Vicar’s Letter November 2019

At our recent Autumn Fair we were truly blessed by the generosity of our local community which helped us raise an amazing sum of £1,800 towards the upkeep and continuing work of your Parish Church!

Included in that total was an incredible £200 as a result of the enterprise and talents of those members of our RiCH After School Group who took up Bev’s innovative challenge of “RiCH does The Apprentice!” We must also give thanks for the long list of supporters from local businesses and individuals who willingly gave us raffle prizes or items to sell or who offered their services free-of-charge on the day (see the full list here)

We are so grateful for all your support in helping us to meet the everyday expenses of keeping your Parish Church open, flourishing and able to offer a high standard of care to all those, young and old, who call upon our resources from within the local community and beyond.

As we now move from Autumn to Winter, at our Light Party on All Hallows’ Eve, 31 October, we will celebrate once more all those Saints of God, well-known or obscure, in whose lives we have glimpsed the compassion and challenge of Christ. It may not be exactly time for Spring-cleaning but if you are of an active and energetic disposition, please come and help us clean and polish up the church building on Saturday 2 November between 10.00am and 12noon! On the evening of that same day, All Souls’ Day, we will gather at 7.00pm for our Annual Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving, bringing to mind those closest of our friends and family whose passing we mourn, entrusting their souls once again to God’s infinite care as we light a candle in their memory. A few days later, we may hear fireworks in our neighbourhood, celebrating the joyful life we can share with friends around us. Perhaps we will write our own names with sparklers in the light of a bonfire, as we focus our attention on our own roles and identities within the complexities of world politics, historically and in the present day. On Remembrance Day, 10 November, we will parade solemnly with poignantly resilient poppies on our lapels and hold respectfully before God, in the two minutes’ silence, the lives of those who died or who returned maimed in body, mind or spirit, praying that we do not squander their hard-won peace. As we continue to teach all our children St Oswald’s motto, urging them to “be strong and of good courage” and to follow paths of gentleness and peace, so let us pray for strength and resourcefulness for ourselves and our community as we look for ways to enhance the well-being of all those around us and across the wider world, mindful of so many people still living in poverty or in dire need as a result of violence, relationship breakdown, cruelty, greed or selfishness.

There is the opportunity to lighten this solemn November mood by joining in either one of the two Christingle Services we now offer on Advent Sunday afternoon, 1 December, at 2.00pm or 4.00pm.

At these services we are invited to take carefully into our hands those familiar bright orange candle-holders, studded with delicious symbols of the fruits of the earth, anticipating Christ’s light dawning into the world and blessed by the music and song of so many children and families from our local schools. During the following four weeks leading up to Christmas, we may begin to look inwards at our own lives and perhaps examine our consciences in response to new awareness of world-wide climate change (highlighted by the Transition Bollington group), challenged as we must be by the younger generation’s persistent awkward questions about our collective choice of lifestyle. We might decide to volunteer again with HOPE in NE Cheshire as a Street Angel or at our Winter Night Shelter project for the homeless, staffed by members of the churches and other people of goodwill in and around Macclesfield. We may be encouraged over the next few months to consider what part we could take in a new local initiative of helping Bollington to become a Dementia Friendly Community. All these and other good causes provide us with opportunities to serve others, but we should also be careful not to neglect our personal need for spiritual nurture and reflective space: so please do also join us here on Saturday 14 December between 10.00am and 4.00pm, when we are offering the hospitality of an Advent Quiet Day, open to all, to prepare our inner selves spiritually for Christmas. In these various ways we aim to clear the clutter, to make enough room to greet the birth of the Christ Child and to discover afresh some practical ways of welcoming God’s Spirit of kindness and justice into our hearts and homes.

Every blessing this Advent and Christmas and always,

Veronica

Vicar’s Letter – September 2019

On 22 October this year we will happily celebrate 111 years of worship and witness here at St Oswald’s.

How time flies! Last Spring, the exciting though modest internal building plans for improving our collective hospitality and welcome were granted faculty permission by the Diocesan Chancellor. Hopefully now this Autumn the work will actually start, the first phase being the creation of a new glazed fire exit door in place of one of the windows along the south west wall of the church (opposite the old school buildings), in accordance with plans earlier approved by Cheshire East Planning Department. Our thanks go to Richard Raymond, our volunteer Project Manager, for successfully liaising with our Architect and the supervising contractors so that works can begin, utilising part of the funds we have already earmarked for this project. We are continuing to apply for additional funding in order to subsequently proceed with the next phase, that of fitting a new kitchen into the former main entrance porch area, and then finally moving on to the creation of wall cupboards on either side of the west end of the nave, to house our folding tables and chairs and other equipment when not in use. Apart from applying for grants, we are always on the look-out for good fundraising ideas, so please do come along to our next Growth Action Planning meeting at 10.00am on Saturday 21 September if you have any inspired suggestions! (Of course, there are also special Gift Aid envelopes available at the back of church for contributions towards our Kitchen Development Project.) Thank you for your continuing prayers and financial support.

