Like putting on new glasses
Wendy Cranefield was drawn in from the fringe to the centre of church life through the Partnership for Missional Church (PMC) journey. Now a key leader of St Wilfrid’s, Wilford, near Nottingham, she explained to Frauke Eicker how the process has changed the way she sees the world…
How did the journey start for you?
I didn’t really get involved with church because we’ve got a son who’s got medical problems. So I felt that I couldn’t. Then I became involved in PMC and it gave me meaning.
Then I got involved with the different aspects of church and became a churchwarden. Which probably wasn’t what I was anticipating, but it was building upon what we had learnt through the process and how we know that God’s gone before us. And that having a child with a disability – which can be an isolating place – doesn’t stop you from doing what God wants you to do. It gave me the freedom to actually realise that the world was still my oyster in regards to God!
If you were to describe PMC to someone who has never really heard about it, how would you describe it?
It’s looking at your faith in a different way. It’s like putting on a new pair of glasses and everything is becoming so much clearer and visible. You know, we are called to be disciples. And the image for me of doing mission was to go out and talk God – and know what I’m supposed to be saying!
PMC gave me the freedom of being me. Warts and all. You know, this is who I am. This is what you see.
And those sort of conversations then just happen because you become friends with people. And God has called you to those certain people.
So there’s a lot of freedom in PMC. I thought, I can see who God is calling me to. I can be who I am. The mask has come down. I can go and ‘be God’ in whatever situation, wherever I am.
Sounds like quite a transformation for you?
I think it was for all the family actually. We look for the activity of God, we look for where God is calling us to, in every part of our lives.
How would you say has PMC enabled you to notice God at work and adapt during this season?
During Covid it’s been hard at times and we’ve had to really dig deep. But I think you can plot where God has gone before you when you look back.
During Covid, people have become a lot more aware of their own communities. We’ve had someone from the church lead the Covid-help group within Wilford straightaway as we went into lockdown. And she has partnered with someone from the local community group. The conversation was more about “How are we going to continue our connectivity?” not “What can we put on? What can we do?”
I think there is a sense of God is at work in us, even in this vacancy – we currently have no clergy. I think we were very much tuned in already – we felt that it wasn’t a parish that was going to stand still because we know that God doesn’t stand still.
I like to plan Christmas. And without clergy there, Christmas is quite difficult to organise. So, in September I got people together who would be interested in doing a Christingle service, because we hadn’t got a vicar. And it was amazing. We had a team leading the service who were on the fringe of church, who haven’t been regularly involved in church for a long time. And together we worked and we did it and it was brilliant. And these are the people that came to mind when we were looking at what we could do for our children’s work online now. And even extending further, we’re looking at what we’re going to do for Christmas, because we realise that it will be a different Christmas this year and it won’t be in church because we can’t fit many people in.
With the Covid crisis, how you have noticed God at work in your community during this time?
A member of the local community had got in touch with us and said, “What are you doing in this care home? It’s a new care home. My mother’s moved in.” I then partnered with the other church locally and said to the new vicar there, what are we going to do about this?
And then we went into Covid. We wanted them to know that we cared so we sent chocolates and straight away it was on Facebook: “Thank you, Wilford Church. Thank you for caring for us.”
I then got the name of a person at the care home and I connected with her and said, “What can we do as a church to support you?” And she said, “We love letters.” So I emailed the congregation: “Would you be willing to send letters?”
There was a particular person that came back to me and said, “You’ve really struck a chord with what I’ve been thinking. I am retiring in the next year and my passion is care homes, because my father had dementia. I want to be that person that connects with the care homes.”
Members of the congregation had gone and sung a blessing to the local hospital on the last time we were clapping for the NHS. We were having virtual coffee one morning and someone said: “Wouldn’t that be lovely to do that for our local care homes?” So the guy who was the link said, “Well, I actually need to go and talk to them about this. Is it what they want?” So he went back and they said yes – but we’d love to sing lots of songs. And it’s developed from there.
Because of the weather we haven’t been able to do the singing straightaway, because they want the residents to be able to come and sit outside so that they can join in. But his means we will have been able to practise more of a repertoire that they can join in with.
We have a newsletter that goes out weekly now. It’s about sharing those stories to encourage each other and to make people stop and think – where have we seen God working? Where are we announcing the kingdom? So, please pray that continues and that we can really build upon those stories.