Church Meeting News
Yesterday evening (Tuesday 20th July) we held our first Church Meeting for 18 months. It was wonderful to have such a good turnout and to be able to sing together as a congregation! We will be sending out the full minutes of the meeting to the whole church in due course, but I just want to give you a few highlights to be going on with…
For the time being, for safety’s sake, we will continue with our current pattern of running two in-person services on Sunday mornings. These will stay at 10am and 11am. We’ll also continue to ask people to book in and to wear masks, especially when singing. Although there is now no legal requirement for any social distancing in church, or to wear a face covering, or to register attendance, it seems very sensible to keep some precautions in place.
Moreover, as we have said all along, people must go at their own pace, and we are asking those who feel safe to consider the feelings of those who don’t yet have as much confidence about things. So the message is, please wear face-coverings during services, especially when singing, out of consideration to others even if you personally would prefer not to. Obviously, this does not apply where people have an exemption.
Be assured, we will also be continuing our online services indefinitely, and trying to make these better and better.
It was delightful and encouraging to the church meeting to unanimously welcome into membership Eric & Margaret Panayiotou and James Sherman! We look forward to “extending the right hand of fellowship over the Communion table” (it’s in the small print of our constitution, honest!) at the next opportunity. Wonderful news!
I took some time to remind the church meeting of our objectives for this year and how we are progressing.
Quite miraculously, we are in credit so far this year! After the first six months of the year, we are running at what Rob, our Treasurer, likes to call “a theoretical surplus” of £2,761. Given the impact of Covid on our lettings, this is frankly astonishing, and we praise God. We also thank everyone for the generosity of their giving (which is almost bang-on target) and our Finance Manager, Kat, and the staff team for the way in which our expenditure has been controlled so carefully.
The Leadership Team (Trustees) are agreed that we want to pursue an inter-generational model for our services and events, such that different generations can influence and support each other. This will mean we will park some of our old events, keep and adapt others, and introduce some new ones so that there is more interaction across the generations
To start with, we are running a week-long “Celebration of Life” from Sunday 8th August through Sunday 15th August. Things will end on the 15th with a “Funday Sunday” – more details to follow soon!
We as Trustees also discussed the idea of staying with two Sunday morning services indefinitely, and adjusting the timings of these to allow for more capacity (than if we just had one service, as we did pre-Covid) and more mingling between services. We asked the church meeting to start thinking and praying about these things – on the one hand, we know that growth is more likely when the hall is less crowded (as it is when there are two services rather than one) but of course having two services means we need more people to help on teams, especially if the services are a bit longer than the current 40 minutes or so.
So we are asking you to think and pray too – and we will use the next few church meetings between now and (say) the end of the year to decide on this together.
We took some time in the meeting to ask people to go out, get some air and think and reflect on the last 18 months, and especially how we as a church had responded to the Covid crisis. Then we re-gathered and collated feedback about what everyone felt had been tricky, what perhaps we could have done differently, and what we had done well. This was important to say and to hear, and I’ll make sure the details are in the minutes that come out to you.
Staff Team Review
In the past few months, a review of the staff team was conducted, which compared our 2021 staff numbers (and cost) with the 2016 picture, when we began to transition to our new leadership. The figures show that by comparison, we now have a smaller and much more affordable team structure, with total budgeted staffing costs almost £60,000 per annum less than in 2016. This fits well with our desire as a church to be “living within our giving” and I asked the church to think and pray about our next strategic move regarding our staffing.
My own view is that we should consider, over the coming years, replacing Steph by recruiting another minister (or student minister) who is a generation or two younger than me. This would bolster our ministries and enable us to plan for the longer-term future of the church (not that I’m planning on going anywhere, but I do want to make sure there are strong options for EBC in the future). Please be thinking and praying on this too, as it would mean we decide to minimise any recruitment for a while, so that we don’t undermine our financial ability to recruit when the time (and person) is right.
In closing, please do let us know, via Kim in the office, when you feel ready to return to in-person services, and which service you would like to attend. In the meantime, stay safe, stay well and God bless.
Simon Lace, 21/07/2021