People may not be aware that (thanks to a small group of dedicated key-holders) since September 2016 we have been unlocking the church during daylight hours (normally between 8.30am and 4.30pm) on a Wednesday each week?

This is to offer anyone free space to come into St Oswald’s for a moment or two of peace and reflection, to make themselves a cup of coffee or tea from the servery hatch, to find time to think and pray quietly, to light a votive candle either for themselves or for someone else, and hopefully to sense the powerful yet gentle and familiar presence of God which has imbued this building for almost 111 years now. You may encounter others popping in during the course of any ordinary Wednesday, whether they are young pupils from Bollington Cross School’s Focus Group, facilitated by school governor Maggie O’Donnell and a member of staff, or perhaps if you venture into church between 2.00pm and 3.00pm you may be conscious of a small group from our regular congregation gathered in the Vestry Room at the east end of the church for their weekly Faith Hour (and if you chose to do so, you’d be most welcome to join Jean Reader and her friends for this informal hour of refreshments, prayer and companionship). Whether you find the church empty of people or you are aware of others who are also respectfully making use of the space, we pray that you will find it to be a place of solace, comfort and even challenge – a calming place without too many distractions, where you can focus your attention on what is really important to you, and where hopefully you may discover some much-needed fresh perspective in the midst of an otherwise busy or stressful working week…

The National Churches Trust published a document in August 2016 entitled “50 Things to do in a Church”. One contributor was their Vice-President, the former Monty Python performer, intrepid traveller and entertaining writer, Michael Palin, who said this:

Once asked to declare my religious beliefs I described myself as ‘an agnostic with doubts’. However, my interest in and fondness for churches is undiminished…

Churches and chapels are important for all sorts of reasons. Where some are notable for inspirational architecture, others are commended for their community role and the work they do in bringing local people together. Two years ago, I was being cross-questioned in a court case in London and during a lunch break, in which I was not permitted to talk to anyone, I desperately wanted somewhere to sit quietly and get myself together. And yet there was nowhere where the price of a seat didn’t involve eating, drinking or some commercial transaction. Then, out of the blue, at the very heart of Fleet Street, I discovered the church of St Dunstan-in-the-West. I was never so grateful for a place of repose, an oasis of peace and quiet in the midst of the mayhem.”

Michael goes on: “There are of course many other uses for churches and chapels, and the National Churches Trust’s ’50 Things to do in a Church’ – which includes everything from finding the Green Man to helping out at a Night Shelter – shows clearly why churches are such important local buildings. Our churches speak to all of us, even just as a tower on the horizon, a spire amongst the trees. We must do all we can to pass them on to future generations. They are part of our landscape and part of our national heritage. We have to do all we can to make them part of our lives as well.”

Please do now and then weave a visit to St Oswald’s into the fabric of your everyday life, whether that means coming along to one of our many different worship services, our welcoming social occasions, a music concert or art exhibition, a particular charity fundraising event, or simply to spend a while here on a Wednesday to place yourself and your concerns consciously within God’s presence and, by taking that time out, to know yourself to be blessed. This is your Parish Church and thankfully its witness spans multiple generations and is constantly evolving to encourage and inspire us all, both young and old, to make the most of our lives. Thank you to the steadily increasing number of people from our local and wider community who have joined our new “Friends of St Oswald’s” Scheme, whose generous commitment to regular financial support (whether large or small) will enable us to continue opening our doors, welcoming people in and empowering them to persevere, overcoming all obstacles through God’s good grace, for many more years to come.

