Weekly Reflection 6th – 12th September 2009

Posted on: Saturday 5th September 2009

Back to school…

As my lightwell fills with leaves fluttering down from the Vicarage garden, delighting my puppy, a similar feeling of delight spreads through me. Summer is, at last, nearly over. I’ve never liked summer much, especially since ordination has obliged me to sweat it out in unforgiving black. It’s fine on holiday, where shorts and t-shirts and five choices of salad are the order of the day, but in London I just seem to end up parboiling on the tube. Mists and mellow fruitfulness are more my kind of thing; but is not just the botanical and meteorological aspects of autumn that appeal to me. I love the back-to-school feeling too.

As a child I loved Mondays, with the prospect of the week ahead spreading before me, and would practically skip to school (I was a very Fotherington-Thomas sort of child). This feeling was amplified with the approach of autumn and the excitement of a new school year ahead. I started restocking my pencil case in July and I still get a thrill thinking of the dark blue tin of Oxford Mathematical Instruments (‘Complete and Accurate’), not for the possibilities they afforded of divining the mysteries of p, but for the hours of pleasure I would get jabbing classmates in the leg with my dividers.

I would hesitate before setting about parishioners in like fashion, but I still feel an obscure thrill at this time of year. New possibilities, new projects, new people lie ahead. Here at St Paul’s we’re gearing up for Gift Day, and we look back at the past year, look forward to the coming year, and work out how we’re going to support all the things we want to do. I went to see the Director of Finance at one of the most successful churches in the country recently to find out how they organise their funding. A significant part of it comes from gifts, he said. Are your people particularly generous?, I asked. We get one or two six- and seven- figure donations per year, he replied. Please form an orderly queue. Most, however, comes not from one-off donations but from planned giving, from Standing Orders. It is normal for around sixty to seventy per cent of the membership of London churches to have arranged Standing Orders. In this church, I have to report, the figure is around fifteen per cent, in spite of considerable efforts in the past to sign people up. We know it is a tough time for many, and six- or seven-figure donations may be a bit of a stretch, but if you haven’t considered filling out a Standing Order, may we urge you to do so? It enables us to plan more effectively, to get better value from our resources, and deepens the involvement of our people in the life of the parish. More to come on this topic, but do talk to one of the clergy, or a churchwarden, or a member of staff, for further details.

Quite apart from the material benefits there are spiritual benefits too. My former Bishop used to say that nothing pleases God more than the sound of a biro on a Standing Order Form. Biros also are available from the Parish Office.

Fr Richard Coles, Curate.