Looking back and Looking forward.
At All Saints Anglican Church, we are thankful for where the Lord has brought us to.
We have regular numbers of around 80-90 including children. Many who attend have had connections with Holy Trinity but others who attend have not. Currently we have 90% I estimate Dutch nationals attending regularly. We are thankful for the people – all ages and all sorts – who attend. We are thankful for the Lord’s provision of a building – HeiligeGeest Kerk – and we enjoy a good working relationship with the Roman Catholic Council who are responsible for this building. We have had it confirmed recently we are able to stay in this church building until May 2017 – so another 12 months. We are thankful for this provision not only for the stability it offers but also as so many of our buildings – and also our recently visiting Archdeacon and Diocesan Bishop – like the building we use. We are thankful for the different and many people who serve on rotas (steward, reader, intercessor, crèche, Sunday School, coffee), in the life of the church, for Maria, Sara and Pieter for their leading of the music, for all who help make All Saints what it is. Personally also I am thankful for Father David and his support and encouragement of the work at All Saints and his wise counsel as I meet with him regularly to discuss and to pray.
The current blessed position All Saints is in, leads us into our next stage of church development. Rather than still seeking to establish or gather a viable congregation, we have been blessed with a significantly sized core number of members. So we move into next step.
This has different elements which I will share below. However, an important step will be: when this summer or early autumn – revisit what the DNA we want this church to have – what are its core values: what shapes all it does in worship, discipleship, community life and mission.
So what direction are we moving in?
We continue to seek to be a church for all sorts – regardless of background, regardless if they are Anglican or not. We continue to seek to be a church for English speaking people seeking / comfortable worshipping in the Anglican tradition. And we seek to be a church of all ages. So for example, at each Sunday service, we choose to begin our worship together as a church family, with a hymn and a children’s talk and prayer, before Sunday clubs and crèche begin. We want to be welcoming and sensitive to the visitor, tourist or short term student or worker as well as welcoming and sensitive to those who have made Amersfoort their long term home. Two brief examples would be – encouraging our members, to speak to a visitor first in English – assuming we will grow in our international community. Secondly, we will establish a welcome team / ministry to not only welcome visitors in the minutes before a service, but who will talk to that person/family after the service and help them, over the weeks they attend, become members of the All Saints church family.
Of course we are part of the one Body of Christ here in Amersfoort. We seek to become aware of and work with other Dutch and English speaking churches. This year is a year of building links and making connections. There is interest from the two local Reformed congregations – de Brug and de Bron. Excuse me for not stating which exact Reformed denomination they are part of – I am still getting used to the different sections of Dutch Reformed Churches. I have met with Archbishop Joris of the Old Catholics, who naturally encourages links where appropriate with the Amersfoort Old Catholic congregation. I have been invited to Council of Churches and plan to play as a full a role as possible in that council. All Saints seeks to be involved in the transformation of this city – for us as a church to be God’s plans and purposes for Amersfoort. This will involve working with our fellow brothers and sisters of Christ across Amersfoort.
As we are a new church there are the challenges of continuing to get to know each other, to build relationships so we can truly rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn and stand beside and, in prayer, intercede to God for. Many people do know each other through connections and family links. Being a healthy family is a good image of what we hope All Saints can become. And within vision, small groups – such as the men’s group, and the newly formed women’s group (first meeting in May) – have important roles. There will also be a group travelling to New Wine Netherlands in the summer – a conference held in Biddinghuizen, where we will all camp together, (which is a great way to get to know each other!). And there is importance of our Big Brunch – meals we have mid morning after our All Age – more quality time for people to laugh, to share, to cry, to hug, to make new friends, to strengthen existing friendships.
Our Sunday Worship style and pattern continues to be reflected upon – but it will continue to embrace both the modern and the traditional – hence for example our first two Sundays are organ or piano led, and second two, are music group led. We are primarily Eucharistic on a Sunday but on the fifth Sunday we hold Morning Prayer, a Sunday which includes a significant time of prayer for All Saints.
