We gathered together at David and Isabel Josey’s church, Christ Church, Chineham on Sat 19th March. Thames Valley had picked the theme of 'Handing on the Baton’ and had invited the minister of Christ Church, Ian Bentley, to come and provide some input on this theme during the day.
After a time of opening worship we heard from a few Shechemites about times when they had experienced receiving a baton: Sally talked movingly about her mother and what she had handed on to Sally. David then talked about his spiritual director, Mary Ann, who was a nun when he knew her but had led an interesting life to get there! He talked about meeting her a couple of weeks before her death and how she had prepared things to hand on to David and Isabel.
We live on the knife-edge between the past and the future; our job is to ensure we hand things on. We had a time of prayer and various people gave their responses to the idea of passing the baton and the analogy of a relay race. One aspect that the use of this analogy focused our thoughts on was the importance of both people working hard to achieve a successful handover.
Ian then spoke; asking us the initial question "Why are we here?". He explained that he was thinking of what had brought us here, how our life experiences had led us to be in this place at this time.
After giving examples of this from his own life he talked about the importance of being intentional. When we look back at our life will we be no more than 'an unprofitable servant'?
Based on 2 Timothy 2 v 1-2, under the headings:
- The Pattern,
- The People (for example Moses and Joshua, Eli and Samuel, Elijah and Elisha, Paul & Silas/Timothy, Jesus and the 12) and
- The Practice,
he looked at (i) What to hand on (ii) Who to give it to and (iii) How to hand it on.
We then broke out into four small groups, to discuss six questions about handing on the baton. The six questions were:
1. Is this handing on the baton really important?
2. Who handed on the baton to you?
3. How did they do it?
4. What do you think God is saying to you about this?
5. How might you be involved in this?
6. How might you encourage your church to take this more seriously?
In the session before lunch we looked at applying the principles to our own churches and to Shechem, as well as some reflection on our own experiences of this.
We then stopped for lunch (of course!) and enjoyed the traditional generous supply of food at the shared lunch.
After lunch we went back into our groups and tried to focus more on devising an action plan to put some of this into practice, specifically in Shechem. We then met together back in the main worship area and Ian facilitated a plenary session where we showed the notes we'd taken and had some opportunity to talk together. Each group approached the questions in their own way but there was, unsurprisingly, some overlap in the discussions.
We moved on "family news"; firstly some "apologies for absence" from a few people, including Tricia Fowler - who was away helping her mother celebrate her 85th birthday.
Some other personal news from members included that Debbie has recently got engaged to David and we wish them well, and Sally is going to vicar selection conference at the end of March.
Then Michael and Sonia, Kathie and Graham provided an update for camp 2011 in terms of what we still needed: one key thing is invite your friends!
Mark, assisted by Abigail, then led the breaking of bread; for which we stood round in a circle and passed the bread and wine to each other.
The day ended with tea and cakes - and a list of jobs at camp needing volunteers to sign up for.
All in all it was a good day and we were left to consider how we can best make sure we pass the baton of the Shechem Community on to the future.