Vicar’s Blog

Michelle’s Ordination

IMG_1499On Saturday 2nd July our curate Michelle Parton was ordained Priest. The next day she presided at Holy Communion for the first time at both our 9am and 10.30am services, followed by a Bring and Share Lunch to celebrate.

This has been a really special time for Michelle – one she has been waiting for for over ten years – and a special day for St Mary’s!

We don’t tend to use the word Priest that much at St Mary’s, and we haven’t had a curate before, so it’s worth explaining a little more.

Priests are part of what is often called the “threefold order” of Church leaders in the New Testament – Bishops (sometimes translated Overseers), Priests (sometimes translated Presbyters or Elders) and Deacons.  Michelle came to us last year as a Deacon, and it is usual for Deacons to be ordained Priest after a year of service.

IMG_1508Here are some of the words from the ordination service:

“Priests are ordained to lead God’s people in the offering of praise and the proclamation of the gospel. They share with the Bishop in the oversight of the Church, delighting in its beauty and rejoicing in its well-being. They are to set the example of the Good Shepherd always before them as the pattern of their calling. With the Bishop and their fellow presbyters, they are to sustain the community of the faithful by the ministry of word and sacrament, that we all may grow into the fullness of Christ and be a living sacrifice acceptable to God.”

At her ordination Michelle was set apart for this new ministry by the laying on of hands and prayer by the Bishop.  Please pray for her, that God will bless and equip her in her new ministry!

Salt of the Earth, Light of the World

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”                                                     Matthew 5:14-16

Could you describe our church’s last year in one word?  How about ‘family’?  After a madcap 2014-15 where our new church helped us to reach the wider community in new ways, the last twelve months have seen us focus on deepening our church family.  We’ve explored our identity as God’s people (discipleship), how we look after one another (pastoral care) and having more fun together (socials).

It’s been a growing family too, welcoming a number of new church members, including the Parton family, and especially the joy of having Michelle as our new curate.  We’ve also seen more baptisms, more people coming to us at festival times and seekers finding faith through the Alpha course.

In many ways the vision of the last few years has come to pass – we’ve remained a family which loves Jesus, but we have flung our doors open wider as more from our community see us, connect with us and encounter Christ among us.

So what next?

We believe God is calling us to go deeper and think longer term, so one of our mission targets for this year is to set a 3-5 year Vision plan.  And we believe our other two new targets – “Reaching Families” and “Social Action” – will feature heavily in that vision.

As the Parish Church, St Mary’s is there for everyone, and lots of our growth over the last two years has been among those in middle and more advanced years.  Long may that continue!  However, whether it’s our long term investment in Youth and Children’s work (headed up by Dean and Ria) or our being placed at The Coppice school, we believe now is the time to focus especially on reaching families more effectively.

How about being a church which speaks a word to the busy, often fragmented and sometimes antagonistic younger generations of the love of Jesus that many have never encountered?  Making Christ – the bringer of peace, hope and joy – understood; the re-enchantment of an increasingly secular world.  Let’s be a part of that movement at St Mary’s!

Alongside this we are beginning to understand more deeply the power of doing good.  From the community refugee collection, to the winter night shelter, to our growing work among elderly people, we are starting to identify and respond to local, regional and international need.

A recent survey suggests that Wythall people expect Christians to take a lead in social action.  So let’s make that one of our aims in 2016 – to take Jesus at his word to be salt and light in our local community.  We do good works because we’re called to – they’re part of the gospel – but God uses them for more than this.  As others see those works they are drawn by the God who inspires them to praise their Father in heaven too.

This year let’s light our light shine!

Rich (Vicar’s Report in our Annual Report 2015-16)

27 Year Wait Ends as Wythall Finally Gets a New Parish Church

Handover day, featuring (L-R) Brian Lee, Rich Burley, Warren Bland, Richard Pill (Project Manager), Lisa Howfield,  Rich Mace

Handover day, featuring (L-R) Brian Lee, Rich Burley, Warren Bland, Richard Pill (Project Manager), Lisa Howfield, Rich Mace

St Mary’s Church in Wythall will be celebrating a resurrection of a different kind this Sunday as they open the doors of their brand new church for the first time.

