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Meeting of Parochial Church Council - 21st March 2023

The meeting began with thanks for those retiring from office at the forthcoming annual meeting, especially Ian Smith whose time as Churchwarden has been much appreciated. Ann Mason has also retired after giving long service to Deanery Synod.

We then considered matters from previous meetings which have now been resolved. BELIEF, whose Saturday morning courses at St Andrew’s had been popular, has now come to an end. Remaining monies have been dispersed among the supporting Churches, including £1,000 to St Andrew’s. Ideas for using this money included making Bible Reading notes and other theological books available to the prison.

Discussion followed about the Warm Room and all that we have learned from opening this welcoming space. It was definitely a good idea to open on each weekday so people did not have to remember which day the facility was open. Over 200 people made use of the Warm Room and found it a relaxing place. The use of comfortable furniture to enable a homely atmosphere was key to attracting people to use the room. The decision was taken to close it at the end of February but there are aspects of having this room available which all agree should be preserved. The room should be equipped for different users as it was when it was the Warm Room, so there would be toys for children, for example. It could be useful for small meetings, such as Bible study or prayer group. Probably its most popular use would be for informal or impromptu meetings as people find a space where they can sit and talk. The question then arises: how do we make sure this is a safe space and how can we monitor the use of the room? Whatever we decide, the room will not be open outside office hours. There might be occasions when a sign saying Room in Use would be displayed to ensure privacy for a small meeting. All these points must be considered.

Next we turned to the mission and ministry of the church. We were pleased to hear that three additional church members have agreed to act as Eucharistic Ministers, serving at the altar during Communion services. They are Diane Barlow, Ian Riches and Jenny Tomlinson, and we give them a warm welcome to their new role.

A proposal has been put forward that a Children’s Worker be appointed to work for 17.5 hours a week to support the Children and Families Minister, Elisabeth Sutcliffe, currently on maternity leave. Her role has been covered ably by Roseanne Kinvig-Love. We have all seen the amazing growth of the children’s work at St Andrew’s recently with a greater number of families with children now coming to St Andrew’s. This is something to rejoice over at a time when many churches struggle to attract young families. The role of the Children’s Worker would include:

* Helping to lead Sunday morning Children’s Groups

* Supporting Noah’s Ark and Messy Church

* Supporting the Children and Families’ Minister with administration and communication

* Preparing materials

* Helping to plan events and programmes

The contract would be fixed term for two years, after which it would be reviewed in the light of the changing needs of the Church community.

The proposal to employ a Children’s Worker for 17.5 hours a week on a fixed term contract from September 2023 was accepted unanimously. The Hall Trust has indicated that they would fund this along with the 20 hour a week Children and Families’ Minister.

Money Advice at St Andrew’s has provided a good service for residents of Bedford Borough since 2010. However, in January of this year the difficult decision was taken to close the service with effect from March 31st 2023. Very few clients have come forward for help since November of last year and in January it was decided that the service had to close. Our paid administrator will continue her employment until the end of March and redundancy terms have been agreed with her. Any remaining moneys will be returned to St Andrew’s at the end of March. It is sad to see this service being wound down. An event will be held shortly to celebrate the service and the work of the volunteers. The date will be publicised.

Caring for God’s creation is one of our aims as a church so Ian Smith, as Chair of the Creation Care Group, reported to the PCC on steps that are being taken. Meetings have already been held for any members of the congregation who are interested and a smaller group is undertaking more detailed work.

So far we have begun monitoring the energy we use in the building in greater detail than before. You may notice that the church background heating has been turned down, less plastic is being used in the building, more use is being made of electronic communication to cut down on paper use and more efficient light bulbs are being used.

Alongside these measures we have also been working towards our ECO Church Award, achieving Bronze Award already. We hope to achieve the Silver Award by the end of the summer and will then work towards Gold Award.

The Mission and Outreach Team shared a report with the PCC about funds which they have made available to the main charities we support, World Vision, Trussell Trust and Emmaus Village Carlton. Of particular interest was the Charity Concert for Emmaus on March 11th and Organ Recital which together raised £4,250. On World Vision Sunday we are hoping to have a visit from John Orchard who will speak during the service. Many of you will remember how well he spoke when we had our lunch in the vicarage garden last year.

Next we heard about the Planned Giving Campaign to take place in May 2023.

Lucy reminded us that giving money to the church is a discipleship matter. There will be sermons about this on May 14th and 21st with an accompanying leaflet to help us to review our giving.

There are different ways by which we can give to the church, and the preferred method is via the Parish Giving Scheme (which aids administration)

All churches need a Parish Safeguarding Officer and Sheila Bissell has fulfilled this role ably for thirteen years. She now needs to stand down partly because of her role on General Synod but also for family reasons. We thank her for all she has done and pledge our support to whoever takes on this role in her place.

Next we received reports from General Synod, Diocesan Synod and Deanery Synod. The main debate in General Synod received much publicity in the news as the report on Living in Love and Faith was considered. The motion to bless same sex couples was passed though the House of Bishops did not propose any change to the doctrine of marriage as being between a man and a woman. Sheila Bissell will give a presentation on this session of General Synod at the May PCC meeting.

Diocesan Synod also considered Living in Love and Faith with Bishop Alan describing it as the most significant process of listening that the Church of England has undertaken. He pleaded that our conversations should be conducted with love and respect.

Deanery Synod heard presentations from two Prison Chaplains working in the diocese with Anne Barker sharing her experiences working at HMP Bedford.

Under Any Other Business thanks were expressed for the Confirmation Service held on March 15th.

The meeting finished with Night Prayer.

Valerie Littleford

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