Every blessing,

Veronica

Vicar’s Letter July & August 2019

Bollington Festival [more here]

…was a really busy but enjoyable fortnight for St Oswald’s, starting off with our Camel Train in the Parade then hosting the mesmerising Model Railway Exhibition, both made possible by the creative talents of Bev and Steve. This was followed a few days later by a whole variety of our brilliant and dedicated Arts & Crafts Group’s train-themed handicrafts which were out on display for the remainder of the Festival, alongside some colourful contributions from Praise & Play and RiCH children, plus the beautiful winged creatures captured in our local embroiderers’ butterfly nets. Then there was a fabulous Print-making Day Workshop run by the lovely and very talented Debbie Tracey-Carney, a former member of our congregation now based in the Isle of Man. Later that first week, thanks to Lorraine and Dave and their willing kitchen staff, we hosted another hugely successful Big Brekkie fundraiser for Christian Aid Week, with bacon butties enjoyed by several groups of children from Bollington Cross School. We welcomed baby Elsa at her Christening on Saturday 18th before the William Byrd Singers presented an excellent acapella concert to round off our first week of Festival events.

In the second week we were pleased to host the Diocese of Chester’s roving exhibition “Journey into Light” which included many very moving canvases of original therapeutic artwork created by prisoners from HMP Styal and Thorn Cross. During this week, our RiCH Group children also met as usual on the Thursday afternoon and many of them were inspired to create their own personal art canvases depicting what belonging to this Group means to them. Our three exhibitions attracted a good cross-section of visitors over a broad age range from our local community (plus people travelling from further afield). The “Journey into Light” provided a stunning backdrop for a vibrant Gospel Train led by Maggie and our church choir and musicians, augmented by an enthusiastic choir of children from Bollington St John’s School and applauded by appreciative visitors from Mount Hall Nursing Home. It was fitting that on the Thursday we could offer space, even amidst the artwork on display in church, for the late Jean Ransley’s funeral, safe in the knowledge that she had over many years been a stalwart supporter of Bollington Festival and an encourager throughout her life of art and music appreciation.  The next day there was an opportunity to share in a meditative Stations of the Cross based on the emotive canvases around us, and on Saturday we enjoyed an incredible variety of music performed by the amazing young composer and musician, Joe Riley. That second week ended with a calming evening of Taize worship, led by Elaine and Chris and members of our choir and Music Group (including Peter Spooner who kindly stepped in at the last minute for us). This closing service was in contrast to the rather louder Big Top Worship Service which had been held on the first Sunday of the Festival, but proved equally ecumenical!

Throughout the Festival fortnight, a stalwart and faithful few from our congregation maintained a cheerful and friendly presence within St Oswald’s, opening our doors and welcoming visitors from far and wide, supplying them with copious amounts of coffee and tea, delicious home-made cake and the occasional glass of Prosecco! Thanks to those people who were so generous with their time and skills (including especially our two dedicated Churchwardens and Julie our PCC Secretary), we were able to offer warm hospitality to all who ventured in, many for the first time even though perhaps they had lived in the village for years!  

And finally, a huge thank you to our friend Audrey Downes, who not only skilfully created, but also daily maintained, the beautiful floral garland which greeted everyone who stepped into our entrance porch, providing a glorious reminder to one particular couple who were recalling their wedding service held here during the very first Bollington Festival!  

It was hard work but a pleasure to take part in such a fantastic community event over those hectic two weeks in May! We must thank the Festival events Co-ordinator, Jose Spinks, for all her organisational skills, and her unbounded encouragement and enthusiasm! We look forward to the next Bollington Festival (in four or five years’ time perhaps?) when once again (thankfully bolstered by our growing group of “Friends”) St Oswald’s may offer a truly welcoming performance and worship space, opportunities to build friendships and share refreshments, the encouragement of local creative talent and the gift of time for deep reflection on the meaning of life – but also a chance to enjoy ourselves and have fun together here in our unique place at the heart of our parish community!

Every blessing,

Veronica

Vicar’s Letter March 2019

Stop Press! We are very pleased to announce that the Chancellor of the Diocese has now granted us necessary faculty permission, authorising the go-ahead for our proposed Kitchen Development, installing an enhanced refreshment facility within the former main entrance porch, according to our Church Architect’s published scheme.

The plans also incorporate the building of some storage cupboards along the side walls at the west end of the church, the creation of a new fire exit door, and the opening up of increased useable floor space around the area of the baptistry. If you’re interested, the sketch plans are still available to view at the back of the church.

Our Kitchen Appeal Fund has already benefited from several generous individual donations, plus a designated gift of £20,000 from the Diocese, being part of the proceeds of the sale of the former Vicarage. The fund has now had another great boost, thanks to the generosity of parents, grandparents and friends of pupils at Bollington Cross School. They recently presented us with a cheque for an amazing £450.00, kindly collected after their School Christmas Plays, in appreciation of the care and support offered by St Oswald’s especially in response to the sudden loss of Mrs Royle, a much-loved Teaching Assistant, at the end of last year.

