In three days time I will be unveiled at Trendlewood for the first time, to those who didn't make the licensing last Monday. By a quirk of rotas it is Communion and there is no-one else down to lead or pray so it will be rather more of me at once than I am comfortable with. It is hard to watch and learn and not change too much if the first time you turn up you are leading.
Trendlewood church was planted in 1989 (the records say in May but they also say Palm Sunday so I suspect a misprint for March) from Holy Trinity, Nailsea. It began gathering in a pub but within a year had moved to the school it now meets in because it had grown in size from 60/70 a week to 90/100. By September 1992 numbers had reached 150.
Some of this was due to fantastic ministry and some due to Nailsea growing rapidly. The population was 3,000 in 1953 and is now 18,500 give or take. A huge amount of building took place in the 70s and 80s.
It is interesting that the stability of numbers over the next few years coincided with stability of leadership - Phil Haines, a Church Army officer - was in post from April 1993 to August 1999.
Since then numbers have declined to about 60 or so. The two most recent ministers both did well but sadly one left after an inappropriate relationship and the most recent died after a few short months in post. I am told that many people who found Trendlewood church a nice environment for young families gravitated back to Holy Trinity when their children became older.
I guess this post is to tell you all where I am in terms of the next few weeks and also to ask any Trendlewood readers who have started reading this to share their expectations. I don't believe I am here primarily to meet people's expectations but to find the vision for the future of the church here, but it would be lovely to know them. Also please tell me about any errors of fact or judgement I have made here.
A vicar I know arrived at a church I know (and some of you will, but we'll leave him/her anonymous for the moment) and was asked at interview this...
'In the 60/70s our vicar was primarily an evangelist;
In the 70s/80s our vicar was primarily a teacher,
In the 80s/90s our vicar was primarily a pastor.
What are you?'
The answer, which I think was very well-crafted, was ' I believe in healthy churches. Healthy churches need all three.'
I cannot think of a better first question; how healthy is this church? Now where shall we stick the thermometer?