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VICAR'S LETTER

17 Sundon Road
Streatley

June, 2007

Dear All   

One of the jobs in recent days has been to prepare a Briefing Paper for new members of the PCC. The aim of the paper is to get them quickly up to speed so that they don't spend their first year desperately trying to work out what is going on. I thought, however, that it might usefully be given a wider circulation. This is partly so that everyone has a clearer idea of what the PCC is and does. It is also because it seemed not unfitting, as we celebrate the birthday of the Church (Whitsunday), to remind ourselves of what we as a church actually do. The Briefing takes the form of a commentary on a normal PCC. Agenda.

PRAYERS
The prayer normally used at the start of PCC goes as follows:

"Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who by your wise and loving Spirit, guides your church into the way of truth and holiness: we beseech you to direct the counsels of us your servants at this time that we may be enabled to do those things that are pleasing in your sight, and may wisely plan for the furtherance of your church in this place. Remove from us all that hinders your purposes: establish among us peace and love, unity and concord, and grant that your blessing may continually rest on our worship, our work, and our witness; for the glory of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Please give these as rarely as possible. Unless a high percentage of its members are present the PCC is legally unable to take decisions. The PCC meets on the third Thursday of alternate months beginning in January. Please mark these dates as soon as you get your new diary.

MINUTES /MATERS ARISING
You will receive your minutes some days ahead of the meeting. Before you come to the meeting, please check that they correspond with your memory of what occurred.

REPORTS
The Reports cover all aspects of the church's work. They inform the PCC of what is being done and, where necessary, seek the PCC's decision on future policy or action.

Services
The Vicar reports on matters relating to the worship of the church and there is opportunity for questions or comments. There are no major issues currently before the PCC in this area. An example of such an issue would be the debate the PCC held on its policy for the remarrying of divorced people in church. The current policy is that it will be considered only when the previously unmarried partner lives in this parish or is already on the electoral roll of our church.

Pastoral
This area covers the work of the Pastoral Committee - the Area Wardens and the Way Wardens, and the Bereavement Follow-up visitor. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome.

CARE Committee
The CARE Committee manages our charitable giving both at home and abroad. They draw up the Annual List of Charities to which we make donations (usually at the January meeting). They propose the causes which should be adopted for the Lent and Advent Appeals. They enable us to implement the PCC's policy that 10% of our income should go to charity.

Fund Raising
The Fund Raising Committee are responsible for organising our Fund Raising events - the Summer Fete; the Christmas Fayre; the Barn Dance etc. They are not to be confused with the Friends of Streatley Church which is an independent historic buildings charity. The money the Friends raise can only be spent, in consultation with the PCC, on maintaining the historic fabric of the church.

Finance
In addition to producing the Annual Accounts, the Treasurer, aided by the Accounts Manager, produces a bi-monthly set of accounts so the PCC can keep track of the financial position The first responsibility of the PCC is to meet the Annual Quota. Paid to the diocese, this covers the vicar's stipend, expenses, and pension, plus a contribution to the cost of running the diocese and running the Church of England as a whole. The current annual quota is approximately 40,000. (Please note, the vicar gets nothing like this.) The principal sources of revenue are the giving of the congregation; fund-raising events; the renting out of the former curate's house in Marsom Grove; and the hiring of the Parish Centre. Currently we are (just about) holding our own.

Regeneration Group
Charged with looking at new ways of reaching out to the parish. Among its achievements so far: introducing the Seasonal Holy Communion and Family Service with Communion; the Website; the Baptism Training DVD. It is currently looking at ways in which we might reach out more effectively to those in the 20 - 30 age group.

Youth and Children's work
Under this heading the PCC receives reports on the state of play in the Buggy Group, the Story Club, the Sunday School, and the Sunday Club. (New members of the PCC are warned that it is dangerous to show too much interest in this area or you may be marked down as a future leader.)

Parish Centre
A management committee looks after the Centre and reports regularly on its stewardship.

Maintenance and Property
This concerns the Church, the Churchyard, and the Curate's House. (Responsibility for the Vicarage rests with the diocese.) The major issues currently exercising the PCC. In this area are:

  1. The Loo. For 13 years now we have been struggling to get a loo and a small kitchen for the church. The first plan - for an extension outside the north door was rejected when, thanks to the demands of various planning authorities, the cost rose to 87K. The present plan involves modifications to the base of the tower. This has received planning consent from English Heritage and the Diocese. The initial tenders, however proved forbiddingly high. Revised tenders based on a revised specification should reach the council in May of this year.
  2. Floodlighting the Church. PCC approval in principle has already been given for a scheme to floodlight the church, which is being done by a contractor as a memorial to his son who is buried in the churchyard. The scheme is currently going through the processes necessary to obtain planning consent.

The church and its contents are inspected annually by the Archdeacon or his representative. The church is inspected by the architect every five years. He grades the work that needs to be done from 1 to 5. Grade 1 work must be done immediately. Grade 2 works must be done within a year. Grade 3 works must be done within 5 years. No one ever heeds work graded 4 or 5.

Social Committee
Is charged with the responsibility for running low-cost social events that will bind together the church as a whole e.g. the New Year's Party, the Car Treasure Trail, and the Parish Picnic.

Ladies' Guild
Self-explanatory.

Communications
This concerns any matters to do with the Magazine, The Messenger and the Website.

Deanery Synod
The next tier of Church government above the PCC is the Deanery Synod. We belong to the Deanery of Luton, and two members of the PCC act as our representatives on this body. It is currently conducting a review of church provision in Luton. An initial report suggesting a number of closures and mergers was rejected by the Synod. A new review is currently under way. The conclusion of the original review, endorsed by the PCC, was that Streatley should be left alone. The new review is still at the consultative stage so no conclusions have yet been formulated.

Council of Churches
This concerns our ecumenical links. We are members, together with St. Augustine's, St. John's Methodist, Limbury Baptist, and St. Joseph's RC of the Limbury Churches Together. Two members of the PCC represent us in the Council of this group.

This summary of the work of the PCC will hopefully prompt three reflections. The first is of gratitude for the service offered to the church by PCC members. The second is mild wonderment at just how much even a modest little church like Streatley actually does. The third is the realisation that, beneath all the structures of councils and committees, a church is actually a very simple organisation. It is a group of people doing together what Christ asks of each one of us - using our time, talents, energies, and resources to carry on his work of worship, caring, and teaching in order to bring forward the kingdom of God. It is, in short, precisely what Christ commissioned his disciples to be on that first Whitsunday when the Church was born.

All best wishes,

Roger.

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