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Restore order and glory


The congregation around this time

Rev Graham Fenton was the Associate Rector of St John’s from 1977 to 1984. He passed away on July 17 2023 in Minnesota, USA. You can read his obituary here.


His report for the church in 1981 documents a time of restoration in the church.


“Restore Order and Glory”


The Building Committee appeal to the church for help

This was the slogan used on the fund raising pamphlet for the renovation of St John’s Church. I believe that slogan was inspired by God, for St John’s Church started 1981 considerably demoralised.  This was due to more than just a dilapidated building. My illness inevitably had a downbeat effect on the life of the church although a number of leaders did a marvellous care-taking job. Initially Jeremy Wex unstintingly gave himself to the pastoral care and oversight of the church in a way which evoked much gratitude and admiration; sadly Jeremy’s longstanding back problem meant that he too had to withdraw from leadership.  Other leaders – clerical and lay – continued to care for the church, but they were also sensitive to the fact that they did not want to seem to be usurping any leadership role which might have been mine. Saying it in this way seems rather egocentric on my part, but this is how those who took the help at that time have explained it to me! An inevitable consequence of all this was that the church was left feeling somewhat directionless and this caused considerable frustration.


Demoralised state – painful areas


Perhaps the demoralised state of the church had the effect of compounding two other painful situations, which arose during the year. The one concerned the possibility of the use of the Selby Taylor Hall by the Hill Nursery School. Distress and bewilderment were felt by many people for different reasons as a result of this experience. The other painful area concerned church music and led eventually to the resignation of our gifted organist and choirmaster, Chris Molyneaux.


Restoration and unification of the church


It is against the background of these circumstances that I believe God revealed His hand and His timing. The restoration of the church building became a goal towards which the congregation could respond and move. This meant that a great deal of time and energy was expended in a number of ways. The important thing was that it had the effect of unifying the church and giving a sense of purpose and joy through joint achievement. The Building Committee spent hours in deliberation. In order to raise money the congregation worked feverishly at a number of activities. This meant hard work by individuals and groups – such as house churches. Good examples of such endeavours were the “home restaurants”, the showing of the film “Jesus” and the Mini Morning Market. It was within the context of this activity that the “Fellowship for Fun(ds)” idea gained considerable momentum. People worked hard and in doing so enjoyed themselves and found a great sense of unity and fellowship. That was excellent. In fact the Christmas Party – organised by yet another house church – was a good example of the way in which people started to find immense pleasure in doing things together, apart from raising money. So it was that all these things worked together to re-establish a sense of direction.


Release of gifts – sense of purpose

Graham and Gill Fenton, Timothy & Simon in 1984

“Restore Order and Glory” was not only expressed in improvements to the church building and enhanced relationships, it also released many of the considerable untapped human and spiritual resources that there are at St John’s. The Covenant Service held early in the year was a significant step towards discovering the gifts that there are within the body. As the year progressed these gifts emerged more clearly and were released. The Saturday morning prayer time has also contributed to the forward spiritual movement of the church. For all this I praise God. The church I have moved back into as my health has improved is a different church to that which existed before I took ill. There is a much greater sense of unity and purpose.


Goals for 1982


It is not surprising that against this background and egged on by our Rector, John Freeth, the total leadership (i.e. Pastorate and other leaders) set the church a number of important goals for the beginning of 1982. These have included a Christian growth course in Lent and a period of evangelism in the ensuing months. It is our prayer that through all this, God will continue to “Restore Order and Glory” to St John’s Church.

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