These meetings took place later than usual, on 15 June – though not as late as last year, then they were at the end of October!

Jerry Fox and Derek Goodwin were elected as churchwardens, and we are very grateful that they are willing to continue serving in this way. Alan Stamp joined the PCC as a new member. The PCC has confirmed Shirley Leslie as Treasurer, Phil Sibbald as Secretary, and Sally Lees as Vice-Chair.

In his Team Rector’s report, Jeremy spoke about some of the difficult challenges that face us as a church and why he is not discouraged by them:

‘Back in January, I identified six priorities for the year, which the PCC supported, listed in the Annual Report at section 8, p. 8, and we’ve continued to make progress with them. I’ll be giving a full report on that at next year’s APCM, but let me just say that I always felt the most important of those six priorities was the first: “Reflecting on missional calling”, with the corresponding objective, “Reflect together on the shape of the ‘missional calling’ of the Parish for the next five years, through a carefully planned process that engages the whole Parish.” We’ve been meeting that objective through Mission Action Planning: a huge amount has come out of that already, and I’ve been so grateful for the way that people have participated in what’s been going on, through the Lent Course, the online congregational meetings, and now the ‘passions’ exercise I’ve been doing with church communities on Sunday mornings. But I know that we’ve got further to go before we can be confident about planning for the future in the light of careful listening to one another, to the communities we serve, and to the Holy Spirit who leads us and guides us on the way of Christ.

‘Still, as I said in the ‘First Impressions’ document circulated last month, some things do seem to have come reasonably clearly into focus already. It’s probably time take a fresh look at how we can share the gospel with others, for instance. And then we need to be more deliberate in ensuring that everyone in our churches has the opportunity to take part in some kind of discipleship group, which might be a traditional home group, or might be something a bit different – perhaps meeting online, perhaps just gathering for a limited time, perhaps drawing people together around some common interest or concern. And it’s perhaps time also to review what we do by way of showing God’s love in action, in light of the needs of the communities around us as we emerge from this pandemic, and also in light of what other churches and partner agencies are providing to meet those needs. Finally, with regard to each of the three things I’ve just mentioned, we must make children, young people and therefore their parents a particular priority, and we must try to be better coordinated across the parish, working together more effectively as a family of churches to serve Ashford, united by a longing to share Jesus with those around us.

‘As some of you will be aware, I’ve never done anything quite like this before. I can’t count on my own depth of relevant experience to solve every problem. I’m acutely conscious that we’re about to lose two very valued colleagues and highly experienced ordained ministers, as Eve and Caroline approach retirement. We owe the both a very great deal and I am sure will want to express our appreciation for their ministries in this place. Covid-19 has done serious damage to our finances, as Shirley will be explaining shortly. And it has disconnected us from many of the people we were serving in various ways before the pandemic and closed down whole swathes of our ministry, including Ignite.

‘But I am not discouraged. I go back to the verse I’ve been talking about in my preaching at the moment, John 15.16: “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” I chose you, and I appointed you, or more literally placed you, put you: Christ has placed me here, Christ has placed you here, Christ has placed all of us here together in Ashford, to bear fruit as we abide in him, the true vine. And if, together, we abide in him and in his love, he will give us all the gifts we need, all the strength we need, all the joy we need and all the love we need, to love God and to serve Ashford, to know Christ and to make him known. And there is no greater thing.’