A Letter to All In Our Church Family

Recently you may have seen the video I recorded regarding my ‘Ideas for 2021. If not, you can find it here:

It takes time to embed values and vision. As a step towards that, over the next week or two everyone on our mailing lists should be receiving a copy of the below letter in the post. I’d love it if you could watch the video, read the letter (which I’ve reproduced below for you) and pray about what you think God is saying, where He is leading, and which area outlined below you would like to play a part in during 2021. The video is a spoken version of what’s written below, to a large extent.

Dear Members of the Emmanuel Family,

I’m writing this towards the end of 2020. What a year it has been. Thank you for all you have done as part of our Church family to help us be a family of faith where there’s always room for one more. In extraordinary times it has been a joy to see how we have served, loved, praised, prayed and learned together. 

I could list heaps of things that have gone well but it would make this note far too long. I’m grateful to God for all the good that has happened this year. It is undeniable that God has sustained us and, more than that, He has done amazing things – new people coming to faith and joining us, many people engaging with us online with services (along with the fact we were able to get online and have people join us at all) and praying together, people engaging with Bible study materials in groups and individually along with the fantastic craft and creative activities provided by Tracy, Krissy and others. I know that some people’s faiths have grown, if not indeed flourished during these months, which is fantastic. 

We’ve also had contact of one sort or another with 10 schools this year. Many are enjoying receiving video assemblies from me (really, they are, I’ve seen pictures!) particularly, we are building closer and closer links with Northampton Academy – Grow for Hope Garden, they are sending cards to people in our Church and community who have been isolated and shielding in the next week or so and also through inviting me to be involved in the delivery of their Character Curriculum and Enrichment. This is something to be hugely thankful to God for I think.

I am so grateful to so many people in so many ways. Having been at home for the vast majority of the last 9 months, one thing I have been able to do is to see how wonderful our staff and volunteer teams are, as they have worked incredibly hard to continue the work that we do and I want to pay tribute to our staff team and the many, many volunteers who have done and I hope will continue to do amazing work on our behalf. I could and perhaps list many, many people and teams, but I don’t want to go on and on. Having stepped back and not been able to be physically present in much of the work that has been done this year I can say that it is fantastic to be able to have more of an overview and to see the huge reach that Emmanuel has and the links we have in the community, developed, maintained and grown by many, many people.The opportunities it gives us to live out the good news of Jesus and tell people about His love are so many and so varied.

Many thousands of people have been fed through our Foodbank and Cafe work, both in the Emmanuel building and through deliveries, as well as through partnerships with Food4Heroes and others. The pictures of donations I see, as well as the financial donations to the Foodbank, Church and Cafe have been truly incredible. The generosity of people has been amazing, as has the way that through Julie Parsons’s work, we have gained so many grants to help us financially sustain what we feel we are meant to be doing at the moment

My hopes for 2021

Our main vision and goal should always be, I think, to be like Paul, who said, ‘I resolved to know nothing among you apart from Jesus and him crucified.’ I hope that within our aim to be a family of faith where there is always room for one more that we always have Jesus at the front and in the centre of all our aims, whether they are youth groups, work in the community, evangelistic work, services, hospitality or anything else. Aside from that, here’s what I would love to see us doing or working towards in 2021:

