Adam Wogan reports on Easter outreach efforts in Scarborough
Like many parishes, we at St Saviour’s, Scarborough have taken part in the LYCiG (Leading Your Church into Growth) course, during which we were asked to consider how the church might be able to encourage growth in three areas: spirituality, servanthood, and numbers. In an effort to develop this work we undertook what we called our ‘Holy Week Mission.’ Our aim for this mission was to offer opportunities for our church to engage with the people of our parish. As is true with other traditionalist parishes, we at St Saviour’s find that many from our congregation are drawn from a very large area, due to the relative lack of other such churches in our diocese. Consequently, this can make us feel disconnected from our parish, something that we think must change.
In planning our mission, it was important to discern what we could realistically achieve. It is very easy to allow minds to run away with the idea of huge evangelistic events and missionary ventures (something which curates have a particular skill of doing), but without the support of the congregation these ideas will remain just that: ideas. With an aging congregation and a small but dedicated group of active volunteers, we decided that our efforts would be most fruitful if we targeted specific groups using the contacts that we as a church already have, namely our relationship with the children of our parish.
We organized a children’s craft and coffee morning in which we taught the children the story of Palm Sunday and Holy Week, sang songs, dressed up in outfits, made banners for church and ate a lot of Easter goodies. This was well supported and started our week off with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm. We were thrilled that our local school, Gladstone Road Primary, upon hearing about our mission asked if they could visit the church as part of their RE syllabus. The children of years 1, 2, 4 and 6 were taught what we as Christians believe, created decorations and crafts for church, and all contributed to the creation of our Easter garden picture. These activities provided excellent visual representations of children’s encounters with God, all of which are now on display in church.
Further to this, our church was led in prayer and meditation before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in a service that was more accessible than the traditional Evensong and Benediction. This was a beautiful and powerful service which revealed the healing and strengthening power of Christ in the lives of his people.
As we approached the Triduum the vicar, Fr David Dixon, and I led an evening teaching session entitled ‘Holy Week explained: why we do, what we do.’ This, again, was very well supported and was well received by the people, who ranged from those who had attended church for over 60 years to those who were new to the faith and the recently confirmed.
We were taught at St Stephen’s House that the key to any church event is the catering (thank you Fr Feeney) and our mission was no exception. Dozens of cakes, legs of lamb for sandwiches, over 500 chocolate eggs and a dozen bottles of prosecco all provided the atmosphere we were hoping to achieve. We wanted our love for Our Saviour to be reflected in our hospitality to our people, the people who we are called to serve and the people to whom we have the privilege to proclaim Christ’s life-giving gospel.
Renewed by the work of the Holy Spirit among the people of our parish, we celebrated with joy the resurrection of the Lord. With a deeper commitment to him we build on his work in our community, and as we look towards the Ascension we pray Christ’s final words to his disciples, ‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.’
Fr Adam Wogan is the curate of St Martin on the Hill, Scarborough.