September - the season of new beginnings. This is annually the case in schools and universities and many of us probably have it hard-wired into our heads that the new year really starts with September. Right now this is, of course, especially true of us at St George’s.
Following a wonderful licensing service, our new Rector, Lizzy, has begun her role. I’ll take this opportunity to tell you that she’s made a great start over her first few weeks. Many of you have seen that in her leading and preaching; it’s certainly been the case with things like meetings and management as well.
So at this timely transitional crossroads for St George’s, it’s a good time to remember who we are and what we’re about. Some of this simply requires a reminder of our vision. We’re all about sharing life and loving Leeds. God has called us to preach Jesus, make disciples, serve the city and send out leaders.
We preach Jesus because it’s all about him. We’re not going to lose that. We want to do more than just talk about Jesus... but we never want to do less. His life, death and resurrection are central to what we believe and how we live.
We make disciples (i.e. ‘followers’) because Jesus said to his disciples ‘go and make more disciples’. He didn’t say ‘make converts’ or ‘make believers’... He said ‘disciples’. Following Jesus is more than having a golden ticket to get to heaven when we die. It’s about being equipped with a glorious toolkit to help bring heaven to earth here and now. We are about the whole process of training people to do that. This is partly about learning... but mostly about living. But what we believe, how we think and how we live are inter-connected, and this is about that whole process.
We serve the city because mission (i.e.‘what Christians are supposed to do’) is not just about religion. It’s not confined to the 4 walls of the church. It’s not just about beliefs or heaven & hell, important as those things are. We’re also called to love our neighbours; to actually, practically reach out and love those around us, and with our city-centre location, it makes sense for us to think city-wide with this. With our new designation as a ‘resource church’ we want to be a hub of activity in serving the city of Leeds and partnering with as many people as we can in that.
We send out leaders in a lot of different ways. There’s been a pipeline of St George’s people training for ordination over the last decade, but this is more than that. There are many, many members of St George’s who are leaders in their workplaces across all spheres of society, but it’s also more than that. We know that we’ve been blessed by God, and we believe that when we’re blessed, it’s so that we can bless others. So we don’t just want to keep getting bigger (although we are always aiming to grow). We also want to give away our resources. We’re blessed to be a blessing, so we plan to send out leaders with teams and either plant new churches or partner with existing churches roughly every three years. It’s so exciting to be sending out Mark & Kathryn Harlow with a team of around 50 gifted, committed people to St Paul’s Ireland Wood over the next few months, and even this step is the realisation of several years worth of prayer and vision.
One last thought. In order to achieve our vision various things are needed, but ultimately a lot of it comes down to faith. That’s not faith in us, however, and it’s not faith in our vision either. What we need is faith in God. The God who flung stars into space; the God who, in Jesus, made the earth and then came down, put skin on and washed that earth from his followers' feet; the same God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead and offered us his New Life is the same God who has called us to this place and to these things. Today, at the outset of this new era in the life and work of St. George's church, he calls us to them all over again.