In the church building there is a big set of four letters that spell out L-O-V-E. They are not our letters as such. We borrowed them from a set builder, who never came back to collect them. Sometimes we lend them out, most recently to a school. There is something very pleasing in knowing that our community recognise that we have L-O-V-E, and we are willing to share it.
But the love we share is much more than four borrowed letters from a stage set. So, I am writing to thank you for your generous financial support of St Michael’s Wandsworth Common (SMWC) through the last year which enables our work of love. I hope as you read this letter, you will see how your gift enables us to love all who live, work, learn and play here and some beyond as well. I cannot pick up on all we do and so I want to frame this thank you by referring us to Pope Benedict,
For the sake of the common good, the Church educates, forms, worships, accompanies through wise counsel and enacts loving service through face-to-face small communities…communities small enough to mediate real relations of love.
This quote from Anna Rowland’s latest book caught my eye because we are a small community who specialise in the face-to-face and who are growing in understanding of what it is to ‘mediate real relations of love.’ But to do that we rely on your money, your prayers, and your time. Let me give you some examples. This year we used your money to join the newly formed Wandsworth Citizens. This alliance of churches, schools, foodbanks, and other institutions in civil society begins its work by listening. We listen for stories of people’s passions, and what would make Wandsworth a better place to live. Wandsworth Citizens train us so that ordinary people become leaders and have a place around the table with, in our case so far, mental health commissioners, and council leaders. Already your gift of money and time has enabled people from SMWC to contribute to improvements in mental health services for young people and to successfully see Wandsworth Labour pledge to be a Real Living Wage Council. This is love in the form of education, formation, and solidarity. Thank you and if you like the sound of it, there is a role for you, so please join in.
In our Sunday worship we have established a pattern of services where welcome and participation are our strength. I pray that will continue long into the future. Thank you for money to pay for resources for the children’s activities, the best biscuits in any church in Battersea, breakfast once a month, and the regular contribution of the Gospel Choir. In our Sunday services speakers from A Roche on the church’s call in the climate crisis, Compassion and AIM have all brought their insights to us. Your gift means that we can thank each of these with £250 towards their organisation. But your time also matters. Volunteering to run the children’s group, to help with it, to beautify the church with flowers, to serve the coffee, to keep the finances in order and to pay the bills, to put out the chairs, to attend the meetings and to write the minutes, to lead the prayer meetings, to pray at the prayer meetings, to undergo safeguarding training, to contribute to family news, to prepare the intercessions, to sing and to play, to read the reading, to welcome the visitors, to wash up the cups; this is love in a small church, and this is what you give. Without it we cannot do Sunday worship, as so much more is required than most people imagine. Thank you that your contribution of time and money make worship lively, inclusive, safe, and inspiring. It is not too much to claim that we encounter God together because of what you give. The miracle of God choosing to involve us when God needs no other, played out in our midst.
Cheerfully small as we are, we are also part of the bigger church, and we continue to financially support the work of God in our diocese. In addition, your money went towards gifts to St George’s and Christ Church CofE Primary Schools, both in the Battersea Deanery and both in more deprived areas. These schools are church for many of the children, staff and parents who are part of them, and it is a great honour to support the brilliant heads and teachers there. We also continue to support Battersea Welcomes Refugees with more volunteers getting involved from SMWC as new families from Afghanistan have arrived. The language groups and friendships with the original Syrian families continues as roots grow deeper into Battersea for these, our newest neighbours.
Your gifts mean that we support other local, national, and international organisations. These continue to include Regenerate-RISE, GlassDoor, The Katherine Lowe Settlement, Standout, Impact International and Middle East Media. We pray for these and others we support during our Wednesday prayer drop-in. Join in whenever you can.
Once again, my thanks to Sarah Taylor and for the support you give her. Through her work paid for by your gift, the L-O-V-E here is being shared more widely each month through new businesses, the arts, schools, classes of various kinds, Brownies, and children’s parties. We often describe this place to others as “a village hall with a praying heart,” and your gifts help us to ensure it is kept safe and open for our wider community as well as for worship. Currently Sarah and the PCC are exploring removing the old gas heating system in the church and replacing it with a fully electric and highly efficient system. We would be one of the first churches in the diocese to do this, so it feels in line with our culture of ‘try’ value and demonstrates that L-O-V-E involves daring to take bold steps for planet as well as people.
Finally, I want to thank you for the gift of accompaniment. Not in the musical sense, although I unreservedly thank those with musical gifts who served us so generously over the last year. I mean the kind of accompaniment of which Pope Benedict wrote. We are a face-to-face community who welcomes ‘the one.’ I pray that we remain neither too big nor too busy for those meaningful encounters. Thank you for your gifts of time and of money (as both are necessary) that have enabled a range of people to take steps towards greater wholeness in the last year. Men and women have been on this journey. Children too. A number of these encounters happen privately, but others happen through the Gospel Choir, the Monday Bible Study, prayer drop-in, the Tuesday Holy Communion Service, as well as Sunday services. This attention to welcome and encounter, to accompaniment, can only happen because you give your time and money.
Thank you for giving money to the ministry of SMWC in 2021-22. I realise that costs are up, and times are hard for many. Your participation and welcome will never depend on you being a regular giver, but I pray that you will continue to give as you are able and that you will be glad to be part of God’s work at and through SMWC. With my prayers,
Rev’d Tif Ewins
Vicar, St Michaels Wandsworth Common
Registered charity 1185687
 Anna Rowlands “Towards A Politics of Communion” T&T Clark 2021 P164