How can we have a strong church life in the week – which was part of the original vision of the establishment of All Saints. We will begin bible study towards the summer. Also, we will offer three days offering teaching on how the Holy Spirit speaks – not just to help with the training of Prayer ministry at both churches but part of the ongoing life of the Christian disciple. We have held regular communion and prayer services but we need to adapt these we’ve seen due to the length – so a new pattern is likely to be: once a month a Thursday communion with a focus on a missionary great – and what lessons we can learn for our church from them. And the other Thursdays, a 45 min informal evening prayer service with significant time of prayer for our Church. Prayer is the bedrock on which we need to build as a church. Also, with the numbers we have, we seek to encourage and release the spiritual gifts, the passions, the abilities – taught or natural – our members have, while accepting the valuable wisdom and lessons through our different life experiences and accepting the different personalities we bring to the community. We will also encourage our members at the possibilities that come our way in the coming months , for example the Open Doors conference in Utrecht in November (November 5th) and the Dutch TEAR (known in the UK as TEARFUND) – conference to be held here in Amersfoort also in November (11th-12 November).
This is part of our challenge. Acts of the Apostles does warn us that even a dynamic, growing church, can perhaps lose its focus on mission. Our vision is to connect more into the English speaking community. It is estimated there are 140 international companies connected to or based in the Amersfoort area. As stated there is 35000 non Dutch nationals, with 20000 of a Islamic faith or background. There are ongoing arrivals of asylum seekers with plans to establish a new centre and possibly a second. We are exploring how to build connections and serve the asylum seekers and we continue to look at this in the coming months, but it is a clear need in the area.
We want to be a church which can be a home for existing Christians, who have come to live in our city. But we hope to be more than a church which gathers those who already believe (even though that is an important part of our ministry). We want to be a church where new people are discovering who Jesus is – to discover what the apostle Thomas declared: My Lord and my God (John 20). Whether internationals or Dutch, whether retired, or student, whether male or female, we hope we can be a church which will, across the year, see new people discovering the Good News of Jesus Christ.
But Mission is not just about evangelism but also service. Anglicanism, I would suggest, has always had an ‘eye’, a ‘vision’, for the local communities / cities in which a church is situated. And so, we hope to be open to the Lord’s leading as to how he is calling us to serve in Amersfoort – our own projects as well as serve with other churches in the city or how we can serve with Holy Trinity.
Mission takes place both locally and globally – and as a church I hope we can, in the coming 12 months, begin to be involved in mission in both aspects.
Thanks and Hopes.
I want to end by thanking TACA – the name for the leadership team at All Saints. I wanted to say thank you to TACA – Nora, Lodewijk, Peter, Annalyne, Patrick and Edwin – for each member has put so much time and energy and prayer into helping start All Saints. Thank you to TACA for the work they put in over the past 18 or more months, seeking church buildings, discerning vision for the new church, looking for accommodation for me and my family. I think TACA would like to especially thank Lodewijk for the many hours he has spent personally in this ministry. TACA are a joy for me to work with as we seek to establish this new part of the Body of Christ in Amersfoort. I thank them for their personal support and help for me (especially when I really have not been sure about things or needed advice or encouragement).
Thank you to Holy Trinity for your support and prayers for us, and again for your STEP OF YES, when the Lord was inviting you to make this commitment and set aside the financial resources and the time and energy to establish a new church. So my personal thanks to Father David, to Adrian, Rosemarie, Peter, as wardens and to the Council and to the congregation in Utrecht.
“If the Lord had not been on our side…” (Psalm 124). Truly we feel at this time, we are going the path that the Lord has led and if he had not been on our side we would not be where we are now. If this vision, discerned over months by prayer and reflection members of Holy Trinity Council and TACA – was not from him, then there would not be a thriving All Saints. Thinking back 12 months, wondering how it would go, and now we see a church has been planted. People are enjoying All Saints. Visitors come and new people have found us who find an Anglican English speaking church a good home to worship, to serve and grow spiritually.
We are being blessed. We look forward to the year ahead.
Revd Grant Crowe