THANKSGIVING SUNDAY  27th OCTOBER  2019

 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the majesty and the splendour, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.  Wealth and honour come from you; you are the ruler of all things.  All things come from you and of your own do we give you.

These inspiring words of King David uttered some 3,000 years ago summarise for

each of us the importance of thanksgiving – thanksgiving for our faith, our church,

our Rector and curate, our church family and for all those people who serve our

church in such a multitude of ways.  We thank God that the deep faith we share,

leads us to believe that the crucified Jesus is the most definitive picture of God the

world has seen.  Here is the “BEYOND” in our midst with a vengeance.  Here, if

anywhere, is a cause of wonder.  It is a profound truth about the Incarnation that the

readiness to forgive and be forgiven is the most powerful weapon in the whole

armoury of love.  At the Cross, Jesus asks his Father to forgive those who are

nailing him there.  That is not only the key to how what seems to be wholly evil may

be turned to good, how the poison of hatred or resentment may be halted in its

destructive course and neutralised.  It is also a startling insight into the nature of

God who uses the Cross to assure us that, do what we may, we are loved and

forgiven, and that we only have to turn to him to know it is true.  Thanks  be to God!

We give thanks for the sacred ministry of this church of ours, which over many

centuries has encouraged generations of worshippers to pursue their spiritual

pilgrimage, so keeping the light of Christ burning as a bright beacon in this place.

Maintaining this pearl of architecture, however, is a costly business.  The weekly bill

just to keep the building functioning is about £1,300.  Due to the financial prudence

and generosity of our predecessors  we have not only been able to maintain the

fabric in good order and complete necessary repairs but have also added to the

facilities.  The building of the toilet block and provision of an indoor kitchen area

have greatly improved our ability to host a multitude of concerts and public

functions.   Our hardworking fabric committee wish to concentrate next on

improving the heating system and, at the same time, repair the areas of damaged

floor tiles.  A donation of £50,000 made several years ago is earmarked for this

project.  The Chancel roof will need to be repaired in the next few years.  An

estimate of £55,000 was submitted several years ago when the main roof was

repaired.  Our church organ also needs some urgent repairs costing about £10,000.

A generous donation has already been made for this amount so that work can begin

as soon as possible.  A proposal to provide cushions for all the church pews has

been costed at about £6,000.  We have already raised about £1,000 for this project at

a recent concert and hope to raise the remainder from social events.  The Malpas

100 Years On Committee has proposed that the original plaques on the War

Memorial outside the church be replaced by new ones that will include those names

of the fallen that were inadvertently omitted from the present ones.  The cost of this

project, I understand, is being met by the 100 Years On Committee.  At this stage I

would like, on your behalf, to thank the committee for promoting a very informative

programme of events and displays last year here and around the village which

delivered a stark reminder to all of us of the vast loss of lives in the Great War. The

remembrance included a poignant emphasis on the futility of war by the use of cut-

out, perspex models of soldiers in some of our pews and a wonderful display of

beautiful, hand-crafted poppies which decorated our church for several months.  I

believe that there are more events planned for 2020.  The tower clock has finally

been fully electrified and appears to be working efficiently.  A generous bequest by

the late John Wycherley covered most of the cost of that project.  You will have

noticed by now at the back of the church the presence of a swipe-card machine,

euphemistically called a Good Box.  Its main purpose is to attract visitors to

contribute by the use of a debit card.  So  far, it has realised about £200.  Anyone

can use that facility and, by filling in a form that is next to the box, may also claim

Gift Aid on their offering if they are a UK taxpayer.

We thank the members of the Fabric Committee and the parishioners who strive to

maintain this fine building and surrounds in good order.  Currently, we have about

£185,000 left in our reserves which includes several bequests for specific projects.

The PCC has decided to proceed next year with essential repairs to the heating and

flooring.  Last year was memorable for the addition of the toilet block and kitchen

area for a cost of £250,000.  The Buy-a-Brick Appeal and various social events

raised more than £15,000 and I was able to claim an extra £2,000 in Gift Aid.  Your

generosity and that of many non-parishioners ensured that we were able to

complete this very important addition to our facilities.  However, for the last 18

months or so, I have feared that the appeal masked somewhat the true state of our

finances.  On account of losing several very generous benefactors for various

reasons over the past 2 years, we currently find ourselves struggling to cope with

making ends meet on an annual basis.  I mentioned earlier that we need £1,300 per

week just to keep the church operating.  That is equivalent to £68,000 per annum.

