We have much to look forward to in the year ahead within the life of our church family. In the early weeks of this new year we are considering how we can contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. We may feel rather helpless in standing against the current slide away from faith in the God of the Bible, both in the Church of England and in the nation. Yet we can each play a part. Jude urges his readers, any Christian, to “contend for the faith once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men, whose condemnation was written about long ago, have secretly slipped in among you…”. This is a responsibility we all have. The faith is something we are to struggle, agonise even, to keep. Jude, as we will see, teaches that this is done as we build each other up. So, whilst serving coffee, running a growth group, teaching children in All Saints Club, serving Sunday by Sunday, may appear to be practical, mundane even, they are all part of that struggle which ensures that the faith we have been given, is preserved. How so? If these things are increasingly left to a few, then it is so much harder to contend for the faith through sheer pressure. This is evident, of late, due my physical weaknesses (of which I am unashamed) because it has been a joy to see others help out. I need all the support I can get! I am committed to stand for the truth when Bishops are denying it; to lead us in taking decisions as a church which make my job harder; which is why it is such an encouragement to see us working as a team, coming to church regularly, coming to All Saints Club regularly, serving with perseverance. Conversely, gaps on the rota, poor attendance at All Saints Club or prayer focus, weakens our contending. Yes, it may be a struggle, but this is the responsibility of every Christian.
Another part of our contending for the faith is ensuring not only that we respond to those who change the grace of God into a licence for immorality outside the church, but also to guard our church family from those joining us who may do so from within. No church is immune from this threat. One aspect of this is our safeguarding which over the last 5 years has been sufficient. However, we need to tighten up in this area. Why? Rightly, the safeguarding policy which the Diocese have developed means that it is no longer appropriate for anyone to work with children, young people or vulnerable adults until their DBS certificate has come through. As many of you will know, DBS checks are for particular organisations, they are NOT universally applicable. You may have one at work, that does not protect you or us here. If you want a portable DBS, we can explain how this can be organised, but all our DBS certificates currently are not portable and for some, they have expired. We cannot allow this to continue. A DBS helps us protect vulnerable people. We will also be following good practice and taking up references for all involved in serving in roles where a DBS is required. We will also not just do the minimum on line training, but have regular reminders of vigilance in this area, particularly relating to HBC. Many may be concerned of past history or false accusations. But, with appropriate confidentiality DBS declarations actually help protect us from these. DBS declarations will only be known by me, the child protection officer (Linda Stenner) and the wardens. Such information will be kept in the office safe. Safeguarding is not an optional thing. It is part of our contending, in submission to the state (Romans 13) but also to heed the warnings of Jesus: “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung round his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Matthew 18:6. We must be obedient to Christ and to the authority of the state in this. So, do please come to our safeguarding surgery in room 1!
With much love in Christ, John.