Annual Church Report

Introduction

Our annual church meeting is on Wed 15 July on Zoom (details will come out in our weekly email).

It will be a prayer meeting, with time to look back and give thanks to God, as well as to pray for the future.

This report gives an overview of what’s been happening at CCE over the past year. Actually, a bit more than a year, because Covid lockdown has delayed this year’s annual meeting by a couple of months!

Please take time to read through the report. Naturally we will tend to read the reports about things we are involved in ourselves – but this is a great opportunity to find out about things that you aren’t part of too.

At our annual meeting there will be time for any questions or comments about any aspect of church life. We will also be appointing new members of our church council – we are looking to fill 5 places this year.

Overview of the year

by Ed Pennington

It’s hard to sum up the life of a church in a few pithy paragraphs. Christ Church Endcliffe is our home – a family to belong to, to turn to, to listen to. For 11 years now it has been a church that has been a joy and privilege to be a member of. For 11 years now it has been a church that has been a joy and privilege to serve. What follows are a few reflections on the past year and a bit of that.

Since our last annual report we have had teaching series on the Fruit of The Spirit, the second half of Romans (much of which is about life in the Spirit), Malachi, Luke 1-4, Jonah, 1 Peter, Psalms 23-27 and now Mark’s gospel.

One of the overarching themes has been the faithful character of God – one who saves according to his mercy, who keeps his promise, who has compassion on the lost, who understands the suffering of the world, and who is with us to shape our hearts to be like his own. In a year where much has happened to remind us how little we are in control, it is great to know the one who is.

I think the past 14 months have been significant. Last year we were still feeling the effects of going from two services back to one. In the months that followed, we realised another issue – we had inadvertently become a church where young families felt immediately at home, but others found it much harder. Symbolic of this was that we were providing food after services for children, but for no-one else. Evidence of it being a problem was that we had had only four people join us in the previous two years who were not a family with young children. 

A focus on how our time together on Sundays worked led to a different system: simple meals for everyone, better use of the building to allow quiet(er!) conversations among adults, and conversations trying to address the wider issues. All of this amid the backdrop of increasing numbers of families.

The work is not done. And the recent death of George Floyd in the US has prompted a new set of questions: how can we be a church that people of different race, or ‘class’ can come together as one and without there being a majority subculture to which all minorities feel forced to conform?  But whilst striving for more, we can give thanks to God for the change that we have seen.

The year has been one of marked numerical growth. Having had about 150 people at church each Sunday for a few years (and with the number of adults within that slightly decreasing), this year we saw a big increase so that before Covid lockdown set in we were seeing over 190 each week.

The children’s work has continued to expand in both age range, and overall number. About a month after we saw over 70 children for the first time, we had over 80 one Sunday. And during the week Forge (for 14+), and Pathfinder Bible studies (11-14s) have been added to what was already happening.

Our membership list has also increased from 97 at the last report to 105 today (with 8 having left and 16 joined).

Our growth has brought the capacity issues in the church building back to the fore, and options for how we seek to continue to grow will be on the agenda for our church council in the coming year.

I often go to Diocesan events, or national conferences where “every member ministry” is talked about as a desired, yet somehow out of reach, ideal. My response is always humble gratitude for the amazing way in which the church family at CCE are so involved in serving the Lord and each other in so many varied and gifted ways.

It’s also a great joy to be part of the staff team. This year we’ve been joined by the Tanner family as Ben serves as our curate, and although technically I am supposed to be training him… (you can finish the sentence!). He’s also had the same bag of mints on his desk all year, and I’m not sure he’s realised that I’ve kept refilling it when he’s not looking. I’ve been hoping he would think it was like the widow’s jar in 2 Kings 4.

Anna has also started serving as church administrator, and not only streamlines the way we work, but brings a great warmth to the task – a great gift since she sends out the majority of communications to the church family.

