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- Following God’s call in Eston and Normanby
The Revd Graham Potter, Rector of Eston with Normanby, shares his reflections on exploring God’s vision and calling within the parish. He writes:
I moved into the parish in September 2021 just as we were starting to emerge from the covid restrictions. Most of the usual ministries the parish was involved in had not resumed. And the numbers of available people to run them had decreased. So when asked if certain events could resume my go to questions were: ’who is it for?’ and 'why do we do it?'
Like most churches post-covid, we didn’t have the people to pick up where left off. So these questions were important to make sure we were being effective rather than just busy. When asked if we could restart the weekly coffee morning at Christchurch, I posed those two questions. The answers were telling. About 12 regulars and they are all friends. My reply was to suggest that they went to Costa because the coffee was nicer, and you can get cake! This was met with surprised looks.
I went on to suggest that if they wished to provide a safe space where the local community could gather and re-learn how to be together in groups again then I would be happy to discuss how we could achieve this. Fortunately, Costa lost out and we embraced the idea of the coffee morning becoming a space for the local community to gather. The ‘12’ is now regularly 50 to 60 and has been 70. We meet in the church which now has become a familiar space for newcomers.
While reflecting on how well the coffee morning was running, I realised that many of us had forgotten what it meant to be a follower of Jesus and that a focused sermon series on following Jesus would be a Good thing to do. I discussed this with my preaching team and readers, who agreed to join in, and we followed the Jesus Shaped People series, which is described as a ‘whole church discipleship adventure’. Over the 15 weeks of the course, you look at five priorities of Jesus. How he engaged with people, how he taught them, how he built teams, how he prayed and how he prophetically challenged the society around him. All the course linked materials are free and cover sermon outlines, children and youth materials, and small group study guides. My preaching team, who hadn’t been asked to preach a series before, stepped up to the challenge.
The outcome of following Jesus Shaped People which refocused our minds on what it means to be a follower of Jesus, was five church members completing the Stepping Up course, a new vision of how our church buildings can be used for the benefit of the community (which included a large £150k repair and upgrade project), a generous and successful gift day for fund the repairs, and a renewed sense of mission in the parish.