Annual Report 2013

You can download the full report here.

To get an idea of what we're about and what we've been up to, here's the Vicar's Report:

Vicar's Report

A key theme of ministry in 2013 has been responsiveness.

Looking back, there’s so much for which to be thankful. In the pages that follow, you’ll read about a community that’s fully engaged in mission, working hard together with imagination and enterprise for God’s purposes.

Celebrating our shared endeavours, it could be tempting to see all this activity as an end in itself. But look more closely and you’ll see that every area of our church’s life leads to something beyond our own ambitions and plans. We believe that in the day-to-day life and work of St Mary’s, we’re playing catch-up with God’s activity in Islington and the wider world.

Being responsive has been a watchword for me. Responsiveness means resisting the seductive appeal of designing our own experience of church. A vision that is merely distilled from our own thinking, which seeks to conform the world to our preferred model, is likely to be an unhelpful fantasy. And, at the other extreme, reacting carelessly or being anxiously driven by the world around us would make us hopelessly exhausted and ineffective.

With this in mind, it’s helpful to recall that our parish is dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Mary modelled a responsiveness to God that I recognise as our calling too. She was initially surprised that she should have a part to play in God’s mission but her humility was balanced with confidence. So, despite her surprise, she responded, “Let it be to me, according to your word.”

I can trace this theme in some of the most positive developments at St Mary’s in 2013.

We began the year by restoring the church organ. This wasn’t as the result of a long-term plan but the generosity of the bequest in memory of Alastair Ross Goobey enabled something of lasting significance to be achieved. It’s wonderful to hear the instrument played regularly and to know its future is secure.

We made the daring commitment to keep our church open to the public every day. It’s been a thrilling success, with many people coming into this special place to find stillness, peace and prayer. We did this in response to the people whom we seek to reach with God’s love and grace. It’s a startlingly simple thing. Instead of feeling vulnerable we have grown in confidence and faith. Several people have become regular worshipping members of St Mary’s, having first walked into the open church during 2013.

We were really pleased to increase the hours that Tim Broadbent works to full-time. Tim now leads our Youth and Children’s Ministry, which has grown substantially.

Our office team has seen a year of change with the resources moved from administration to ministry. It’s been a blessing to be joined by Annie Gurney, who arrived at the end of the year as our Administrative Assistant.

I was approached in late 2012 about the prospect of offering a curacy to Gloria Naylor, who joined us in the summer, following her ordination at St Paul’s Cathedral. Again, this was an unsought opportunity but in praying through the possibilities, I was sure that responding with a wholehearted “Yes!” was the right thing to do. Gloria’s ministry has already become an established and vital part of our work and it’s a pleasure to have her in the team.

It was heartening that our support of mission partners has improved and I’m very grateful to Liz Salmon for being a champion for this important and longstanding element of St Mary’s contribution to world mission. We ended the year in a much stronger position in regard to our support of mission partners.

Our relationship with our partners at SMICP has matured to the point where we can begin profoundly important conversations about aligning expectations and goals. There’s tremendous work done in our buildings throughout the week but it remains a challenge for the church community to own and understand it. In 2013, we affirmed our interdependence and we set a healthy foundation for the future. SMICP’s work through the St Mary’s Youth Club, St Mary’s Pre-School and the Community Hub is a very large part of the local social action of our church and it needs to be an even more visible expression of our participation in the coming Kingdom of Heaven.

I’m very grateful to Alexandra Lilley and the team for planning and leading a fabulous church weekend at High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon. With over seventy church members of all ages and backgrounds, we learned more about the God who comes to us in our vulnerability.

The context for all our worship and work is Islington and this capital city. I’m heartened that St Mary’s has remained open and inclusive while centred on God. As a church, we overwhelmingly support the full ministry of women and it was disappointing to begin 2013 knowing that for the appointment of women bishops we would have to wait yet further. We trust it won’t be long yet.

The general but slow recovery from economic recession has not benefitted everyone and shockingly fast rises in house prices mean that very few people are better off than they were. We want to do more with our local partners to respond to these needs.

In 2013, the Diocese of London launched its 2020 Capital Vision, and encouraged parish mission in three themes – confident, creative and compassionate. In almost every area of our church’s ministry, I can see these clearly expressed. This doesn’t happen because we dream dreams of our own devising, nor because we follow the latest trends and fads. It happens because we share together in a clear commitment to respond to God in this place. All of this leads me to heartfelt gratitude.

Our church grew significantly in 2013. We sadly said farewells to a good many people, who moved away or left for other reasons. But even more people joined us in the year, which ended with church attendances up by more than a sixth.

Looking forward, I hope that responsiveness continues to be the hallmark of our participation in God’s mission. That means worshipping God in response to his grace, doing our theology together in response to the world in which we live, and being responsively caring of each other and our neighbours.

All of the good things we enjoy come from God. We rejoice that we share our name with Mary, a woman of courage and purpose, and pray that God would fulfil his promises around us, in us and through us. Let it be to us, according to his will.

Yours in gospel partnership,

Simon Harvey, Vicar