Not just another project
St Paul’s Ruislip Manor are part of a group of nine churches journeying together over 18 months as they seek to equip and commission ambassadors. Jane Manley, Vicar of St Paul’s, writes:
I have been Vicar of St Paul’s for almost three years having moved from the Diocese of Oxford. Church has always been a part of my life. My earliest memories are going along as a family to Trinity Methodist Church in what was then Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe). Coming from a Methodist family, but educated at a Roman Catholic Convent, I have discovered the richness of what we can learn from one another, and how we can support each other on our journeys of faith in different and sometimes very surprising ways. But it was not until my early thirties that I began to realise that God was perhaps nudging me in new directions, but also helping me to realise that being a Christian is more than just going to church on a Sunday and trying to lead a ‘good’ life. It has become an increasingly important part of my ministry to find ways to helping other people to discover the love of God in their lives, for them to see how God is already at work in their lives and in our local communities.
At St Paul’s, we have worked hard over the past three years to reach out to the local community of Ruislip Manor. Our church is somewhat hidden in the middle of suburbia and therefore we need to constantly remind people that we are there – how I wish the church was situated on the high street visible to all! But, surprisingly, the message does get out and 50-60 children a week at our toddler group bears witness to that.
However, when I first suggested to the congregation that we become part of the initial group of nine churches, many probably felt that this was just one more project that the Vicar wanted to embark on and yet more work for everyone. But over the weeks it became apparent that it wasn’t about doing yet another project, but more about reflecting on what we are already doing, both as a church and as individual followers of Christ.
We got a small group together who have spent time with the other pilot churches reflecting on how we can all become more effective Ambassadors for Christ. One of the initiatives we started was, about twice a month during the main service, getting different people to talk about what they would be doing on Monday morning (This Time Tomorrow) and adding anything that they wanted us to pray about. It proved a wonderful way of getting to know each other better and to understand each other more. It was good to hear from one of our youngsters who is in her first year of senior school, talking about the challenges of being a Christian in the classroom. She asked us to pray for their charitable concern – a school in Africa where the children do not even have their own books or paper. Others have talked about the challenges of being a Christian whilst coping with meetings and financial discussions at work.
During Lent we had two separate groups following Mark Greene’s ‘Fruitfulness on the Frontline’ course. This spoke to people in a very powerful way as they were able to recognise the difference that they were already making in their day-to-day lives, but also how to make what they are doing more Christ orientated and intentional. The course proved so successful that it has been decided to roll this out to the entire congregation during October, it will be interesting to see how that works within the context of a service.
We are also going to start using the material suitable for teenagers and helping them to see what it means to be disciples for Christ in their day to day lives and the challenges that they face in today’s culture.
I feel that being a pilot church has helped our church think more about reaching out to others, being more intentional in all that we do and to realise that each one of us can make a difference, however small. They are small steps, but steps towards being better Ambassadors for Christ as expressed in this prayer by Bishop Stephen Cottrell:
Make my life a sign of your engaging love:
May my heart be penitent,
My actions generous,
My words sensitive.
Fill me with longing to share with others the good news
I have received,
And anoint my life with your Spirit that Jesus be formed in me:
His tongue to speak in me
His hands to work in me.
And so through all I do, and all I am,
And with the people where you call me to witness,
May Jesus be known
And his kingdom established.
Jane Manley is Vicar of St Paul’s Ruislip Manor. This article also appears on our Ambassadors 2020 website.