Sarah continues to be involved in lots of our front-line children’s ministry, and also leads the children’s teams which in total include over 60 people. There really aren’t many churches which have children’s work as large as ours, and this is in no small part due to the way she had led this ministry over the past few years. This year, she has been amazingly assisted by Lucy, who has done more and more children’s work, in part out of the necessity of her being the only trainee this year, but also because it is helpful preparation for next year when she will leave CCE to become the children’s and youth worker at Holy Trinity Norwich. Lucy, we will be both delighted and miserable to see you go!

Rob’s gift of encouragement makes him a great blessing to any team. As well as overseeing our growth groups and pastoral care on our “building up” side, he has also headed our enquirer groups – starting 3 brand new courses as well as repeating CE and LE that we’ve done before. His commitment and love for individuals is a great example of Christ-likeness, and a great blessing as a friend.

Finally, special thanks to Jon Bradley and Lucy Hinds who have been serving as our wardens. They are faithful pray-ers for our church, and for the staff team in particular. And they have given wise counsel, challenge and help.

It would be easy for this year’s report to mention Covid-19 in every paragraph! I’ve tried not to do that, but it has of course brought significant and unexpected changes.

We are thankful that so far none of the church family has died from the disease, but many have been directly affected by having to shield, or by working on the front line of the NHS. And the wider effects have changed life for us all.

Church online is…OK. It’s been great that we have been able to do what we have been able to do – and it’s another debt of thanks to the staff team in particular, who have been able to adapt so quickly to a new set of challenges. Maintaining family life this way is hard though – and if that’s true for those of us who have been at CCE for many years, it is much harder for those who are new, or even who have joined us since lockdown.

The general sense seems to be that people are finding their Christian life harder than before. In a way, that’s as it should be – it shows that normal church family life is a blessing that does us good! However, we can pray for and expect extraordinary grace for an extraordinary time, and we are safe in the hands of our God who promises that he will keep us from falling, and present us before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy. To him be the glory.

 

Ministry Reports

It is amazing to see the many ways in which people serve in the life of CCE and of course, this is but a small part of whole lives lived following Jesus. Much more could be said about how Christ is honoured and served in the workplace, in family life and in the community.  

To all those involved in all these ways: thank you for all that you do as part of Christ Church Endcliffe, and for the partnership in the gospel we all share.

You can expand the links below to read reports from our different ministry teams. Thank you to everyone who has contributed.

by Sarah Bradley

Cabin is our weekly Friday night “Youth Group” at church. It is for all those in Pathfinders and Forge plus any friends they’d like to bring along. It fits into both our “build” ministry area as we aim to encourage our own young people in their faith, and also the “reach” ministry area as we seek to reach out to the friends that our young people bring along.

Our numbers has decreased slightly as our older young people (Forge) have outgrown it but we regularly have 10-12 young people, and we play games, (a lot of table tennis!) do crafts and have a short 5-minute talk to introduce the young people to Jesus. We will need to work out how to cater for the Forge age young people, and are considering if we need to have something else for them on a Friday evening (Y10+).

Two highlights have been the Cabin Day of Fun when we went to a trampoline park had lunch, and caught the train back to church for the service, with a film after and the Christmas Posh Nosh. Both occasions saw non-Christians coming along and enjoying the activities, but also hearing the gospel clearly explained.

Prayer Points

  • Please thank God for the team who work extremely hard every Friday and Sunday to look after our young people. Please ask that God will sustain them as they write talks and spend time talking with the young people. They have not taken a break since lockdown and are still working hard each week with various groups.
  • Please thank God for the young people who come along. For those from Christian families, please pray that they will take ownership of their Christian faith, that they will decide for themselves that Jesus is the only way, and may their lives reflect that. For those who don’t yet know Jesus, please pray that they will come to know him, and love him as their Lord and Saviour.
by Andrew White and Jenny Hills

Catering has continued to enable more people to stay around after the Sunday service, enabling greater informal interaction and encouragement.  It also serves to enable a better welcome to visitors each week.  Sunday catering is only possible thanks to the willingness of the head chefs who take a lead on producing a meal for a particular growth group when they are on catering, and others in the growth group helping out with preparation, serving and washing up.  Over the last year we have been reviewing catering provision and trying different meal options, looking to balance sustainability and quality with value for money.

