Church 21 – Annual General Vestry Report 2013

As reported last year, “Church 21 is the Church of Ireland’s National Programme of Parish Development. The programme has been running in Tullow for about 18 months and the ‘news from the pews’ has been a bit ‘up and down’!

A quick review of the 2012 report showed the ‘happenings’ as being – ‘Group formed’ – ‘Questionnaire issued’ – ‘church-for-all in March’ – ‘Through-the-Hatch coffee mornings’ – ‘Worship Together service format extended and linked to main festival services’ – ‘Email addresses exercise’ – ‘Church Reflections with the mirror installed at back of church’. Not too bad for the first year. However, there were also some ‘non-happening’ items that we expected to have, such as: Community Songs-of-Praise – new Outreach ministry – Additional volunteers.

Following the Easter General Vestry of 2012, there was a short meeting in late April with Sunday Club/Team Tullow on how best to move forward and encourage the younger people in the parish to get involved. A meeting of the parents of Sunday Club and Team Tullow was suggested for end-May but due to time pressures and other events, was moved to November to include a wider young parents group.

In May 2012, we had the Confirmation group host Morning service which proved to be a positive event in the life of the church. The 2013 Confirmation group will be hosting a service in the very near future, but more of that in time.

The summer months prove to be somewhat barren in Tullow – you can almost hear the tumbleweed rolling down Brighton Road as everyone takes to the hills, high seas and continental retreats. However, in September 2012, Frank Johnson kindly asked us back again to his home where we had a united service of worship with Kilternan parish, followed by a wonderfully sunny afternoon with several BBQs, some wine & great fun among all ages. Unfortunately, moving the service from 10:30 to 12:00 landed it right in the middle of rugby, hockey and other school sports as the schools started back slightly earlier in 2012 than in other years. We are examining ways and means to address this at a number of levels in the hope that we don’t have a recurrence this year – assuming Frank is kind enough to have us back!

In October 2012, the Archbishop launched the Diocesan Growth Forum for Dublin & Glendalough Dioceses. It was held in High School, Rathgar and clergy from the UK and Ireland spoke of parish development challenges and opportunities. The Archbishop hopes to encourage parishes in the united dioceses to find new ways and means to encourage growth and development. At this point, we believe that our involvement in C21 is very similar to the DGF and a decision was taken that we would continue with our involvement in the national structure of C21, while leveraging any useful material that might emerge from the DGF.

C21 adopted an initiative proposed by Graham Weir that we leave the church open after the 10:30am Service for private prayer and reflection for about an hour – essentially during coffee time. This initiative has been beneficial for those who have taken the opportunity to avail of it and it is expected to continue for the present.

November 2012 saw our Parents’ Evening take place with about 30 people attending a meal and discussion night. There had been some concern about the on-going, absence of our younger parishioners, and the C21 team had invited the parents of our junior and senior members of Team Tullow together, facilitated by some parents who had post-confirmation teens and young adults in their families and experience of dealing with church absenteeism!.

The group broke up into smaller teams and had some lively discussion exploring ideas that might encourage our younger members to be more active in the parish. For example, one group came up with the following ideas, among many others, but these are just a sample:

  • Would like to get to know ‘older’ members of the parish,
  • Encourage ‘older’ members of the parish to come to Worship Together Service.
  • Parents want to keep God/bible/church in their children’s lives.
  • More cohesive events to keep group parents/ children together socially as not all attend the same schools and they would like to keep bonds and friendships. Parish Hockey matches, Beetle Drives etc. felt Murder Mystery night was great as it brought whole parish together for fun and friendship (but was hard work!!!!)
  • Very willing to organise one-off events but were not willing to be on a committee/panel.

Another group spoke in the following terms:

  • One Worship Together Service per month sufficient. 30 mins max.
  • Suggested ‘activity’ followed by Family Service.  Walk, hockey match, picnic, cinema, ice skating, go-karting, beetle drive.
  • Great Tullow Bake-off with Service
  • Family Service run by teenagers
  • Avoca Manor kids + parents.

