St Chad's - a Church ready to move on
In this article, Stuart Jones suggests that the village church is in good heart and can now face future challenges with confidence.
(The views expressed are personal but he hopes that they are shared by many.)

If you were to ask the Diocesan Office at Lichfield how many people in our parish go to church each week, you would probably be told about100. This is because they count only those who attend particular Sunday services during the year. Ask the same question of John Daimond, the Priest in Charge at Pattingham, and he will tell you that it is at least double that and frequently more than 250!

There are many other reasons which can and do attract folk to the church. Some willingly give of their time to help maintain the building and fabric by preparing for services, arranging flowers, cleaning the church, maintaining the churchyard, laundering the vestments, and by practising for bell ringing, choir, drama and reading duties.

Neither must we forget those who may not attend church so regularly but come to celebrate family weddings and christenings and to mourn the passing of loved ones. For example in August this year a total of 1500 people attended 8 weddings, 4 baptisms and 4 funerals : sufficient to boost the average weekly attendance for 2007 by at least 25.

About 35 youngsters enjoy each of the special "Fun and Faith" events held on weekdays at Christmas, Easter and Harvest. Congregations of 150 to 200 are common at the important services held over these festivals our largest in recent times being over 400 at the Christingle Service held last year on the Saturday afternoon before Christmas.

A lively Sunday School comprising 15 to 20 children is held in The Loft during Morning Service on the third Sunday each month. A well established Youth Service guided by two experienced leaders but planned and led by teenagers replaces Evensong on the third Sunday in the month. An adult Fellowship Group and a smaller but dedicated Prayer Group also meet monthly. Anyone is welcome to drop into our "Cafe" on Wednesday mornings for a cup of coffee, a slice of home-made cake and, importantly if they so wish, simply to have someone to talk to. Suddenly finding oneself alone for whatever reason can be devastating, especially if there doesn't seem to be anyone to help.

Then there is the excellent Holiday Club held for a week towards the end of the long Summer holiday. This is usually fully subscribed by enthusiastic 4 to 16 year olds, the number being limited by the availability of trained leaders and assistants.

Every child in the village school has an opportunity to visit St Chad's at least 3 times a year when the school plan and lead services of special interest to their needs. These services are usually very popular also with parents and especially grandparents. The Church Council actively supports closer liaison with the school and warmly welcomes opportunities to provide practical and financial support for special projects.

I could go on to describe concerts, plays, courses, civic receptions etc which have both made significant contributions to the numbers visiting St Chad's at various times and confirmed its central role in the day-to-day life of the community.

Despite a small number of less welcome visitors (Yes, we have a few of those as well !), we are fortunate that we can usually leave the church open during daylight hours. Thus it can fulfil possibly its most important role, providing a haven for those visitors wishing to rest, reflect and pray.

If these notes suggest that currently St Chad's is a lively and caring congregation willing to embrace change where necessary to meet modern needs, then I will be partly satisfied. But our mission is by no means complete.

For if St Chad's, the church building is our refuge and source of inspiration, then our workplace is wherever and whenever there is a neighbour in need.

In a world where natural disasters seem both more numerous and more severe, where the gap between the "haves" and "have nots" seems to be widening rather than closing and in which there seems to be no end to man's inhumanity to man, we need a sustained increase in the resources made available to overcome these challenges.
Jesus taught us to love our neighbour as ourselves. In His great parable of "The Good Samaritan", He also left us in no doubt as to who is our neighbour.

Rather than simply enjoy the current comfortable status quo, can we not use it as a springboard from which to launch further exciting progress In a subsequent article I hope to develop this idea and describe how we might begin to make a real and lasting difference.

Stuart Jones

August 2008