So far this year, our giving up to the end of September amounts to £34,000.  My

forecast for the year’s total is £48,000 and, at this moment, that is an optimistic

estimate.  When Gift Aid is added, the yearly total on that estimate will be £62,000,

which falls well short of the minimum required of £68,000.  This is the first time in

my period of responsibility for Gift Aid, that we are falling short of that minimum

financial target.  I believe that it is vitally important for us to strive to reach an

annual total of £53,000 which, when Gift Aid is added, makes the £68,000 we require.

Otherwise, we will have to regularly dip into our reserves which should be

earmarked for repairs as and when needed.  Each of us has a part to play in our

church’s finances so that we must carefully and prayerfully plan our financial

giving.  We understand that it should be meaningful and sacrificial.  Too often

however, we allow years to pass without serious consideration of what we should

give financially.  I, for one, am guilty of this and only recently realised that I had not

increased significantly my giving over a period of years.  For instance, my income

has increased by 15% over the past 5 years whilst my annual giving in that period

has only increased by 2%.  Another aspect of our giving is that it should be regular.

Once we have decided what we should give and the timing of that giving, whether

by weekly envelopes, standing orders or cash on the plate, then we must faithfully

ensure that the church receives all that we have promised.  On behalf of the PCC,

therefore, I ask  all those of us who can increase their donations to do so in order

that we can fully maintain our splendid church for the next generation of

worshippers.

Last year, I mentioned that several people had spoken quite poignantly to me about

the support they had received from other parishioners in their moments of travail.

Both my wife and I have received large doses of that concern and love from our

parish family over the past twelve months and are very grateful that your

compassion has greatly supported us in our recovery from health problems.  This

compassion for our ‘neighbour in need’ touches something which is as deeply

rooted, as primary in human nature as selfishness.  I believe that whenever

compassion shows itself, even for a moment, it is like the sun breaking through to

light up an object, and if it is not a sign of our Godlikeness it is quite simply

inexplicable.  This compassion displayed by so many of our parish family is one of

our greatest strengths reflecting God’s influence in our daily lives and setting a

powerful example of the Lord’s ministry in this place.

We all from time to time, hear of, or witness, outstanding examples of compassion,

whether, for instance, in the NHS, the work of lifeboatmen and women, or, even in

our own village and church.   Last February I read about the work of a paediatric

surgeon at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.  In a TV programme he took

top billing thanks to his precision, candid bedside manner and tireless work ethic.

The doctor admitted that his family rarely see him because, as he put it, “I’m heavily

invested in helping people.”  What a wonderful example he sets of human

compassion.  We, in this parish, are extremely fortunate to have a pastor who also

totally invests himself in caring for every soul in his flock, bringing solace and the

sacraments to those in need, and setting a fine example of compassion for all of us

to replicate in our own lives.  So, today, we thank the Lord for the tireless

commitment of both our Rector and curate, in spreading his Good News in this

parish and village.

This day of Thanksgiving also gives us the opportunity to thank those who regularly

provide much awe and wonder in our worship.  The splendid musical contributions

that we enjoy from Stewart and the choir across the whole of the ecclesiastical year,

often present us with a sense of the sublime at what is beyond and other than us, so

that they lift our spirits heavenward and give us a glimpse of the Beyond in our

midst.  A recent example of this was 4 Sundays ago when many of us were inspired

by the choir’s stirring rendition of Stanford’s Te Deum at Matins.  We thank them all

for the time and effort that they put in over the year to enhance our liturgy.

We all have offerings other than money that we can bring to the Lord, in the form of

our time and talents.  Our church needs volunteers in many areas in order to

function effectively.  In particular, we are presently in desperate need of assistance

for the 2 generous souls who clean this building on a weekly basis.  Can you find

time to regularly shoulder the burden with them?  Be generous in the use of your

time and talents to assist in the work and mission of our church.  If you would like

to participate in any of the church’s activities, please speak to the Rector or one of

the churchwardens.  We need your contribution!

Whatever we give or do should be meaningful, regular and sacrificial and done in

the spirit of our own personal thanks to God for his great generosity to us.  Above

all, we need to remember that each of us has a part to play, an important part,

however small or great, in His redemptive work in Malpas.

All things come from you, O Lord, and of your own do we give you.  Amen.

Brian Fletcher