walk with Jesus?

2. Is the church meeting your needs? If not, what would you like to see change?

3. What would you like to see our church doing over the next few years?

4. What gifts would you like to develop and offer for service in Christ’s mission?


Certainly question one caused the most consternation!  However, there were some genuinely honest and remarkable responses, including:















 ‘Still working on it’

‘Want him to lead me’

‘Walking alongside with him’

 ‘I have a lot to discover’

 ‘Need to trust more’

‘At a crossroads’

From all of the feedback we received, the overwhelming evidence pointed towards a desire to know Jesus better, and to deepen that relationship by strengthening our understanding of what being a disciple of Jesus really means, both as individuals and corporately as a group of churches committed to being united in fellowship.


The second question pointed us towards the issue of, ‘how am I being fed, and am I hungry for more?’  Responses to this question were mixed but mostly focused on the types of services we offer in our churches:  


To use our buildings more

More variety of services

More Bible teaching

Better Communication

Fellowship and study groups

Different styles of worship

Deeper Instruction

A bereavement group

Something for men

Some clearly value the wonder and beauty of Anglican liturgy, for some there was a desire to see different patterns of worship emerging to cater for everyone’s preferences:

Responses also suggested there was a need to have more opportunities for being together in fellowship as a benefice and to develop specific groups.


The third question looked in to the future and this received the biggest response by far from people –  there are many who have great ideas about developing Christ’s mission in this place!  Responses included:


Messy church

Christian book club

Single people's ministry

Engaging with baptism families

Bible Study Groups

Helping out our schools

Pastoral visiting

A benefice choir

Healing and prayer ministry

Bereavement group

Men's group

More lively services

Woman’s prayer group

More reflective services

Catering for all ages

Engaging more with Children's ministry

Welcoming more marriage couples


This is very encouraging and gives us a wonderful opportunity of developing some of these ideas over the next few years.  The responses given to the fourth question showed a willingness to step out in faith and engage with using the gifts that God has given us.


Providing transport

Getting alongside people

Worship/Music

Listening

Prayer

Teaching

Motivating

Organization

Leading

Pastoral Visiting

Cooking/Hospitality

Working with children

By far the most frequent response was to ‘maintain and grow our congregations’, demonstrating a clear and collective heart’s desire to join together as a family of churches and to grow.  When taking all of the responses in to account there was a very clear agenda for the journey ahead of us, summarized in the following five points:


1. Keeping the current diet of services, but to add more to the menu and change some of the order.

2. Engaging more fully with the pastoral needs of the communities we serve

3. Understanding the Bible better, and to develop confidence in our walk with Jesus

4. Adding more discipleship and fellowship opportunities

5. Engaging more with children’s and family ministries


So when do we get started?  Well, we already have!  From listening, praying and studying the word in many different groups we have begun to get things organized and moving forward.  We have employed a benefice administrator and are currently building a new benefice website.  We have started ‘Messy Church’ in both of our church primary schools and from the outset have had great numbers coming.  There has been a new midweek Communion service started at St Thomas’, Tangley and a new evening service is planned to start at St Thomas’ Charlton from January 2017.  There are new family and Taize services planned and also some exciting projects of re-ordering one of our churches and building an eco- retreat centre.  We are also working towards a new benefice structure, providing more opportunity for people to develop and use their gifts, to meet together and exercise a shared ministry in the benefice.  The structure is summarized best from this diagram:

As you can see, prayer is at the heart of this plan, and to this end, we have recently formed a prayer group which is fundamental to all of our plans.  As Paul wrote in Philippians 4 verse 6, ‘Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.’    2017 will see the start of ‘The year of Prayer’ in the Pastrow benefice where we will encourage each other to learn more about what it means to pray, to be part of a praying community and how to deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ.  But we can all start that journey right now!  A particular focus for us is to pray for the growth of our churches!


So what can I do?  In short, we need your help, your gifts and your skills.  We are part of a growing family, and at some point next year we will welcome the parishes of Hurstbourne Tarrant, Vernham Dean, Faccombe and Linkenholt in to the Pastrow benefice.  In order to meet the five points above, we will need to explore what our gifts are and to use them in loving service to our communities in order to grow our congregations.  We have an abundance of talent and people with amazing journeys ahead of them, we just need the confidence and opportunities to flourish as a collective group of congregations serving an amazing God!  Perhaps you are a bit fearful of change, or unsure of what gifts and skills God has given to you.  But, sisters and brothers in Christ, God has a purpose for each one of us and He will provide the gifts we need if we are only willing to serve others in His name. In the coming months, we will be seeking people to come forward to be part of the teams identified in the diagram above, the question for each of us to prayerfully ponder is this – where are you being called to serve?

I look forward to the journey ahead with you all, with prayerful anticipation and confidence that our Lord will lead us in to a wonderful future.


Blessings,      Alex