  1. That those people who are already part of our family of faith grow in theirs and increase in confidence in sharing their faith and telling their story of faith to others.
  2. That we would increase the priority placed on prayer in the life of our Church. I would propose that we have a weekly 1 hour Prayer gathering on Zoom for any interested as a way of beginning this deepening of our commitment to prayer from the new year.
  3. That we would make stronger the link between children and young people and the rest of the life of our Church.Following Tim Alford’s excellent contribution to the service on December 6th (find it on our website on the page for that service) I hope that we will all see that encouraging young people in their growth in faith, as well as seeking to create the conditions for them to feel willing and happy to participate and share their many gifts with us. Mell does a fantastic job here. I’m very grateful to her for all she does. She needs help in raising the profile of our amazing work with young people, alongside the work Yvonne and I are doing in schools (and we’d welcome a larger team for this too).
  4. That the Rectory Farm congregation move in to the Community Centre on the Estate. We are developing an even better partnership with Community Spaces who are excited to work with us. We need to make sure that we have the right vision for this congregation and how they engage with the estate and the wider community. I hope this will come in the time ahead.
  5. The appointment of a new Free Church Minister and therefore the growing of our Clergy Team.
  6. That we explore and seek God’s lead for the best way of managing and supporting the way that we are a Church which also has a lot of business and charity management needs and responsibilities. I have seen that too much is asked of many people. We have many people who do a fantastic amount for us, for which I am hugely grateful. We should not take this for granted. It is the right time for us to look to expand what we have in terms of staff on the ‘business’ side of Emmanuel. 
  7. That we explore the beginning of an Eden Team along with developing our Edge Centre. Eden Teams are managed by The Message Trust in Manchester. I was invited by them to attend a recent dinner outlining their work at present and aims for the future. The aim of Eden teams is for a mixture of ‘imported’ people and local Church people who move into a particular estate to serve and minister to and with people who live there. Blackthorn fits the criteria for the kind of estate they would work with because of where it sits in terms of being among the most deprived estates of the country. We would normally be expected to contribute c£14k for a post for someone to manage this. I have an offer from a member of the Church to cover at least £12k of this for 3 years should we go ahead. For more on Eden Teams, look at https://www.message.org.uk/eden/ We already are developing an Edge Centre as Paul Foster is getting ready to begin work with our Money Support Centre in January, which is part of Edge. Edge is a network of people and Churches who are on estates seeking to partnerships for mission and evangelism. It is headed up by Carl Beech of Christian Vision for Men. Pray for us and for Paul as we develop new ways of engaging with the wider community both in terms of support and prayer. I’m enjoying getting to know Carl and seeing the vision of the Edge Coalition develop. It is exciting and, like Eden, seeks to see local people coming to faith and then growing in faith themselves forming new families of faith etc. I’m in a ‘watch this space’ mode with this but I think a combination of Edge and Eden could be amazing for Emmanuel. The process for partnering with Eden is long, so we don’t need to make a major commitment now – it includes people from Eden coming to talk to Churches to gauge their buy-in etc, so it’s a case of seeing whether the Church as a whole have a vision for either project. We at Emmanuel may be asked to provide a few people to live on such an estate. However, the main role of Emmanuel would be to be a host Group of Churches to nurture and disciple those who come to faith and want to know Jesus and join a Church family. I think this could transform our community, grow our Church and glorify God. Please would you pray and see what God is leading us towards? I’d like us to explore this early next year. For more on Edge Ministries, look at https://edgeministries.net
  8. That we continue to serve the community around us through our links with schools, through Cafe Emm, the new Money Support service that we are launching alongside Edge Ministries in January, the Foodbank and so many other things besides, individually and collectively. I continue to hope and pray that the Foodbank will one day not be needed, but it certainly is for now. I want to ask you to consider contacting our local representatives on the Council and House of Commons to raise the profile of those who we meet through our work. Their voices need to be heard and, I believe, we need to pray that God would turn the hearts of many in our culture to justice, mercy and walking humbly with Him.
  9. My final hope is probably the biggest one of all. We do so much, achieve so much, meet and serve so many people. It truly is wonderful. I really hope that will find the appropriate ways to see some of the many people that we meet have the opportunity to meet Jesus and become disciples. As far as I can see, the way that this will happen is if praying people pray and we continue to be disciples who make disciples and grow more intentional in this regard too.

So here’s my question and challenge: which one or two of these areas of our Church life are you going to get involved in in 2021? Or, if you have a different idea and you think I’ve missed something crucial, what is it and how are you, and we, going to put it into action? 

There is a video recording of this letter at https://emmgroup.org.uk/2020/12/16/ideas-for-2021/ but I thought it would be good to start 2021 by writing you all a letter. We all like getting interesting post!

May I wish you all, or hope you’ve had depending on when you receive this, a very Merry, Safe, Faith and Hope-Filled and Joyful Christmas and a Peaceful and God-Trusting New Year for 2021.

Every blessing


1 thought on “A Letter to All In Our Church Family”

  1. Tracy Barford

    I am excited by reading this! I am definitely up for the zoom prayer! xTracy B

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