The various events that have catering have been catered for by different teams, and we are thankful that people have been willing to lead the catering at these events.

Please give thanks for:

  • The people who serve in the kitchen
  • Each growth group having at least one person willing to take a lead on catering
  • Members of each growth group supporting this ministry
  • Food being generally well received
  • The meal enabling families to stay around after the service, enabling greater informal interaction and encouragement
  • Safety and good hygiene with food preparation and serving
  • Minimal waste each week
  • Ongoing review and refinement of the meal provision

Please pray for:

  • Succession planning – equipping others to be able to cater and ensuring that all those leading on catering have a food hygiene certificate.
  • Jenny Hills as she takes on oversight of the catering
  • Wisdom in establishing what catering looks like as and when it can restart
by Lucy Hinds

One of the ways we aim to reach out into our community is by partnering with Christians Against Poverty (CAP) to run the Life Skills course.  Life Skills is designed for people living on a low income, helping to equip them with skills in budgeting, healthy living and healthy relationships.  It also provides a place of community and belonging, with opportunities woven in to share the gospel and invite members to be part of the life of the church.

 

Our hope is that as we reach out practically and build relationships, people will come to understand how much they are loved and valued by God, in a society where they may feel unloved and undervalued, and to hear how God can meet all our needs.

 

Since 2018 we have run 3 courses, with a small number of people attending, from a variety of backgrounds.  We thank God for the opportunity that each of the course members has had to hear the gospel and to experience something of the love of Jesus through being part of the group.

 

Thank God for:

  • The work of CAP, equipping the local church to provide practical help to those in need
  • The recently invigorated team, with enthusiasm to continue the work we’ve begun
  • Those who have already been helped through the course, and for the impact of the gospel in their lives

Please pray:

  • For wisdom to know how best to run the course in light of the COVID19 restrictions
  • That as a church, we would show God’s love and compassion for the poor
  • For opportunities to build links within our community, to reach those who would benefit from the course
by Sarah Bradley

Children’s Church meets every Sunday during the service and takes children from Y1-Y6 – this is the first year that we have had children in every school year.

We have 32 children in the Scout Hut and they are split into five age groups (Y1, Y2, Y3-Y4, Y5 and Y6) where we explore the same Bible passages as the adults, using games, craft, drama, talks and Bible studies at age appropriate levels.

The main aim of Children’s Church team is to support the parents of the children in their role to bring up their children to know and love the Lord

We are currently too big to fit into the Church building and so we walk down to the Scout Hut on Botanical Road, which can be time consuming and awkward on days when it’s raining/snowy – and next year we will be even bigger again!

We have increased the number on the team to help reflect the increasing demands of more children, and children needing extra support and safeguarding advice. The team are incredibly hard working and dedicated to the children in their care. They think creatively, teach faithfully and pray for each child.

The Team have really benefitted from the 2:45pm mini-service, hearing the sermon for themselves and also just before they are about to teach the same passage to the children has been both helpful and refreshing

Post Lockdown

The aim of what we are trying to do in children’s church hasn’t changed at all -the responsibility of the child’s spiritual life still lies with the parents, and so our role as supporters of this is to now supply materials so that parents can do “Children’s Church” at home. Obviously this will look very different in each family and so notes are written each week to go alongside the passage we are studying on a Sunday, but with the aim of being really flexible so each family can tailor them to their own needs either throughout the week as Family Worship Times or as a session on a Sunday. There are also sheets provided to keep them following the sermon as best as possible (though these often need parental interaction which can be tricky when they’re trying to listen to the sermon themselves!)

We have begun to send out a weekly newsletter to all the children in Children’s Church and Sparklers with games, challenges and videos from their leaders to encourage communication and let the children know we still love them and miss them!

 

Prayer Points

  • Thank God for all the children that come along. We love teaching and encouraging them. Please ask that each one will accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.
  • Thank God for the Children’s Church Team!
  • Please continue to pray for Sarah and the trainees as they prepare the materials each week. That the notes would be helpful, creative and above all biblical – so that God can be clearly seen through his word, and through the person of Jesus in the Holy Spirits power.
  • Pray for parents as they navigate parenting through this difficult time.
by Daniel Timms

This year at ECC we’ve had a lot to talk and pray through, with the purchase of Bannerdale Road, changes in the Sheffield diocese, ongoing conversations about church family meals, and more recently working out how to continue as a church family while we cannot meet in person. In all this  we have felt really supported by the church family.