We will now proceed with seeking national grant funding to raise the total amount required to carry out the development works to the best possible standard. We also hope to involve local contractors in completing the works. Meanwhile we are grateful for all the promises of support from our local community in helping us meet our regular outgoing expenses, especially inviting people to join our newly launched Friends of St Oswald’s Scheme. Our aim is to sustain and adapt our building in the best way possible so as to continue to serve people locally, as well as in the wider world, for the forseeable future and to the best of our ability. As one kind donor has written: “The last couple of weeks have been such a sad, shocking and unsettling time…You opened the doors and welcomed us all in with warmth, compassion and understanding… and brought comfort to so many… We are very blessed to be able to build our community around St Oswald’s.”

Any donations large or small will be gratefully received and may be made to the “Anglican Parish of Bollington PCC”. (If you wish to indicate on the reverse of your cheque that this is intended for the Kitchen Appeal, please do so.) Thank you for all your support! Watch this space!

Every blessing,                                                                                Veronica

Vicar’s Letter – November/December 2018

As the clocks change and the nights are drawing in, we can be forgiven for turning inwards on ourselves. We think of building up provisions in the freezer or store-cupboard in anticipation of winter snows, or shopping early to beat the Christmas rush. We delve into the wardrobe for a familiar warm coat to wrap up in again, or maybe go off to the splendid Bridgend Centre to find a replacement! We dig out that well-worn Christmas card list which brings to mind good times we’ve shared with old friends and acquaintances.

The Church’s own calendar of festivals marks the passing of another year. With bright-eyed children at our Light Party on All Hallows’ Eve, 31 October, we celebrate all the Saints of God, well-known or obscure, in whose lives we have glimpsed the compassion and challenge of Christ. On the evening of All Souls’ Day, 2 November, we bring to mind those closest of our friends and family whose passing we mourn, entrusting their souls once again to God’s infinite care as we light a candle in their memory. A few days later, we hear fireworks in our neighbourhood, celebrating the joyful life we can share with friends around us. Perhaps we write our own names with sparklers in the light of a bonfire, as we focus our attention on the complexities of world politics, historically and in the present day. On Armistice Day, 11 November, we will parade solemnly with those poignantly resilient poppies on our lapels, and hold respectfully before God, in the three minutes’ silence, the lives of those who died or who returned maimed in body, mind or spirit, praying that we do not squander their hard-won peace. As we continue to teach our children St Oswald’s motto urging them to be strong and of good courage and to follow paths of gentleness and peace, so let us pray for strength and resourcefulness for ourselves and our community as we look for ways to enhance the well-being of all those around us and across the wider world, who are still living in poverty or dire need as a result of violent conflict or war, human cruelty, greed or selfishness.

Our solemn mood will be lightened by joining in one of the two Christingle services now offered on Advent Sunday afternoon, 2 December, taking carefully into our hands those familiar bright orange candle-holders, studded with delicious symbols of the fruits of the earth, anticipating Christ’s light dawning into the world and blessed by the music and song of so many children and families from our local schools. During the next four weeks leading up to Christmas, we may begin to look inwards at our own lives and perhaps examine our consciences in response to new awareness of climate change (highlighted by the Transition Bollington group), challenged as we must be by our children’s persistent awkward questions about our collective choice of lifestyle. We might decide to volunteer as a Street Angel or at our Winter Night Shelter project for homeless men run by members of the churches in and around Macclesfield. Before we are tempted to close the door to keep out any more chilling thoughts about the imbalance and inequality of our world, we may yet dare to hold it ajar a little longer, by venturing into one of our local churches once in a while to sit quietly and pray (remembering that St Oswald’s is open for just that purpose during the day on most Wednesdays). We may be pleasantly surprised to come across others alongside us there, each one trying to make enough room in our busy lives, to be more ready to greet the birth of the Christ Child and to find practical ways of welcoming God’s Spirit of kindness and justice into our hearts and homes again this year.

For 110 years now, St Oswald’s Church, built to the glory of God, has stood beside the main road into and out of Bollington, as a place of witness and welcome, especially for members of the local community wishing to embark on a marriage covenant relationship, or to celebrate the birth of a new baby, or to give thanks for a life now ended that has been well-lived. We share the joy of adults and children finding faith and recognising their essential worth before God. Equally we are here to support and care for those who feel wounded and bruised by their life’s experience. We offer prayers reflecting real anguish as well as hope, and we continue to reach out in all humility with empathy, comfort, friendliness and a listening ear to young and old alike. May God prosper our visionary plans to continue to improve the welcome we can offer within our church building, and may we always be mindful to look up and keep good company with one another as we follow the star which leads us to Christ, who is the same source of love, light and truth, yesterday, today and forever.