The old St Mary’s, set back from the Alcester Road near Beckett’s Farm Shop, was closed back in 1986 due to structural problems with its stunning, but ultimately impractical, tower.  Closing the church brought no small amount of sorrow to the local community, and at the time made the national headlines with a special feature in, of all places, Private Eye Magazine!

Meanwhile the congregation, which comes under the Anglican Diocese of Birmingham, carried on faithfully, worshipping in local school halls.  Their search for a new church was never abandoned, but for decades they were dogged with problems finding a suitable site and gaining planning permission.

18 months ago all that changed, however, as they joined forces with The Coppice Primary School in Hollywood in a new and exciting project.

The ambitious build includes the church, a new hall and six new classrooms in a move which they believe will benefit school, church and the wider community.  The barrel ceiling and solid oak floor should make it the smartest public space for miles, and with state of the art audio visual, staging and theatrical lighting, it may well also become a local centre for performing arts.

Churches are built primarily for worship, however, and there’s no better day than Easter Sunday to cut the red tape.  All are welcome to join in their celebrations this weekend.  But their season of launch events, including an open day and charity concert, should mean there’s something for everyone over the next few weeks.   And, with a beautiful stained glass window due to be installed in a few weeks’ time, it’s sure to become a place of beauty, reflection and peace for many years to come.

Vicar Rev. Rich Burley, says

“The last few decades have told an eventful story of Wythall’s Parish Church, but the next chapter to be written is sure to be a joyful one.  Our prayer for the new church is that it becomes a focal point for worship, peace and community for everyone in Wythall and Hollywood, and we hope that all will feel welcome to share in the celebrations with us.”

Press Release submitted to local papers 18.4.14

Our New Church – Prepare to be Amazed!

P1040455“Look at the nations and watch  and be utterly amazed.  For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” Habakkuk 1:5

It would have been impossible to imagine in Summer 2012 that in just a few short weeks we’d be moving into a new church.

And, though the building work began last May and the preparations for the opening have been going for months, perhaps like me you’ll have to pinch yourself come Easter Sunday to believe it’s actually happening!

How far we have come so quickly!  When I arrived at St Mary’s two years ago we’d been without a church for 25 years and there seemed little prospect of getting one.  Then, as if in a flash, the opportunity to work with The Coppice on a new building project emerged.

The news was received then as simply this: it’s a gift from God.

Of course there has been hard work along the way.  There are many people to thank, without whom the project would not have been possible, and even more currently in the midst of a storm of activity to get everything ready.  And that’s not to mention the faithfulness of those among us who have been praying for decades for this moment.

But through all of this that sense of gift remains.  This project has shown time and again that whilst we may have plans, it is God who causes the rising and falling of things, and who sets the dates and times.  Not primarily because we worked hard or didn’t, or because we’re worthy or not, but because of his will and his plan.

In this season of anticipation and then celebration, then, all thanks and praise must go to God.  Let us remember that this new church is a gift from him, and seek to play our part in the unfolding of his plan for our world.  Like the prophet Habakkuk, let’s prepare to be amazed!

Rich (included in our Spring 2014 newsletter)

Get out the Champagne, the New Church is Coming!

newchurchTwenty seven years, three months and twenty one days after the old St Mary’s church closed its doors, we’re thrilled to tell you that the new St Mary’s will be open for worship on Easter Sunday 2014.  The last few decades have told a long an eventful story of Wythall’s Parish Church, but the next chapter to be written is sure to be a joyful one, and we hope that you’ll be part of it with us.

The new church building, built as part of The Coppice School’s expansion, has been designed with both functionality and beauty in mind.  The build incorporates the church, a large new hall, a kitchen and meeting rooms, with partitions allowing flexible use throughout the week.  Our prayer is that it will both inspire prayer and worship and be a rich resource for the community for years to come.

At present we’re busy preparing a whole season of “welcome events”, which will include:

  • Our first service on Easter Sunday (20th April, 10.30am)
  • Open Day
  • Concert in aid of Christian Aid / Acorns Charity
  • Regular café on Wednesday mornings
  • History Exhibition

Watch out for more information in the coming weeks – we do hope you’ll come and see our new church and yours.

Published in the Wythall Community Newsletter, February 2014