Future unification of St Christopher's and Southwood churches  


Statement to Cove Churches 28th January 2018 regarding the future unification of St Christopher's and Southwood churches 

The Parish of Cove is a growing and exciting parish which has faced significant challenges in recent years: our team rector Jeremy’s long-term sickness has meant St Christopher’s has been without necessary pastoral oversight. In addition, Southwood church continues without the use of a building more than two days a week. The parish now faces a £60,000 per annum increase in the amount payable to the Diocese of Guildford to retain three full-time paid clergy. We found ourselves in the midst of a perfect storm and were surprised in the midst of it to discover an exciting new vision for the future.

Since Jeremy’s retirement in November 2017 there followed clarity of thought, out of which this vision emerged. So, following a period of prayer and discussion with our parish wardens, "permission to officiate" Clergy, PCC, CVGs at Southwood and St Christopher’s, Area Dean, Archdeacon and the Bishop, it has been agreed to pursue a future, in which Southwood Church will merge with St Christopher’s Church to form a new single church based in the St Christopher’s building. The principal reasons for pursuing this merger to this stage are firstly that Southwood and St Christopher’s have many overlapping ministries and complementary gifts. And secondly, at each stage of consultation, both local and Diocesan, the proposal (which first began with Steve and Esther) has received – often to our surprise – a most positive response.

Nonetheless, Steve and Esther, together with the whole PCC are profoundly aware that this news will bring a whole range of emotions: from excitement to anxiety, a sense of bereavement, fear of change, and questions about our own specific roles, and more. Please be assured that we in the leadership team share or have experienced these emotions with you and we are not immune to them. It is our number one priority that the hallmark of all that happens next will be the shared love of Jesus between us in our congregation, and we will look after one another through this.

Steve, Esther and the PCC discern that there are a huge range of positives that will come from the merger of Southwood and St Christopher’s churches, and that God has prepared the gifts of the two congregations to be so complementary in this season that we see His divine hand at work in bringing the two churches together into one new church.

Let us then outline the broad expectations of what will now happen:

  1. Now that the Team Rector has retired, the parish is now in what is known as a “vacancy”. 
  2. A parish profile will be put together with the expectation that the new Team Rector will merge St Christopher’s and Southwood churches and become the leader of this new church, with the Team Vicar of St John’s (Esther) continuing to be based at St John’s.
  3. This new church, fully based in the current St Christopher’s building, will be given a new name, possibly something like “Christ Church, Cove”.
  4. This new church is envisioned to offer two styles of Sunday service: one corresponding to that which reflects the current St Christopher’s morning worship, and one which reflects the current Southwood morning worship. The monthly Ignite service will also take place within the new church.
  5. There will be a meeting of all three churches on Saturday, 3 February, 2018 at 3:30 PM at St Christopher’s, with time for questions, prayer and discussion, and all are invited.
  6. The Venerable Paul Davies, Archdeacon of Surrey will attend the PCC meeting of 26 February, 2018 at 8 PM to start the formal vacancy process.
  7. A formal advertisement, application, interview and appointment process for the Team Rector position will take place. The position of Team Rector will be publicly advertised.
  8. The appointed Team Rector will oversee the merger of St Christopher’s and Southwood churches.
  9. Cove will then remain as a single parish of two churches: St John’s, together with the new church formed by the merger.

We have produced a brief “question and answer” leaflet, which also contains some of the positives which were expressed during the consultation process. We hope you will find this both useful in answering some questions you may have, but also as a basis for prayer.

It is our prayer that we can progress all these things with loving pastoral concern for one another, attentive and watchful prayerfulness, a heart to see the Kingdom of God grow through theproclamation of the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection, and the deep assurance that the all-loving God whom we worship is Lord of Lords, King of Kings and the Victor in all things.

With love in Christ Jesus
Rev Steve Stewart, Rev Esther Prior and the PCC of Cove parish