As I write, I have just finished my year serving as chaplain to the Mayor of Woking, Liam Lyons. At the recent Mayor Making ceremony, Liam handed over the reins to the new mayor, Councillor Saj Hussain.
As I sat down to prepare this article, and to reflect on the role I have undertaken over the past twelve months, it occurred to me that I don’t have a photo of me in action! So here is a picture taken just before the pandemic when Liam fundraised for the defibrillator to go outside our church building. Each mayor can choose to have a chaplain if they would like one. Liam doesn’t have a particular church which he belongs to, but feels a connection to Woking URC and has always been very supportive of our work in the community, so I was invited to take up the role.
So, what does a chaplain do? Well, firstly I was given the privilege of leading prayers before every full council meeting in the council chamber. Liam explained to me that I wasn’t then expected to sit in the for the whole meeting! However, sometimes I did follow the proceedings and found it interesting and, on occasion, rather adversarial. You may not be aware that all the meetings are live streamed – but of course, watching them may not be your idea of a fun night in!
Liam and I always discussed what I would pray for at the meetings. We were careful to be politically neutral but always asked God to bless the work of the council as well as lifting up the needs of those in our community and further afield in prayer.
A highlight of the year was hosting the Civic Service at Woking URC last September. In the context of Covid restrictions this was only for a reduced number of guests, but still proved to be a meaningful and joyful occasion. The highlight for me was the WURC children’s singing group performing the Christian Aid song ‘I have a voice’. They were much talked about afterwards and I was more than a little proud of them.
In this year I also led the Remembrance Day service in the town centre, in place of the vicar of Christ Church who was affected by Covid. This was more in my role as Moderator of Churches Together in Woking than chaplain, but it was a real honour to lead such an important civic event. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous about keeping to time or attempted to check the time without being seen so many times before! What a relief it was to get to the moment of remembrance at precisely 11am.
Part of being chaplain is, of course, to offer pastoral support to the Mayor and to be available for the odd coffee and catch up. Liam is an RE teacher at a local secondary school and I marvelled at how he managed to attend so many events and functions during his mayoral year. His chosen charity was Woking Mind and I was so impressed to learn more about what they do and enjoyed meeting their dedicated staff team. I was also impressed that Liam was persuaded to do a sponsored sky dive to raise money for them (and please don’t get any ideas, I have my limits!).
I attended several civic functions and one which stands out was the Mayor’s Reception a few weeks ago. During this Liam reflected on his year and the wonderful people he had met during his countless visits. He also presented awards to local residents, including young people. During his reflections Liam spoke so fondly of Woking URC and our work serving the community. He said that he always receives a warm welcome by everyone he meets in our church family and commended the work we are doing. It was a very special moment for me when those present spontaneously applauded our church. What a joy to know that we are making a difference in Jesus’ name!
Now my responsibilities have come to end. What will I do with all my spare time?!
Well, it just so happens that we have a lot coming up at WURC and I hope that some, or all of them, will appeal to you and provide an opportunity for you to invite friends and neighbours to our church.
Mon 30th May – Wed 1st June, 10.30 – 4.30pm: Petting Farm Outreach Event
There are more details about this on our website, but it’s the ideal event to invite children and families to. There will be farm animals, exotic animal encounter shows, a ferris wheel, rides for young children, lunches, cake and more. As always we will need lots of help so please do get involved and sign up on the sheets in the Forum. This event is, as always, done in partnership with the Children With Special Needs Foundation, who invite along the children they support, as well as us being able to open it up to the public.
On Tuesday 31st May there will be a special opportunity to gather as a church family to enjoy the attractions and have fun together. From 5pm onwards you can come along and enjoy everything on offer as well as a BBQ around 7pm. Feel free to bring extended family too. It should be a chance to relax and enjoy one another’s company, and I’m told the long-term weather forecast looks good!
Sunday 5th June – Outdoor Pentecost Service & Jubilee Celebrations!
This is a Sunday not to be missed. Our service will take place outside (seating provided) followed by our very own street party picnic lunch (well, actually it’s more of a car park picnic but that doesn’t sound as glamorous!). Tables will be laid, picnic food provided and of course, the traditional bunting will give a real air of celebration.
We hope everyone will stay and enjoy this joyful opportunity to celebrate both the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, as well as the joining in the jubilee festivities. I wondered what the dress code should be – the usual red, orange and yellow for Pentecost, or red, white and blue for the Jubilee! Well, the Holy Spirit trumps the queens, so Pentecost colours it is! What a joyful witness we will be to our community. Let’s hope that those who see us worshipping outside come and join in and receive the WURC welcome.
I first attended Prom Praise at the Royal Albert Hall some years ago with Justin and was blown away by the occasion. A full orchestra, a massive choir and the whole theatre joining together in praise is not something easily forgotten. I’ve never heard ‘How great thou art’ sung with such gusto. So you can imagine my delight when Noel Tredinnick, who I had watched conduct these events with such passion and joy, offered to come and lead a Festival of Praise at WURC! I can’t emphasise enough how much you won’t want to miss this!
And if you can’t come in person, you can watch the live stream from wherever you are in all the usual ways.
This event will be free, but we ask you to book a place via the website and to make a donation to Christian Aid instead of buying a ticket. All the details are on our website but if you’d rather request a place without having to go online, we’ll also make a sign up sheet available in the Forum.
Gosh, I think that’s enough for now!
May God bless you all and, as we approach this Pentecost season, may you know the peace, joy and comfort of the Spirit as you walk the road of discipleship.