St James’ has the smaller congregation and is more visibly Catholic in its worship style. It has adopted many of the metrical settings of the Mass in a book format and often uses special sheets to enrich the variety of hymns sung. A cantor leads worship each week and provides much appreciated musical detail during Communion. For major services, a professional choir provides high-quality classical settings of the Mass, conducted by our long-standing and also excellent Director of Music.
Preaching is important to us and we are used to clear, biblical, and thoughtful preaching. This helps us to understand the context of the Biblical narrative and to explore our faith. We value sermons that explore our approach to inclusivity and are explicit in their welcome to all people, a welcome that is at the heart of our mission
The Sherriff Centre in St James’ Church opened in 2014. It was created by our former priest Fr Andrew Foreshew-Cain who saw an opportunity to use the church to provide a valuable service to the community when the local post office announced it was closing. It now has a Post Office, The Sanctuary Café, Hullabaloo, a lively children’s play area. Debt advice is also available to support those facing challenges in their lives. Take a look at their website here.
St James’: Offering God's Love to All
St James’ is well known beyond our immediate area because of our campaigning commitment to equality in the Church and because of our innovative creation of the Sherriff Centre to serve and engage with the local community in response to local needs. But we’re a small worshipping community and many of our members are rightly wary of additional commitments or requests on their time – though we’re fortunate to have resources that enable us to provide pastoral support in the week, administrative support, and two able and active clergy (shared with St Mary’s, one self-supporting).
In this plan we’re starting a process of deliberately doing a few things well in a set time period before reviewing, adjusting and moving forward. What follows are commitments for the period until our APCM.
We’re called to be a place and a people of welcome because God has welcomed us by reaching out to us in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one in whom we see God face to face, in whose life we find purpose and meaning for our own, and in whose death and resurrection we see the utter commitment of God to us, a love and commitment that endure even beyond death. Knowing that love, we’re invited to share it with others – indeed, to ‘offer God’s love’ - in everything we say and do. We’re a community that aims to be:
· radical in our inclusivity – welcoming all God’s people, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, or mental or physical ability
· liberal in our hospitality – embodying God’s love in offering the hospitality of our worship, our community and building; and through the work of the Sherriff Centre
· progressive in living our Christian faith – open in theology, ‘up for anything’, and supportive of those dear to God whose value the world doesn’t always see.
Specifically, we want to be:
· better at living our progressive vision of the Christian faith through a deeper commitment to social justice in action
· better engaged in the work of ministering to our community despite our busy lives
· better at sharing the spiritual life of the church with Sherriff Centre users.
Radical in our Inclusivity
We believe that God welcomes us with an abundant love. We seek to reflect that welcome in our relationships with one another – a welcome without boundaries or exclusions.
In this parish, we actively seek to welcome all those who have not always been welcomed by the church. Among these are LGBTI people, those with mental and physical challenges, those from the full range of ethnic backgrounds, and the young – both young adults (who are represented in large numbers among our parish population), and children. St James has not had a strong record of engaging with children in recent years.
We will in the next year:
Build on the changes already made by reviewing how we make our worship accessible both to participants and contributors from all members of our community
Provide resources for families and a dedicated place for younger children during worship and find ways in which they can participate as is appropriate for their age
Explore the possibility of a weekday ‘play and pray’ short service.
Liberal in our hospitality
Hospitality is basic to Christian witness and ministry, engaging with one another and the wider community in welcome and service. Creating the Sherriff Centre was a great response by this congregation to a need in the local community and our desire to be of service, and it involved a big commitment of time and upfront financial resources. It’s brought a lot of goodwill and a growing number of people who know this Church and its values.
We’re proud of our association with the Centre. We know we need to work hard at establishing good collaborative relationships with the Centre and its staff. And we need to continue and develop our own use of our facilities to provide a place of welcome and support to all in this community.
We will in the next year:
Appoint two members of the Church to serve on the Trustee Board of the Sherriff Centre Charity alongside Fr Andrew to support its work and to provide regular feedback to the Sunday congregation
Examine the way we welcome and follow up first time worshippers with us and seek to ensure that coffee hour is truly hospitable and welcoming
Provide better signage in the Church about the community here, the things important to us and places for visitors to the Centre to engage in prayer.
Progressive in our faith
We seek both to understand the history of our faith and to engage with modern thinking in a way that is shaped by the vision of God as the One who shares with us the truth that sets us free. Scripture, tradition, and reason – intellectual honesty – are all important to us. Preaching informs us; reading and study deepen our understanding. We are open to insights from those of all faiths and none, and we are willing to explore new patterns of service and worship.
As Catholic Anglicans, the sacramental life of the Church sustains us and strengthens our calling to live our faith in action. As a community, we have decided to support organisations that share our hopes for the Church as a whole – WATCH, Inclusive Church and Changing Attitude – and we actively promote a truly inclusive vision of the Church. We also want to take practical steps to live out our faith in action alongside all people of goodwill, of all faiths and none, who are committed to the flourishing of the community in which we live.
We will in the next year:
Run a lending library of theological and spiritual books that reflect a progressive vision for the Church, and encourage members to read and study more widely, for example through Advent and Lent Book groups
Invite guest preachers and speakers to broaden and deepen our understanding of our faith and to encourage us in our vision of God’s love for all
Develop opportunities for service (Camden Night Shelter and Food Bank) that show faith in action and develop our awareness of how faith changes lives - both ours and others.
Process and Implementation
This plan was created by first celebrating what makes St James’ special, by notes posted on a message board and through personal conversations. It was then developed by inquiring how we could better live our mission to ‘Offer God’s Love to All’ and articulate specifically what that mission was calling us to do. A parish questionnaire during a Sunday sermon gave everyone a chance to express ideas for how we could be better and grow in our mission. All of these exercises brought in significant commentary and feedback. A smaller group aggregated that information to develop this statement.
This mission action plan is ambitious for our relatively small community, but we believe that a bold vision has the power to draw us all more deeply into our Christian life together and to be an invitation to others to join us. It should be present in all the work that we do as a community, and be kept under constant review so that all our decisions are related to it. It should also help individual members of the congregation in their personal journeys of faith and service.
The practical opportunities identified here will be developed partly through engaging the congregation during coffee hour to allow everyone to work together to fulfil some of the tasks. These will include work to welcome children on Sunday mornings by assembling crayons and other materials into packs for younger church members. Future projects will follow including preparing for a Christmas lunch for older members of the community. Other projects will be undertaken by dedicated groups of the congregation recruited for the purpose.
A successful Christian community is not measured simply in numbers. We do we want to grow in numbers, but we’re more concerned to be authentically ourselves, and to flourish spiritually and together in fellowship and the service of others.
We pray for God’s blessing on this mission action plan and our work in God’s service.
St James’ Congregation