The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead
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Holy Communion      7th October 2018
Vision, Mission, Strategy
Jeremy Fletcher

Genesis 28. 11-18; 1 Peter 2. 1 - 10; John 10. 22 - 29

How would you sum up Hampstead Parish Church in one sentence? That was one of the tasks the PCC set out to achieve when we came to renew the Mission Action Plan earlier this year. A strapline will not save the world, but it might just focus our minds and efforts and hearts and will in such a way that we are freshly inspired to be the people of God in this place. 

Some straplines suggest themselves from our readings today. “This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” “You are a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” “I give eternal life.”

On Dedication Sunday we both reflect on our heritage and look forward to where God is leading his church. Today we have released the Vision, Strategy and Mission document which the PCC has been working on, with its strapline. The whole process has been about the past, present and future of Hampstead Parish Church. On what foundations do we stand? Where is God at work with us now? And what is God calling us to in the future? We wanted to rejoice in our heritage, to describe our unique manifestation of the life of God, and to set a course to grow and flourish, with the help of God. 

The leaflet you’ve been given contains carefully chosen words. All of them are precious. Please would you first notice that they use dynamic and not descriptive or static language. 

Take the strapline, on the front cover. We are building an inclusive community of Christian love, faith, witness and action. I hope you can see all those things at work right now, but we have so much more to do.  

Take the mission statement. We aim to be compassionate, open, local, global, confident in faith, seeking justice, welcoming all, walking alongside one another. Again, I hope you can see all sorts of examples of that in the life of HPC, but there is so much more to do.

Take the vision statement. The verbs are active: growing, offering, helping, being creative, acting in partnership. Take our values statement. We aim to be inclusive and loving, reflective and experimental, transparent and accountable, accessible and participative. 

Any church, this church, is living and active. Of course there’s a building, and much of our life is expressed here. That’s why having a careful look at exactly how our building assists or hinders our mission will be vital. But notice Jacob, after he has wrestled with God. “This is the house of God” is expressed after a night under the open sky, not in a temple. 

This house of God is a focus, not a sealed container. We, in our relationships and groupings and friendships and partnerships, we are the house, body, building, kingdom of God. That’s why there are both aims and values here. It will be no good achieving an aim if in doing so we have not demonstrated the values we are called to exemplify. 

I’m going to use next week’s sermon to delve deeper into this document. For now I’d like to come back to the strapline, and the mission to which we believe we are called. Why should we be building an inclusive community of Christian love, faith, witness and action? Well, the word “Christian” is central. Peter in his letter describes Christ as the cornerstone, and the church as Christ’s building. He says that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. 

It is this to which we are called. So we are to be inclusive, to turn no one away, and to work on that inclusion, being a people of invitation as well as welcome. That means our community life will be an expression of the love of God, confident in the faith of the church in God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, aiming to let others know of the love of God in witness, and putting that faith into action, especially in walking with the poor, overturning injustice, feeding the hungry and welcoming the stranger. 

“Building an inclusive community of Christian love, faith, witness and action”. Perhaps you didn’t come up with that when I asked what your strapline would be. But I hope you recognise what we are already doing, and will be inspired by how we see that taking further shape in the future: in increased work among children and young people; in seeking to reach an under represented age group in the church, in expanding work with refugees and the homeless, in making our building environmentally friendly and flexible enough to enable all these things to happen. 

Dedication Sunday veterans will know that this is the time of year when we have concentrated on our financial commitment to the church. The release of a new vision statement is a good time to do this, and you’ll be receiving a letter or an email from me this week to look at this further. If this is your church, if you are excited and inspired by what is happening and what can happen, then please turn that into further commitment to support and sustain this mission with finance, time and prayer. I’ll leave that to you. 

If this is a spiritual house then may we take part in its continual being built to the glory of God. That is a mission action to which all the people of God are called. May we do so, with God’s help, in Jesus’s name, and in the power of the Spirit. Amen. 

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