 

I joined ECC a year ago as secretary, and (as well as having to brush up on my minute-taking skills) it’s been a privilege to be part of these conversations. The last year has seen our church family growing, and that raises lots of “good problems to have”, like how we best use the building, how we make sure people are being looked after, and where we should use our resources to best invest in God’s work through our church. It’s been amazing to see how God has provided for us financially. Each ECC member is a “link” to a few ministries – I link up with women’s ministry, tiny toes, and tech. I knew very little about what was going on in these ministries before taking this on – it’s been great to learn more about how God is working through big events and weekly meetings to bring more people in contact with his gospel.

 

Finally, I’m grateful for being part of a supportive and friendly group, where everyone is committed to our church vision of glorifying God, reaching out, building up, and sending out. Disagreements are worked through in a spirit of wanting to come to the right decision. Every month we meet in a different member’s house (until recently) and it’s great to be together and catch up over the coffee breaks (and excellent accompanying biscuits).

by Gillian Smith

In crèche we aim to support a safe and happy environment for our babies and toddlers. The majority of the time we have free play; with a story time, singing and a snack towards the end. Depending on the children we also sometimes have a craft.

It is such a privilege to serve the youngest members of our church in this way, as well as serving their parents. We hope to make the crèche an environment children feel is a positive place to be, so that parents are free to be in the service. For many parents, this is the only opportunity they have all week to sit and listen to God’s word without interruption.

Our main change in the past year has been moving crèche to behind the screens in the hall. This has made the environment much safer, especially for those keen to escape. We thank the Sparklers for being open to change and for those keen to set up after the service for waiting for all the children to be collected before moving the screens.

Thank God for…

  • A growing crèche!
  • Continuing to keep our children safe in crèche
  • Providing a dedicated team who have read hundreds of books, played with all sorts of toys, comforted those feeling sad, and have sung about every colour tractor imaginable!
  • That before our children even reach their first birthday, they our hearing about God’s love for them. What joy to see such small children learning actions for songs that praise God.

Please pray for…

  • When lockdown ends the transition back to crèche will be very difficult for many of our toddlers and babies as well as some parents. Please pray that we would help them feel secure and happy.
  • Continued safety for the children
  • That each and every child would come to love Jesus as their Lord and Saviour
by Sarah Bradley

The Den is an after-school club that meets once a month for children, with Reception to Year 2 meeting as “The Den” in the church hall, and Y3-Y6 meeting as “Den+” in the church worship area. The Den/Den + is one of our ‘reach out’ ministries at CCE, which means it exists to give an opportunity for our children’s friends and other children in the local community to meet Jesus in a fun and exciting way. We aim to do this through engaging activities, such as games, craft and bible teaching. This year we have been exploring stories Jesus told.

We have averaged about 18 children in Den and 10 in Den+ and about a 50/50 split of non-Christians/Christians, for the second year running which is absolutely fantastic. We are very grateful to God and the parents and children who bring their friends along each week.

We are yet to see any of these families come along to church, however we have seen them at other events which has been encouraging.

Our session structure has continued much the same, video/talk and discussion time at the beginning of the session – once everyone has arrived – with a quick “settle in” activity beforehand and themed craft and games after for the remainder of the session.

Team is generally made up of staff team, CCE ministry trainees and whoever else we can manage to recruit in the week leading up to the event. This means that managing the team has been particularly difficult this year with one or two months when we have only just had enough people to go ahead with the session. This has continues being a real exercise in trust, with God will providing either fewer children on that week or a team member at the very last minute!

Parents are continuing to meet for coffee whilst their children are at the Den. Give thanks for the parents who put their time and resources into this, and please pray that this area of the ministry would continue to grow, and that God would bless them with opportunities to build relationships, talk about their personal faith, and invite families to church.

