St. Agnes Parish Forward in Faith and Service A Parochial Initiative Promoting: 1. Awareness building 2. Defining goals and objectives 3. Emphasizing working together 4. Building healthy relationships 5. Accepting responsible participation Overall Objective The initiative will seek to involve all members of the St. Agnes Church Family in a process of self-examination and prayerful reflection on each of the five components of the Initiative, leading to rededication and recommitment to Christ and His Church. In addition to sermons and homilies at the various church services, members will be encouraged to engage in discussion groups using the material provided under each of the five designated topics. It is hoped that the Initiative will climax on Advent Sunday when the Diocese observes Commitment Sunday. During this period we strongly recommend that each existing ministry group in the parish make appropriate arrangements for group study and reflection on the material provided inclusive of the biblical quotations and the listed questions. We also draw attention to the prayer to be used daily.
The following schedule will be observed: September 29th and October 6th 2013
October 13th and 20th 2013
Goals and Objectives
October 27th 2013
November 3rd and 10th 2013
November 17th 2013
November 24 2013
Awareness Building The aim of this section is to encourage our members to reflect on our identity as Anglicans;
we should have a deeper appreciation of who we are as Anglicans and what is required of us as Anglicans. Our West Indian Prayer Book reminds us Anglicans that “the Anglican Communion is a family of Churches within the universal or catholic church of Christ, maintaining apostolic doctrine and order and in full communion with one another and with the See of Canterbury.” On pages 403 & 404 the Prayer Book provides us with the answer to the question “What is the duty of all Christians?” The duty of all Christians is to follow Christ; to deepen our relationship with Him by coming together week by week for corporate worship; and to work, pray and to give for the spread of the kingdom of God. God the Father calls all His people to witness to the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring others to a knowledge of Him. The Church in the Province of the West Indies, responding to this call, challenges every baptised and confirmed member to share in God’s mission to the world by: o coming to God in personal prayer every day, o reading and meditating on the Holy Scriptures daily, o receiving Holy Communion frequently and in expectant faith and love, o following the example of Jesus in daily life, guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit, o speaking about Jesus openly, as the Lord whom you know and experience, o working for justice and reconciliation in society, o upholding Christian standards in marriage and family, o bringing up children to love and serve the Lord, o giving money in support for God’s work, bearing in mind the claims of tithing as an expression of gratitude for and dedication of our material possession to God and his service, o giving personal service to the Church and to our neighbour, o letting our life be marked with self-denial and simplicity and permeated by love of God and our fellow human beings. All of these items listed above are directly related to the Baptismal Vows (pages 274 to 276 of the West Indian Prayer Book and Confirmation promises found on pages 286-7).
In addition to the material provided by the Prayer Book we will also make available a booklet on Anglicanism. Questions How much importance do you attach to being a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion? Have you paid much attention to the duties of a Christian as set out in the West Indian Prayer Book? If little attention, state why. Are you proud to be Anglican? If not, why not? 2.
Defining Goals and Objectives As we reflect on our identity as Anglicans together with our responsibilities as Anglican, the parish family will be invited to identify some desirable goals and objectives for the improvement in the quality of life and witness within the parish. The following biblical passages should inform the goals and objectives that we identify:
Matthew Chapters 5, 6 & 7 Mark 6 John 15 Revelation 2 & 3
As we reflect on the present state of our parish, attention should be paid to the following issues (among others): a) Improving the quality of ministry within the existing ministry groups b) Consolidating the various outreach to the young; e.g. Sunday School, CYM and AYA c) Improving attendance at Mass and Evensong d) Increasing attendance at Bible Study e) Increasing our financial contributions to the Church especially through tithing. As we add to this list of desirable goals and objectives we must be prepared to work towards the attainment of these objectives. We all should pay special attention to Jesus’ warning, “not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Words are not sufficient; we need Christian action! In Acts 1:8 Jesus sets the overall goal for His disciples, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This verse should be studied in conjunction with Matthew chapter 5, 6 and 7 and chapter 28:19-20. In the Old Testament, the book of Deuteronomy provides the best example of goal-setting by God for the children of Israel. (especially chapters 5-9) are of particular significance. Questions What goals and objectives do you wish to add to the list provided? Why do you feel that they are important? 3
In your opinion, which of the goals and objectives listed should receive greatest attention? Why? What, in your opinion, is the value of setting goals and objectives?
We are all aware of the number of ministries and groups in the parish. The existence of so many groups opens the door to the temptation to forget that all of our efforts should be offered for the building up of the Body of Christ with special reference to our parish family. St. Paul warned the church at Corinth about the danger of cliques and partisan divisions in the church. “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each…for we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building” (Cor. 3:5 – 9). In II Cor. 6:1 Paul reaffirms the message of working together, “As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain.” In I Cor. 12:12 – 31 Paul describes the church as the Body of Christ in which all members are interconnected. As members of the Body of Christ we are not permitted to say to a fellow member “I have no need of you.” God has arranged the body, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another” (I Cor. 12:24 – 25). The desire to form cliques and to introduce division and competition within the Church contradicts the biblical teaching on the nature of the Church as the body of Christ. It also prevents the Church from growing into the maturity that God expects from members of this Church. “But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love”(Ephesians 4:15 – 16). Working together under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is the God-given recipe for the mission of the Church. “To each is given the manifestation of the spirit for the common good…all these are activated by the one and the same spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the spirit chooses” (I Cor. 12:4 – 13). In the Old Testament, the book of Exodus provides a good example of what happens when God’s people unite in service. e.g. chapters 36-37 (the building of the Tabernacle in accordance with the plan designed by God). In the New Testament, the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles provide clear examples of members of the early Christian community working together for the spread of the gospel. (see especially chapter 2-8). Questions How much importance do you attach to working together in the Church? Identify the factors which, in your opinion, prevent some persons from working together in the parish? How much time and effort are you prepared to promote working together in the parish?
