Community and outreach
Summer at St Mary’s could become the title of a book. It has been my experience when living and working in The Netherlands in the nineties, that summer was really a time for “chillaxing” (not really a word, I can’t remember the word existed then). Summer and the Summer Holidays were then and are still now really about relaxing and ensuring that you are in a chill state. Enjoying free days, sunshine, and doing nothing as the theme of the season. In church the new season of being busy would only start in September with all kinds of activities.
So just imagine the surprise when I was expecting the same to happen in our chaplaincy. At St Mary’s we seem to be going into top gear during the Summer. This gearing is seen and felt at the end of June, when our vocabulary is punctuated with words like hosting, rotas, freezing space, cake baking, recruiting people. All this for a period where we are on our best behaviour! For six weeks as from early July we have the Summer Teas in which we welcome between 25 to 45 people every Sunday afternoon for tea and nibbles. All those people who have “chillaxing” on their minds as they are hiking, walking, cycling, admiring the environment on the Weldam Estate. Our role in this whole affair is to ensure that any visitor who stumbles in the direction of our Church and Hut have the opportunity to have some homemade “ambachtelijke” cakes, scones, pies and the like. We ensure that our Church has members of our community to share with these guests a little about our beautiful Chapel, how we got to this special spot and who we are as a Christian community with a location here in the woods. Guests who normally don’t come to church, but who can experience our community and our community spirit of course.
So Summer for us at St Mary’s is a time of sharing who we are and who we are becoming with the broader community. This is what we call outreach! As if this is not enough for such a small community as ours! Towards the end of the Summer we go even into a higher gear. Well this process has started in the winter already. We make final arrangements for the biggest Outreach/Fundraising event of the year, the Castle Fair. If I am correct this could be the 20th year we have this event.
What is amazing about it is that with each year the event has strengthened its foundations here in the Twentse landscape, so that it has become one of the events recurring in the region on a specific day, in a specific place, with a specific atmosphere, all which leads to one beautiful and glorious day. Over the years we have seen our numbers grow from a few hundred guests to more than a thousand guests in 2022. We are now in the throws of finalising our planning of the event, which is to take place on the second Saturday of September, the 9th this year. Our conversation again gets punctuated by words like cups, saucers, cakes, scones, cream, jams, preserves, stalls, stall holders, flyers, posters, toilets, electricity, dogs, dog show, volunteers, rotas, bagpipes, Morris dancers, chapel guests and more.
As you can imagine at this time, beginning of September, the organisers are eating, drinking and sleeping Castle Fair. Our aim is to ensure that people have a high quality experience; that they feel cared for and appreciated in the look and feel of our event. As much as the Castle Fair is our principle fundraiser as a Chaplaincy, this we also call outreach.
As you have realised by now, we at St Mary’s see the importance of sharing who we are as a community with those around us. It is our constant prayer that who we are and how we express ourselves in whatever we do, will draw others to the Lord and to relationships which enhance righteousness and justice in the world.
It is therefore important that we as a Chaplaincy pray for all those involved in making the Castle Fair a success and for all those who are drawn to us in who we are and in what and how we do what we do.
James reminds us that faith without works are worthless. Is sharing who we are and in whose name we are who we are, not works that make our faith worthwhile, in this place and this time we find ourselves as People of the Way?
We therefore pray for ourselves as a Chaplaincy as we open our hearts, minds and spirits to our neighbours, that God may restore and transform us so that others may be drawn to our Lord Jesus Christ and so we pray the prayer from the words of Isaiah 40:31
“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint”.
Yours in Christ as always,
Revd Jacque Williams