In October we held a Den Big Day where we were all Spies along with Joshua in the wilderness and marching around Jericho. We had a blast (pun intended!) with lots of games, craft and the return of the super fun inflatable obstacle course. Everybody seemed to have fun – including the team!

Prayer Points

  • Please thank God for so many children coming to The Den/Den+ and Holiday Club this year. Thank him that we have been able to speak about Jesus at all of these times, and that we have been able to have discussions with the children about who they think Jesus is. Please pray that these chats will plant seeds in the children’s hearts and minds, and that they will come to understand who God is and he has done for them, especially as we haven’t been able to meet since March.
  • Please pray for a clearer idea of how to move forward with The Den – with physically meeting up being a long way off – how can we love and serve those who have been coming along?
  • Please pray that if we are to re-open our doors that God will provide committed team members.
by Rob Bridgewater

Over the past year we have been able to change – a little -how we help newcomers find out about Jesus, how to have faith in him, and the difference it makes knowing him as Lord and saviour.  We’re realising a few things about explorer’s courses and series:

They don’t have to be seven weeks.

They don’t have to be for non-Christians.

They don’t have to be done face to face.

They don’t have to be led by a minister.

They don’t have to be explicitly about understanding Christianity.

They don’t have to end after, one, two or even three series.

Of course, we knew all this.  Yes, the traditional course-type events such Christianity Explored and Life Explored still have a place in the life of church. They take seven weeks, and they are thorough and high-quality resources.  They are great to use, but… 

… we’ve run a couple of shorter series: 3-2-1, which takes the perspective of the trinity.   We also now have Taking a Look, which can run in four or five weeks and was developed in South Yorkshire. They’re flexible to run in small groups or 1:1;

… people from church have benefitted – and I hope regained their first love – by going through Christianity Explored years after coming to faith;

… we’ve just finished running The Word 121 via Zoom – and it works surprisingly well;

… Wayne and M.E. Rebello, along with Wilkie Ludenyi have run “the Breakfast Club” as a follow-up chat to some of the series.  And there have been several 121s taking place, and the taster sessions for the Word 121 helped equip some to use this elsewhere;

… sadly COVID-19 put the brakes on running the Marriage Course as a gently evangelistic event, but with several people having done the online version, we hope to run this for those outside church later this year.  

… for some, Christ and Christianity seems really strange at first, and so being able to run several different kinds of event has served us well – those with an enquiring heart can continue to engage with God in all sorts of ways. 

Around twenty people have been part of these courses since we last reported – with some strengthening faith in Christ, and some coming to faith for the first time. But there have been disappointments too – preparing for an explorer group with no takers can make the heart sink a little.  But we’re simply called to be faithful because God has been to us.

What can you do?  Give thanks to God for growth. Have a look at what resources there are for you to use.  Pray for us all to be a little bolder at asking people if they’d like to find out more, and – most crucially – for the Holy Spirit to do his work among us.

by Ed Pennington

Equip is our discipleship and training programme.

When we first went back from two services to one, we had very regular Equip sessions on Sunday evenings. In the past year we took a “less is more” approach – instead of trying to have as many Equip things as we could fit, we decided to target sessions. When our teaching series raised an issue or topic, we could then have an Equip session (ideally the following week) to explore it more thoroughly.

So linked to our Romans and Luke 1-4 series, we had sessions on our relationship to government, on forgiveness, on predestination, and on the reliability of the Bible. These sessions generally had 10-20 people, and lasted for about an hour and a half.

In early 2020 we had some ministry team specific training. The music and tech team did the “Dwell Richly” course, and there were double sessions for the preaching and teaching team and the welcoming team.

Lockdown has rather put a stop to Equip sessions. I think that Zoom actually would rather lend itself to some styles of seminar teaching – but so far it’s remained on the wish list rather than the to-do list! 

by Rob Bridgewater

Among the highlights this year was one event just days before lockdown – the Andrew Peterson concert on March 12 was three days before our last normal service.  The church building was full, and he spoke to many through great music and words – including one or two who wouldn’t call themselves Christians.