Associate Priest’s AGM Report – 2020
It has been an interesting first chapter of mission and ministry here in Bermuda, given that it began in a world-wide crisis! The nature of our arrival left us in no doubt that we were meant to be here, and it has been a privilege to work with Canon John, the clergy team, the vestries, guilds, and members of both St. Mark’s and Holy Trinity churches. As a family, we have been very blessed, and continue to be blessed by everyone. We are very grateful and thankful for all the love and support we continue to receive. The most difficult part in the early days was not being able to build face-to- face relationships with people. From the start, however, we were able to offer pastoral care and support via the phone and though social media.
The current crisis has meant we have had to do some serious thinking about what it means to be church, and an Anglican church to boot. So much of our history and inheritance has been tied up with church buildings and physical spaces. Strip these away and we have had to discover our collective identity – who we are in God – in new, daunting, and exciting ways. How do you keep spirituality alive when you cannot meet? How do you break bread together when being together has been almost impossible?
My heart has very much gone out to those who are disconnected, and for whom our Sunday gatherings are a very special, important, and significant part of their week. Some have been struggling with serious illness alongside their isolation. Thank God for close friends and families – and for our church family who have been reaching out and staying in touch. I would like to express my thanks to all those that have been involved in connecting with and blessing others – through the buddy scheme, through the food deliveries and voucher distribution, and for all the unseen calls and visits that people have made. Thank you.
As a minister, part of my role is to try and discern what God is doing; where God is at work, and how we can join in? It seems that things will never go back to as they were – at least not for the foreseeable future – and this will impact every part of our life together, our ministry and mission. For the young and healthy, much will hopefully return to some level of normality, however, life has changed, particularly for the most vulnerable.
Our Sunday gatherings in the church building were the locus of our mission and ministry. It was where people communicated, were supported, encouraged, connected with God and with each other. No matter how much we long to return to the building the important thing to note is that this will no longer be the case for many of our congregation. I recently spoke with a church member who has had limited connection with anyone from the wider church community and no engagement with collective worship for several months. This matters.
The first thing that God is asking of us is, how can we protect, nurture, engage, and support the most vulnerable and isolated members our church and community? To this end, we will need to look at the foundation of our church membership – our organisational structures, our modes of communication, pastoral support, our staffing, and the underlying technology to support this work. We will, of course, need to ensure that we are being good stewards of our finances – particularly of our debt, current, and projected annual expenditure.
The second thing that is on my heart is how we reach different groups in our community – the unchurched – particularly families and young people. Our approaches to sharing and living the gospel will undoubtedly be very different as culture has radically changed. Many young people have had little or no connection with Christianity. The methods we use to communicate and introduce people to Jesus, and the way they will be sustained in that encounter, will look different to the way they were in the past. We will, of course, retain our heritage and everything that is helpful, useful, and profitable – in the ways in which we worship and be disciples of Jesus – however, the language, music, format, timing, and liturgy may well look different.
Finally, the thing that is perhaps most vital, is our own personal walk with God – our own spirituality. If you’re like me, it is very easy to get bogged down with work, go through the motions, and even give time in loving service, but still neglect my own spiritual life. We need to remain in God’s love, spend time in personal prayer and devotion, get re-charged, and allow God to minister to us, heal us, and guide us. Only then will we be transformed from the inside out, and be truly effective ministers, together, for Christ in the world.
To sum up. We need to be looking inwards – to the church, that together we may be sustained and nurtured. We need to be looking outwards – to the spiritual and physical needs of those in our wider community. And we need to be looking upwards – to our Lord who blesses and nourishes us by his Spirit.
Yours in Christ, Revd Gavin Tyte