The next step for the Church21 team has been to collate the many ideas and then facilitate parents to start implementing them.

Our discussions around the Parents Evening of early November considered that we should adopt the following strategies:
– work with teenagers to do additional services beyond the ‘confirmation group’ service
– implement junior churchwarden roles (or other relevant current term), needing at least 2 people to take on this new role(s)
– resurrect an old tradition and arrange for a Parish hockey match with the occasion to be actively advertised for all ages to support.
– review the possibility of encouraging families to make arrangements between themselves and other families to ‘share’ children permitting the younger ones to come to church more regularly with those who attend on a regular basis – idea is to make sure the younger child doesn’t lose out on church and Sunday School/Team Tullow just because the older child in the family plays sports on a Sunday.

At the C21 meeting in mid-late November 2012, and in the light of the DGF, a decision was taken to retain the group title as ‘Church 21’ or ‘C21’. It was acknowledged that Diocesan Growth Forum allows additional opportunities to co-opt others onto the C21 team as DGF progresses. Secondly, during the ‘open church‘ time after mid-morning service, it was decided to promote prayer booklets in the body of the church.

December 2012 saw the inauguration of ‘Trim-The-Tree’ where families were encouraged to come along before Christmas to help decorate our Christmas Tree and enjoy some refreshments, music and chat. While there weren’t a huge number of people there, the event itself offered a new perspective on what is possible with a bit of initiative and work. With sufficient agreement and support, it is hoped to hold the event again in December 2013.

Well, January 2013 finally saw the resurrection – no, it wasn’t an early Easter! – it was the return of the parish Hockey Tournament. Thanks to the brave souls who bared and dared on a wintry day, we have seen a very successful hockey match run by Julie Savage and her team which was well attended by a broad cross-section of all ages of the parish – despite the chilling weather of the day! It is hoped that there will be future similar events – though we pray for warmer weather!

At a Select Vestry meeting in March 2013, there was some discussion about the entrance doors to the church being closed in the 5-10 minutes before the start of services. It was acknowledged that the reason for this was both economics and the basic need to try & keep people warm as once the front doors are opened, and despite the inner doors being closed – the cold air circulating outside quickly extracts the heat from the inner church. However, the Select Vestry felt that a notice on the outside of the church giving an indication that we were ‘open for business’ would be a welcome addition to encourage people to come in. As a result, the present sign was developed at short notice and placed on the entrance door. C21 are conscious that we need to show that we are not an inward-looking Christian community, but willing to reach out to the community, and make some effort to show that we are truly ‘open for business’.

On that note, C21 acknowledges that there is a lot yet to do – and we can’t do it alone! For this year, we’d like to see a Community Songs of Praise which may become an annual event. We need to implement the idea of Youth Wardens as a means to encourage our young people at church so they see what these posts are about and how they can make a valuable contribution to the life of our church – our Christian home. We need to develop an outreach ministry and above all, we need you – each and every one of you to come up with ideas, to offer support – practical and verbal. It can be difficult trying to lead a group into the future – looking around, looking back, looking forward and hearing little – even if it is negative as we can then try for the positive.

Church 21 is a parish initiative designed to help grow and develop Tullow into the future; that we all love the building is beyond question; that we all care for one another is beyond question; but is it enough to simply come along every week or every few weeks and expect it to always be the same? We all agree the heating is not what it should be; maybe the lighting and the sound system aren’t all they could be; BUT any living thing takes maintenance and our church is a living, breathing being in the worldwide church of Christ. It won’t, it can’t change without each of us. Will you be a lung to keep it breathing or will you be one of those only willing to offer resuscitation when it’s too late? I know we can and will find it within ourselves to renew our commitment to grow, develop and reach out into the future in the assured presence of God who helps those who help themselves. I’d just like to ask you to remember something the Bible tells us – it comes from 1st Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 14 – “Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” Each and every one of us is valued and respected and above all, needed.

Thank you.



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