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Like Tending a Garden

by Rev. John Kronenberg

A few weeks ago, the Sunday after Pentecost, we began the church’s season of Trinity. Trinity is a long season which will take us all the way through to Advent, towards the end of the year. It’s no surprise that the liturgical colour we use in church for Trinity season is green, because we focus on the faith of the church as it grows in the midst of the world. So, this is a season that reflects what is happening in nature all around us as the leaves grow on the trees and crops begin to flourish and ripen. We can think of Trinity as the “growing” season during which our faith deepens and begins to mature enabling our relationship with God and each other to flourish.

Managing a church is like tending a garden. We have to do all sorts of things to encourage growth. Sometimes it involves hacking back and clearing the ground. Sometimes it involves planting new initiatives and hoping and praying that they will take root. All of the time, it involves nurturing both new and existing plants so that they will grow well and flourish. When the individual plants are healthy and vibrant, then the entire garden becomes glorious and self-sustaining, not just a collection of individuals any longer, but something greater, with a life and identity of its own.

In time, plants sow their own seeds or replicate in some other way, replacing those that have had their time, and so the cycle continues. The garden still needs tending, but now, it increasingly takes on a life of its own. A good gardener must be sensitive and humble enough to work with nature as the garden begins to develop its own character, recognising that nature is the source of the garden’s life rather than the gardener.

The Spirit is the life-force of the church, and to be a vibrant and lively church we must all be attuned to the work of the Spirit in our own personal, spiritual lives and to the direction in which the Spirit is gently leading us, or even sometimes forcefully pushing us to proceed. Prayer and being open-hearted spiritually is central to this task, not only our personal prayer, but our corporate prayer as part of Christ’s church, because discerning the prompting of the Spirit is not something that can be done by individuals in spiritual isolation from each other. That discernment can only truly happen when we see ourselves as parts of the “body of Christ” prayerfully and humbly seeking to work together in harmony for the greater good. That does not mean that there will never be disagreement or even conflict within the “body of Christ”, but the hallmark of authentically Christian discernment will be that disagreement is contained within the bonds of love and fellowship, so that the health of the body is not compromised. Love and kindness will always testify to the presence of God.

St John’s is a church that has decided to become a member of “Inclusive Church” only after a very long and comprehensive period of thought, reflection, prayer and discernment. I thank God that we were able to do so whilst showing true love and kindness for one another.

When our Archdeacon, the Venerable Moira Astin preached on the second Sunday of Trinity a few weeks ago, she told us she could see that “good things are happening at St John’s” and reassured us that our Diocese of Southwark will continue to support us as we work to resolve our financial problems and become permanently self-supporting. A sign of that support is that we have been allocated an Area Mission Grant of £4,000 to match fund a permanent data projector installation in church. This will enable new initiatives and much-needed further development of the second Sunday of the month service.

Whether it be the lively children’s and young people’s work, or the varied musical styles that lift our worship, or our practical concern for ecological sustainability, or the pastoral care we offer, or the house groups, or the new prayer group, or the friendly welcome for newcomers, all these things and so much more tell us that God has a future for St John’s. So, let’s be bold and confident as we work together and give generously for God’s church in this place.

With every good wish and prayer for our spiritual growth this Trinity season.

Revd. John Kronenberg


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