It’s an amazing journey being a parish priest, full of so many different daily challenges, personal and church, seeking to grow disciples, see lives transformed and to see God’s kingdom come. I’ve been Area Dean now for 18 months and it’s been a privilege to get a greater insight into some of the challenges each parish faces.

Seeking to help our churches grow is our daily bread and butter, at St Mary we’ve been on a journey in lockdown opening up the church, being more involved with our community, and they with us. This has borne fruit in people whether they come to help us out, or whether they come seeking help, often both and in the same person. Like many of you a key need is finding money, and about 6 months ago we were approached through Liz at Emmanuel Church by Felix who founded the company Sharesy.

I know many of you will have had some messaging about Sharesy and like me you might have had mixed feelings about what they are offering. As a smaller church with limited resources, even seeking to rent out the building requires people and work, which we didn’t have, whether that was to promote or to open and run the bookings. We were fortunate that we could identify a person who would be able to help with our side of opening and closing, but would pairing up with Sharesy really make any difference. We’ve been on the platform for 3 months now and we have seen an immediate uptake in bookings, mostly kids parties with a bouncy castle. We’ve learnt some lessons about how to operate the bookings, and we’ve made a decision to keep our prices competitive and aimed at community. It is working and we also now have some regular bookings in our two smaller rooms, which though only a few hours a week between them will make a big difference. For us we can use this income to re-invest into the hall – which is in need of some love, and help pay for the costs of a person who run this, and down the line we might be able to begin planning into using some of the funds to invest into events, people or projects. It’s still early days, but our experience of having an outside company help to facilitate the marketing and front of house for bookings is invaluable. There are other options, other companies out there, but for us this was the option that gave us most support, and as a smaller church that has made a huge difference.

There are also lots of conversations flying about, meetings and more encouraging us as churches to connect up, to work together for mission, to support one another, and to see growth. I know not all churches are in a place to connect in at this time, but I would encourage you to be a part of the missional conversations led by Peter. We are still in the early planning, thinking, and working out what, who, how and when, but it has been a pleasure to sit in a room with priests from across Islington and Hackney, talking about a desire to see growth, to see life in our churches, and to share both our challenges and our dreams. I don’t know what will come out of the conversations, but I believe firmly these are vital and necessary, that we seek to collaborate, to partner with one another, to step into spaces and conversations where in our praying and planning the Holy Spirit will be at work in our often so fragile communities and churches.