Changing Times, Changing Seasons

by MARY MCKENNA

Convener of Council

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As winter grips we look forward to cold crisp days and huddling in by the fire. It’s all change, the colourful T-shirts are swapped for warm jumpers as the trees shed their leaves. We are accustomed to these seasonal changes and trust that spring will come, again, bringing new life and colour to the world. At St Mark’s we are in a period of change. We have a new part time Minister, with lots of energy and new ideas, an interesting programme of services ahead, new service leaders and a new Council.

Change can be difficult for many of us. It means letting go and embracing new ideas, meeting new people and finding new ways of working. At St Mark’s we are starting to consider what really matters to us and what may need to change as we move forward.

We started this process in the Conversations at the AGM. Many interesting themes emerged, and notes of these Conversations have been circulated. We are already working on some of the issues which emerged, such as the sound system. The Ministry Team are exploring ideas for services next year and, with everyone’s green gifts, Peter has refreshed our plant shelves and our outdoor space. More significantly, the Conversations highlighted the desire for greater participation and improved communication within our community. These themes are fundamental as they pervade all that we do, and how we do it and I hope we can better address them in future.

In September our new Council meet for the first time and we started our meeting with a vision exercise, expressing our hopes for St Mark’s in five years’ time.

• We will be a heart centred people, ambitious, radical, vibrant, diverse community.

• We want our community to become bigger, inclusive families, active, more outward looking and meeting the needs of the next generation.

• We want our ministry to reach beyond Sunday services,

exploring and meeting a wide range of spiritual approaches, open to different forms of worship, with a full time Minister.

• We want our building to work for us, stable, accessible,

brighter with a good sound system.

• We want to be financially sound, agile in our decision making, with responsibilities shared among a large number of resourceful volunteers.

• We want to demonstrate our values in action, outward looking, connected to the wider community, A beacon of Unitarianism.

These ideas are just the start of the discussion as we are keen to share them to stimulate further discussion and build our shared vision for St Mark’s for the future. We need everyone’s support, energy and ideas to make this happen. Please share your views, comments and ideas about how you can contribute to this vision by speaking to Peter, myself and members of Council.

We are challenged to become more outward looking, more dynamic, more inclusive, and thereby creating a more diverse community. If we are to grow, to become sustainable in the future, then more people need to know about us and our radical approach to spirituality. We need to raise our profile and become more relevant to the next generation. This will require us to review and refresh all our communications and to embrace social media more effectively.

On a practical note, we have been working on an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for financial support to fund problems with water ingress in our basement. Though the indications at the first stage of our bid were positive, we have found the challenges in preparing a full application, without the help of a conservation architect, in the next three months, untenable. More importantly, we have been advised that a successful application should secure funding from several sources, that we need to develop partnership with other organisations, actively involve people in our heritage and demonstrate our commitment to the wider community. We therefore have a lot of groundwork to do in preparation for a full application next year.

So, lots of change ahead to become the inclusive, sustainable, enquiring, welcoming community that we aspire to be. As John F Kennedy said:

‘Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future’.

This’ll require us to move up a gear and to embrace change proactively. Maybe it is time to prepare to awake from our slumber and emerge as the colourful community of radical butterflies we aspire to be.

If you wish a copy of the Vision Mind Map, or the Cafe Conversations, or wish to add your views and ideas please email me at stmarksconvener@gmail.com