Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, welcome to the Annual report for 2021 - Ivy’s Year of Mercy. In his infinite mercy, our God has delivered us from many trials, stood with us through tribulation and carried us in times of trouble.
“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still,”
At the beginning of January 2021, some of us might have fully expected to be the ones with the capacity to show mercy to our neighbours, considering ourselves to have emerged relatively unscathed from the challenges of 2020. Yet, in the uncertainty of the ensuing months, we’ve experienced uncomfortable role reversals, where we ourselves became recipients of merciful acts of kindness from others. This is Kingdom living at its finest; Jesus loved switching up the societal norms of his day!
“Here it is again, the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first,”
We have been so very blessed to have Anthony’s visionary and decisive leadership through another year of uncertainty, filled with change and challenge. We have welcomed new staff to complement our team. We have also been blessed with many stalwarts within our church family who have taken bold steps to initiate new things. Most of all we have been enabled, by the unflinching loyalty of our church family, in prayer support, prophetic words and prioritised giving, to stand firm.
2021 has proved to be a year of goodbyes and hellos, as familiar faces have moved on to join the wider church family and new faces have flocked to our fold, either online or at our in person services. It has been a real pleasure witnessing our committed Faith Lift fellowship each weekday- long may it continue!
“Now Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,”
2021 turned out to be different to 2020, but just as hard for most. The same kind of tragedies, tears and turmoils repeated, despite some respite at times. The promise of a return to normal or ‘the new normal’ became tantalisingly close, then the rug was pulled from under us again and again. I pray you have not lost hope. Well done for persevering.
COVID revealed a fundamental weakness in the west where most churches only have one purpose: worship. If you take that away, you’ve got nothing, as an individual or a church. That’s why many just longed to get back to worship and what once was again, because it’s all they have.
If all we did was what many churches did (gather in a building for an hour or so to sing, listen to a talk while the kids were looked after, give some spare change and leave), we’d be in a very different place than we are now. The good news is that Ivy was established in 1893 to be a mission. We continue to not just be about the buildings you come to, but a people you’re part of. You play your part to help others and help them find their way back to God. You can’t shut that down.
So once again – and this report can only scratch the surface - we have welcomed many new people and helped thousands more find hope and faith in Jesus whether online or in person. We have continually found imaginative ways to innovate worship, fellowship, discipleship and outreach for all ages and stages of life. The trials have grown our dependence on God as we continue to be a prayerful church on mission in the city and the world. We’ve been able to generously bless the poor, those in need and those with opportunity to expand the kingdom, through your regular giving and one of the largest First Fruits offerings (yet!). Thank you to everyone who has served faithfully and given generously.
Your labour for the Lord is never in vain.
1 Cor 15:58
Rather than have a scarcity mindset and operate from control or fear, we have blessed those who felt called to be part of the Message Community Church plant and are partnering with many other fellowships toward planning this year’s Festival Manchester, which I co-Chair, because we are just one part of the Body. We are already the church sowing most into that mission financially and I hope we’ll continue to invest ourselves with prayer, service, inviting and following up, because the future is where the harvest is.
People don’t usually come back to God in good times. Read the book of Judges. Read the whole history and we see that when things are bad, people come back to God. I honestly think COVID could be one of the precursors for the greatest revival our nation has ever seen, if we will fast, serve, love, pray and witness faithfully to Christ.
That’s why we listened to what God was saying prophetically and remodelled Ivy’s ministry to take us forward into that future, rather than just aching to somehow go back to the past. I’m not waiting for normal to return – I’m waiting for Jesus to return! God is doing a new thing right now. As I look around at a fired-up staff team with clear responsibilities to help us all live as fully devoted disciples of Christ, with every member a missionary and a minister, equipping us to help others do the same, I have to pinch myself at the level of unity, love and joy there is whenever we meet and pray and plan as staff and as elders or all together.
Let’s thank God for the mercy he has shown us all so far. I am excited to build with you and learn all the Lord has to teach us through Nehemiah, who did much more than rebuild a broken wall. God used him to restore a broken people from rubble and ruin, dread and despair into a new future – beautiful, glorious and useful again to God in their generation. This is what you are invited into in 2022 and it’s going to be amazing.
Then I said to them, “Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us rise up and rebuild.” So they strengthened their hands and began this good work.