Christmas 2015 – Letter from the Rector

The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means, “God with us.”

I can never get over just how amazing that little verse from Matthew chapter 1 verse 23 is. The awesome God, who set the stars in space and calls each out by name at night, came to be one of us. A helpless baby, born round the back, because there was no room at the inn. It is a great reminder that God desires to be passionately involved with us – and not just in the big events of history, but in our everyday lives. No wonder the angels sang, “Hallelujah and peace on earth to those on whom his favour rests.” We have a great God, who loves us so intensely and wants to shower blessing upon blessing upon us.

We have seen many of those blessings recently at St John’s. The 9:30am All Age service is thriving – averaging 50 people each month. We have seen a number of new faces – amongst them some little babies. The SlamJam junior choir are amazing – singing on all sorts of occasions. Numbers at CYFA are encouraging – they are a wonderful group of teenagers, meeting on Sunday evenings. During the week Coffee Break is also going from strength to strength. It is a lovely way to start one’s week – good company, coffee and goodies to nibble on and a Thought for the Day. Our home groups are also doing well – growing both numerically and in spiritual depth.

One of our aims in 2015 was to be a light on a hill and a blessing to our community. I have been delighted to see how everybody has got behind support for the Foodbank. The Foodbank is a real benefit to those in the local area who are going through a period of difficulty. We have also been a welcoming place of hospitality and this is seen not just in the warm welcome our wonderful sidespeople give at our Sunday Services. It is also evidenced in the comments I receive from people as they come to our special events – from the Friends of St John’s Weekend, the Summer Fun Day and Summer Barbecue to the Light Party, Remembrance Day, the Autumn Concert and Christmas Fair. On Wednesday 16 December, I was thrilled to welcome over 180 children and adults into the church for the Little Elms nativity.

The Men’s Breakfast and Ladies Lunches are also excellent occasions for good food and encouragement. I very much enjoyed the Ladies Lunch just before Christmas, where we were entertained so wonderfully by 2 excellent musicians called “All Fingers and Thumbs.” The St John’s community proves itself to be very open and welcoming in so many ways.

Other exciting developments in and around the church building are improved parking and the heating. Due to the unseasonably mild weather, the grass has been growing well and we hope to start using our all-year parking area by the tower shortly after Easter. We are looking forward to further improvements to our heating – replacement radiators and 2 new ones on the church room wall should keep us snug in the colder weather. Not to mention the roof alarm to protect our lead – Graham Newman was extremely proactive and efficient in overseeing the installation of this essential piece of security. Most of the money for these initiatives has come from (i) significant savings made in the implementation of the projector and screen facility and (ii) from grants we have received from Suffolk Historic Churches Trust, AllChurches Trust and from Councillor Jane Story. God is indeed blessing us greatly.

Our Christmas season is also proving to be full of blessing. The church is decorated beautifully, and the services have the right level of jollity mixed with profoundness. In particular, the choir and Sue Wright were astounding at the Nine Lessons and Carols. As I write this on Christmas Eve, I look forward to “I Can’t Wait For Christmas” this afternoon, which is being expertly organised by Brenda Webb, our late night carol service and, of course, Christmas Day.

It must be pointed out that we do have a major financial challenge hanging over us. We are currently short of meeting the parish share by several thousand pounds. But as we look to how wonderfully faithful God is showing himself to be in other areas, let’s entrust ourselves (and our wallets?) to his care.

A big thank you to all who work so hard to make St John’s such a wonderful Christian Community.

Here’s to an amazing 2016!

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. (Luke 1:68)

Thu 24 Dec 2015