PASTORAL LETTER: On the benefits of working together.....

  • UPDATED 20.05.22

    Pastoral Letter from the Revd Dr Janet Anderson-Mackenzie

    Preparing to write this letter I have found myself asking, what is my favourite story about working together being better than staying as an individual?

    There’s the story of the vision of heaven and hell with the soup and ridiculously long spoons. I quite like that one, where heaven and hell are the same except that in hell everyone is starving and in heaven people are feeding each other with the spoons.

    Then there’s the story of the enormous turnip, where everyone has to work together to get it out of the ground.

    But I think still my favourite story is that of the stone soup, told in various guises where there is a starving village which receives a visitor. They explain to him that there is no food, and he says that’s fine, please can I have a pan full of water? So, he sets the pan of water over the fire in the centre of the village and puts in a stone. After a while he tastes the soup and says, ‘it’s lovely but I think it could just do with a carrot'.Someone has one carrot which they bring. Then someone finds an onion, and another half a cabbage, then another a handful of barley, and someone a pinch of salt, and so on. Before long they have a lovely stone soup which they can share out with the whole village.

    Then when the stranger packs up to continue the villagers say to him, ‘Please come again and make your lovely Stone soup.'The stranger smiles and then just walks away.

    Jesus talks about working together, about loving each other and caring for each other. Then Paul transfers this into our understanding of church community by using the image of the church being the body of Christ. All of us being one part of the body which needs each other, not able to function properly without sharing with each other.

    Perhaps the most famous bible passage about this is 1 Corinthians chapter 12 and my favourite verse is 21: The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.'It seems such a good example of interdependence.

    Many of you know that my job is not just to work in the most Northern part of the Churn Valley benefice. Nor is it just to help David Minns out across the whole group. I have a three-year contract to work on building benefice cohesion and mission. I don’t yet know what this is going to look like precisely. There isn’t yet a plan, but the aim is to have a much more detailed plan by the end of September. In some ways I have brought the stone for the soup, and I am just asking around to see what people have that we could put in the soup. My aim is that in three years’ time I won’t be leaving with a wry smile, but you will all know how to make the soup together.

    David and I have talked about asking people about my role and we have come up with a series of questions which will help inform the action plan to begin in September.

    I’m hoping that we can gather answers to these questions from as many people as possible, certainly churchwardens and PCC members as well as other people who are part of our church community here in the Churn Valley. Below are the questions, which may come to you again in a different way, by email or by paper, but please do get the answers back to me if you possibly can.

    What is the best thing for you and your church about being part of the benefice?

    What do you think my job is?

    What do you hope I will be able to achieve or facilitate in the three years of my post?

    What would be the one best thing you think I could do in my time here?

    What aspects of spiritual growth do you hope to see in your church community and the benefice in the next three years?

    What thing do you wish the church community could stop doing?

    What thing do you think the benefice could do better together than it is at the moment?

    If you don’t see an email or paper copy of these questions anywhere else, please do just get in touch with your answers by phone 07821 474711 or email:

    Fourteen years ago, I went to an Archdeacon’s visitation, where the sermon was based on the feeding of the five thousand. The Archdeacon said, ‘You have all you need, God has given you all you need.’ I very much didn’t feel that way at the time, and often in small rural parishes we don’t feel that, but it’s true. We just need to pray and work out how to put it all together.

    I want to say thank you so much to everyone for your warm welcome to the benefice, and your patience while I am still finding things out because I’m new. My prayer is that over the next three years we can all work together to grow as the body of Christ here in the Churn Valley.


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