ANDREW WALKER's Story
Andrew Walker is a retired chartered accountant, who spent over 35 years working in public practice. He was licensed as a Reader in 1989 in Werrington, Peterborough, and has been Secretary to the Central Readers’ Council since 2017. He was invited to join a group charged with revitalising small groups in his parish. That group studied HOLYHABITS together, recognising that this was exactly what was needed to revive the small groups and, perhaps, the whole church. The journey has started, but still has some way to go.
THE STORY begins…
In 2017, our vicar set up a group of people to look at how small groups in the parish could or should be reorganised. The first time the group met, we were rather uncertain as to how to do this, but we were clear that doing nothing was not an option.
Meanwhile, one of the existing groups, the Courtyard Group, which focuses on prayer and community, had its own quiet day, led by a former member of the group, now ordained. The quiet day drew heavily on the Holy Habits book, which none of us had come across before.
As the first group continued to think and pray about the future of the small groups in the parish, it became clear that using the Holy Habits book could be the answer. It not only gave study material for small groups, but also helped members to recognise the advantages of mixing groups up and provided material to use in sermons at the main Sunday services.
The first group became known as the Holy Habits Team, but before we introduced Holy Habits to the church we knew that, as a team, we should work through at least part of the book ourselves. This was largely to see that it would work in the complexities of everyday life, when some people inevitably miss meetings, and we needed to be sure that they did not feel left behind. The Courtyard Group also used the material to check it worked for them. Both groups enjoyed working through the book and found that it not only worked but was also a blessing.
Both groups enjoyed working through the book and found that it not only worked but was also a blessing.
So for Lent 2018, the existing small groups were asked to stop their usual pattern of meetings and instead attend church together, either on a Wednesday evening or a Saturday morning, to look each week at a chapter from Part 1 of the Holy Habits book.
We advertised these meetings in the church and encouraged anyone who was not already in a small group to come along. We made it clear that after Easter we would reshape the existing groups to include new members, and that we would then study Part 2 of Holy Habits for most of the rest of the year. As I write, we are coming to the end of that second phase of study.
At the Lent meetings, people were allocated to groups randomly each week, so they really got to know each other. By Easter, we had an enthusiastic group of people who had gone through Lent together and who were keen to press on with the Holy Habits material in newly formed groups, which we now call Discipleship Groups.
Some of the church met Andrew Roberts at Spring Harvest 2018, and he was invited to a meeting in the parish church in October. He shared something of his journey with Holy Habits and took questions from members.
Andrew readily admitted that there is nothing new in what he has written – it is, after all, based on the Acts of the Apostles. What is new is that it is catching something of a movement of the Holy Spirit, who is calling us to embed these holy habits in our behaviour as Christians. We sense that it might help us to transform our gathered Christian communities so that, in turn, we start to transform the scattered places where we live, work and have our being.
What is new is that it is catching something of a movement of the Holy Spirit.
We are starting to be asked what groups do when they have finished doing Holy Habits. The answer is that we never ‘finish’ doing Holy Habits, because Holy Habits is about growing a lifestyle which will cause others to question what makes us different.
We sense that already within our parish, Holy Habits has given us a common vision of how we need to relate to each other. It has given us some guidelines and lots of examples of what the holy habits mean in practice. It has given us building blocks for the next steps, as we now encourage each other to continue to grow holy habits inside and outside our church buildings. That’s our next challenge.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this HOLYHABITS story!