Building Healthy Relationships
In Holy Baptism we become the adopted brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus Christ. As adopted children of God we are expected to develop healthy relationships with our brothers and sisters within and without the Church, based upon the truth “as found in Jesus”. In our interactions with our fellow human beings we enter into various relationships: a) Within our homes – where we are challenged to love and respect all the members of the family with each member making his or her contribution towards a strong, Christ-like family. In this relationship, love, care and compassion are essential for truly healthy relationships. Questions Is the atmosphere in your family conducive to building healthy relationships? What are the factors that hinder the growth of love, care and compassion in your family life? b) Within the workplace – where we are forced to relate to others as circumstances dictate. Christians are reminded that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God; each person has an inherent dignity given by God the Creator. We should never intentionally seek to deprive anyone of his or her inherent dignity. We are also expected to interact with others in a spirit of love, care and concern if we are to engage others in healthy relationships. Questions What issues prevent you from trying to relate to others in a loving, caring manner? In your interactions at the workplace, are you really trying to develop healthy relationships? c) Within the church family – where we are expected to live in ‘love and charity’ with our fellow members. In Acts 2:42 the Church in described in the following member, “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Central to this summary is the concept of “fellowship” or “togetherness” in the church family we try to get to know one another as a basic starting point is building healthy relationships. As we grow in our mutual knowledge we learn to express care and concern for the other as we give practical expression to the command of Jesus to “love one another as I have loved you.” Too many members attend church on a regular basis but make no or little effort to get to know one another. Without this knowing, love, care and concern will never flourish. If healthy relationships are to flourish in our parish family we must engage in efforts to: a. create “togetherness” and “fellowship” b. reach out to others to get to know who they are and what is going on in their lives. As we reach out to others we must also be open to be encountered by others c. learn how to love one another 5
Questions How interested are you in helping to build healthy relationships in our parish family? What are the factors which, in your opinion, prevent the development of healthy relationships in our parish family? How should we seek to remove these barriers? For reflection – study Colossians 3:12 – 17
N.B. the overall message of the Bible is that success in building relationships depends conclusively on our relationship with God. As God becomes more real in our lives we become more interested in encountering Him in prayer and worship. We must be prepared to commit time and interest if our personal relationship is to flourish. Reflection – John 15:1 – 11. 5.
The architectural structure of our church creates a setting for persons to see themselves as spectators in the nave as the Priest and assistants function around the altar. However, in the church, we are all participants in the acts of worship and in the ongoing work of mission and service. While many members participate in the various ministry groups in the parish, the majority of members do not engage in such pursuits. In fact, too many of our members are too content to attend mass and seem to have very little interest in participating in the ongoing work of the Church. God has endowed each person with gifts which can be used to further God’s work in the Church. Jesus warned that “the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few.” In addition, instead of taking responsibility for some aspect of the Church’s outreach, there are many who are content to sit back and criticize. God is not looking for critics; He is looking for workers! The Church can have a stronger impact on our society if more members are prepared to take their place among the labourers in God’s vineyard. Too often, they leave it to the faithful few. Let each member resolve to become an active participant in the witness of the Church and thereby contribute towards “the building up of the Body of Christ.” Our intentional participation in giving service to God and to people of God flows automatically out of our worship of God. Authentic worship leads to service. At the end of every Eucharist the faithful are challenged, “Go in peace and serve the Lord”. In the second Post Communion prayer on page 148 we pray “Send us now into the world in peace and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you and all persons in you, with gladness and singleness of heart”. In the third Post Communion prayer, found on page 149, we pray “And now O Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses”. As we improve on the quality of worship we offer to God we should automatically improve in the quality of our service we offer to God and the people of God. Attention is drawn to Romans 12:1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect”. 6
As we participate in this parochial initiative, let us give careful attention to the message given to us by St. Paul in this passage. Questions Are you presently participating in one of the ministry groups in the parish? If not, why not? What in your opinion, should be done to make the ministry groups more attractive to the general membership? What, in your opinion, should be done to make the worship of the Church more appealing for the general membership? Reflection – John 6:25 – 40 & Ephesians 3:14 – 21
Prayer to be used daily Almighty and everlasting God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, hear our prayers for this parish family of St. Agnes as we engage in Forward in Faith and Service. Strengthen the faithful, arouse the careless, and restore the penitent. Grant us all things necessary for our common life, and bring us all to be of one heart and mind within your holy Church, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen