Dear friends,

Warm and sincere greetings in the name of Christ.

As we come toward the end of this year, I am very conscious of how challenging it has been to get Christchurch fully up and running again after two years which were so badly affected by the pandemic and lockdowns. We are still not quite there yet, but we have made significant progress during 2022.

This year has been the first full year I have been able to serve the Churches here in Gloucestershire, to which God has called me to be Minister, without any major interruption, disruptions, or distractions. Mainline Churches are still analysing the damage, but it is becoming clear that most Anglican, Baptist, Methodist and URC Churches have sadly lost about one third of their worshipping congregation. People may still decide to come back over the next few months, but this is where we are now, and it presents us with even greater challenges than we were already facing with our ageing congregations.

I am very grateful to God for the fact that Christchurch has been able to complete LYCIG (Leading Your Church Into Growth) and to put in place practical aims and a plan for future growth. This plan has started to be worked out now in 2022 and can be seen in our busy and lively programme between now and Christmas. However, it will only be in 2023 that we should hopefully have a second full uninterrupted year where we can really put our shoulders to the plough and go for growth. We are certainly going to need two full years (2023& 2024) to see the fruit come forth, and in the meantime we will be called by God to exercise faith and faithfulness in many ways – not least in the ways God calls us to faithfully pray, serve, worship together, use our gifts, sacrifice our time, talents, and money.

The difficulties should not be our primary focus. The greatness, power and faithfulness of our God must always be our chief focus. Faith in our God – just the size of a mustard seed – can move mountainous obstacles and problems. In the words of our Saviour:

“I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you”

Matthew 17:21

Or as the faith-filled apostle Paul writes:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Ephesians 3:20-21

The apostle Peter walked on water but only while he kept his eyes onJesus. The Lord! Jesus fed 5000 with a few loaves and fish but he looked up to heaven as he broke the bread. Where are we placing our eyes? On the difficulties? On the lack of numbers? On a seeming lack of resources? Let us place our eyes and our vision where they should be – on God!

Over the years of my ministry, I have witnessed God do amazing things which include, dramatically changing lives through the power of the Spirit; empowering and blessing new ministries and outreach; miraculously providing finance for Churches, mission and individuals – particularly with Churches willing to march forward by faith and not by sight; healing bodies, minds, and spirits. God can do good and great things for and with us as we embrace prayer, unity of purpose and vision together. As I shared last Sunday (Oct 16), persistent prayer will be of the utmost importance. This, along with obedience to put into practice our vision for growth – will forge a fruitful path forward for us.

Be Thou our vision O Lord of our hearts! We look to His throne of power and mercy!

Psalm 123

Love in Christ always, Peter