Giles writes

Dear friends,

With the New Year comes all kinds of new things. Some are exciting because they include initiatives in both of our churches to expand our work with families.
Some are a challenge.
The exciting things are that, at Saint Mary's, a monthly 'meet and meet' is being started on a Tuesday morning, 3rd in the month, at 10:45 to welcome baptism families coming to the church.
Jill Nicholls will be leading this she has a number of Mothers Union helpers, but if you are not already involved, there will always be a need for more.
Jill will also lead the Mothering Sunday service, involving Saint Mary School families.

At Church of the Ascension, the long-running worship after-school group are moving into the school in the hope of expanding the numbers attending.
The Jigsaw family service continues to run in church every Sunday in term time at 11 AM and we are very pleased that a new family that have joined us.
We also have a new family who attend the 9:30 AM Communion service from time to time.
It is hoped that some children will come on a Sunday as well as to the school meeting?
Please pray for both of these ventures and the growth of our families work

Other excitement is about the seven people confirmed at Worcester from our parish, in November, and one who was welcomed into to the Church of England.
Five were young people and three of them have come to Jigsaw, almost since we started.
A big challenge this year has come out of the reassessment of the Diocesan share formula.
We first did it 3 years ago and you will know about it because you have filled in the income forms again this summer.
We ended up with a share which was manageable by both churches last time.
The church councils expected a similar Outcome this time, even a reduction because of our reduced numbers?
But what has happened is we have had very large increases in the new share assessment.
Although, it must be said, not as large as many parishes in the diocese.
The worst I've heard of is an over 90% increase (!).
It would be wonderful if the increases at share were because we've had so many people joining our churches that it has pushed up our income.
Sadly, that is not the case?

I wrote 3 years ago about the need to increase our giving in order to pay for the clergy in the diocese and for ministry and reaching out to new disciples.
We adopted the diocesan giving scheme and met with the Archdeacon, who also came and preached at both churches on the subject.
Giving did go up a little, so well done for responding.

We can't give what we don't have though.
Maybe we will have to carry out fundraising for the parish share?
It is usual in many dioceses.
The Church of England as a whole, and this diocese is no exception, are trying to support rapid and urgent ways of mowing churches because the decline in attendance and the loss of income is becoming a real threat to the future of the Church.
The General Synod meeting in February will be discussing ways to make clergy redundant at a cost that the Church can afford.

There are some dioceses already who are making clergy redundant.
The problem is, if there's not enough money to pay people then there simply can't be the job.
An article in the Telegraph for 5th January has more on all of this. So please do support our initiatives to grow the church and bring in new people.
Encourage your families, friends and neighbours to come.
There are leaflets available that you can put through their doors.
Personal invites been shown to be the most effective way of bringing new people to church.

But also, if you haven't increased your giving since last year, your gift is worth 2.5% less because of inflation.
If it hasn't increased for the last 3 years than the value has gone down by about 7.5% or a bit more?
Please consider if you can manage to at least keep up with inflation each year and ideally to give a bit more.
In order to make up our share we need to raise about 20% more at Mary's and 63% more at the Church of the Ascension, compared to last year.
I said we faced a challenge!

I'm hanging onto the excitement at reaching out to new families.
New disciples is what Jesus asks us to be busy with.
To do that we need to tell others about Jesus and infect them with our enthusiasm, so that they want to come and find out for themselves.

With love,