Rector's Annual Report

 

Rector’s Report 2018

2017 was something of a rollercoaster ride - a busy year that was both challenging and rewarding!

 

One of its more material highlights was completion of repairs to the roof and damaged stonework at All Saints following the lead thefts of previous years. With the aid of a Heritage Lottery Grant, we were able to replace the stolen lead and undertake other important structural repairs. The need to replace the rainwater goods meant that our contribution to the overall cost was higher than originally anticipated, but the good news is that the outer fabric of the Church is now in excellent order. A state of the art roof alarm has been installed to deter or help apprehend any future potential thieves.

 

Other highlights included Fr Clive’s ordination to the Priesthood and his First Mass, both of which were wonderful occasions and well supported by members of the three churches of our benefice along with other friends and supporters. Fr Chris and Fr Clive continue to enrich the life of the benefice with their respective gifts and I continue to be grateful for their support and good-humoured colleagueship. I’m also delighted that after a significant period of ill-health, our Reader Julie Chaplin made a full recovery and re-joined the ministry team. In addition we have welcomed two new Pastoral Assistants - Kevin Yates and David Spencer- to assist in parish visiting and home communions. Meanwhile, Christine Seaton has stood down as a Pastoral Assistant due to health problems. We thank her for her many years of faithful ministry and assure her of our prayers and good wishes. 

 

Our good friend Matthew Gough, formerly Pioneer Minister and Co-ordinator of WigWam, began ordination training at The Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham in the autumn. We are delighted to be his ‘link parish’, which means that he and his family worship with us regularly, and Matthew sometimes preaches and leads worship for us as part of his training. We have also welcomed to the benefice several placement students seeking further insight into the mission, ministry and worship of parishes with an ‘open catholic’ focus.

 

There have been several developments and changes in our pattern of worship over the last year. These include the introduction of prayer ministry for individuals following the 10.00am Mass on the second Sunday of the month, and the ‘New Fire Mass’ with its Charismatic edge and contemporary music on the third Sunday.  Whilst inevitably the latter isn’t necessarily to everyone’s liking, it has been generally very well received, and despite its more relaxed feel, its openness to the gifts of the Spirit and the more contemporary music, it remains firmly ‘Catholic’ in ethos. It also adds to the ‘mixed economy’ of worship that we now offer across the benefice and even within individual churches. Indeed, as our two parishes become more integrated, it’s good to see members of our benefice family beginning to feel free to move around our three churches and to avail themselves of those services and activities that best feed their particular spirituality.

 

Some twenty or so members of our three congregations took part in last year’s St Alban’s pilgrimage, and testified afterwards to what an enjoyable, uplifting and renewing day it was. It’s likely to become an annual event for us, as for so many other parishes around the country.    

 

Throughout 2017 demand for the ‘Occasional Offices’ of baptisms and funerals remained high, whilst the number of Weddings decreased quite significantly. This may reflect the national trend across the CofE (where wedding bookings have fallen to an all-time low) or it may simply have been a ‘quiet year’ locally.  Time will tell.

 

Effective mission continues to be a challenge, but with the support and encouragement of our partners in WigWam, we have begun to make significant progress. This was evidenced in the success of the prayer tepee pitched outside All Saints as part of the Archbishops ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ initiative, culminating in a wonderful Mass for Pentecost, the prayer ribbons on the gates of All Saints, and three town centre events - ’Ashes to Go’ on Ash Wednesday (an initiative much praised by Bishop Martyn and now replicated in other parishes across the diocese), in the handing out of information leaflets and hot cross buns with children from All Saints School in the week prior to Holy Week, and in our joint Carol-singing event before Christmas. It’s good that we are being seen to be out and about more in the local community. It’s also good that our church buildings are being used and visited more during the week, and I would like to record my thanks to all those who support the ‘Open Church’ initiative at All Saints and at St Wistan’s, ensuring that our churches are open at regular times when people can come in to pray, have a look around, and chat over a cuppa. We mustn’t underestimate the value of this simple but important Ministry, and more volunteers are, of course, always welcome.

 

A number of concerts, coffee mornings, and ‘Open Church’ events have provided opportunities for fun, fellowship and fundraising, and I am grateful to those who organise and assist with these events.    

 

Further challenges lie ahead. The PCC is committed to reviewing the use of all our buildings and looking at how they may be re-ordered and adapted to suit the needs of twenty-first century worship, being more flexible and welcoming to the wider community as well as generating income.  We must also continue to address the state of our finances, although we are already feeling more confident in this area with a helpful ‘Financial Recovery Plan’ now in place. From mid-April to mid-July 2018, I shall be spending three months on Sabbatical undertaking research and study into the subject of renewal in ‘Catholic’ parishes, and in particular the place of ‘Charismatic Catholic’ spirituality and how this impacts upon worship, mission and spiritual and numeric growth. It will be a challenging, but I hope creative, time during which I would greatly value your prayers. Whatever else may come out of the sabbatical, I hope and pray above all that the Holy Spirit will ever more visibly move and work among us and within us as we continue to move forward and reach outwards.   

 

Finally, I would like to record my very sincere thanks to our Churchwardens  - Patrick Thacker and Winsum Wright - to Steve Warden who has valiantly stepped into the role of PCC Treasurer, to all members of the PCC who served during 2017 and to all who contribute to our worship as servers, musicians, readers and intercessors.

 

As the Swedish diplomat and author Dag Hammarskjold once said, “For all that has been, thanks; to all that shall be, yes.”


Fr Trevor