Every blessing,
Veronica

Vicar’s Letter – September/October 2018

Can you spot what’s missing from the picture above? One immediate response might be “The 1990’s Loo & Kitchen Pod” of course, but the less obvious answer is the inscription carved high up on the stone sill beneath the West Window. If you purchase a copy of Chris Ward’s splendid book “St Oswald’s Church , Bollington: The First 100 Years”, you’ll find the details of this inscription on Page One. Otherwise it can be very hard to read in situ (the inscription, not the book!) but as we now approach St Oswald’s 110th Birthday we are planning to restore the West End of the church to something like its original spaciousness and also incidentally to clean the stone of the window sill to make that historic inscription more legible again.

We are very conscious of the privilege of being the inheritors, or rather the caretakers, of St Oswald’s Church here in Bollington. As the inscription says, it was consecrated to the glory of God on the 22nd October 1908. The second century saint and theologian Irenaeus declared that “the glory of God is a human being fully alive” – echoing Jesus’ own words, “I have come that you may have life, in all its fullness!” We urge all our school children to “do your best – be the best that you can be!” The idea of building St Oswald’s Church emerged in the early 1900s as the then County Council were considering expanding Bollington Cross School to provide education for the increasing numbers of children within the local community. “In the earnest hope of divine assistance”, Bollington’s first Vicar, a young man called Revd George Palmer, had been the instigator of the original school building, which was opened in October 1845, incorporating a purpose-built Sunday Worship space. Local businessman and mill-owner, Samuel Greg, had gifted the land for that original vision. In 1907 another member of the Greg family, Herbert, generously donated the land for the separate building of a Church in response to an appeal from the parish finance committee (no doubt chaired by the then Vicar, Revd Charles Brooke Gwynne).

It is not known how the dedication was chosen, but the Celtic saint Oswald was reputed to have been a man of prayer, humility and open-handed generosity, so perhaps naming this church after such a saint was a subtle tribute to all those who freely gave land, financial grants and voluntary subscriptions to enable its construction. According to Chris Ward’s research, it cost £1,000 in 1845 to build the original School and Church, and then over sixty years later in 1908 it cost £3,700 to erect St Oswald’s Church. These sums appear on paper to be tiny when laid alongside the modern costs of adding basic sanitation and catering facilities (£15,000) in 1999, or our new sound system (around £8,000) in 2014, or our 2012 building extension, providing new loos and storage and creating a level access main entrance. The major expenditure for this of around £180,000 was met out of the total raised from the sale of Holy Trinity Church, Kerridge. Of course, it is hard to make accurate comparisons, but when you look back at the rise in house prices over the past 110 years, our present-day economy is clearly very different from that experienced by our Edwardian predecessors!

One factor however that has remained constant over the years is the continued vision and generosity of the members of our congregation and local community. We have kept firmly focussed on that original Christian vision and calling to serve our neighbours, in ways which are continually evolving to meet the changing needs of our society. Whereas six years ago we were fortunate in being able to afford an extension in order to improve our main entrance and provide more toilets, now we are applying for further faculty permission to enhance our catering and storage facilities, but this will be at far less cost since we will be working solely within the existing footprint of the church. By utilising the former main entrance porch, we will be able to install a more spacious kitchen (and simply add a new fire exit along the north side aisle). This will mean we will be able to offer greater support to our existing outreach groups (such as Praise & Play and RiCH) as well as broadening our appeal to other service-users and community groups in future. The original architect’s vision will be reinstated, allowing much more flexible space in front of the baptistery under the West Window, together with more discreet wall-mounted storage for our folding chairs and tables and other household equipment.

The featured picture gives you an impression of the restored balance and symmetry which will result on completion of this next project! We already have planning permission from Cheshire East to create the fire exit and our architect has drawn up detailed plans for the whole scheme for our Diocesan faculty application. These plans will be put on display in due course as part of the process. We are very fortunate to have been granted £20,000 from the Diocese out of the proceeds of the sale of the former Vicarage, but we are now also seeking other grant funding and private donations in order to be able to totally fund the building works, estimated to be in the region of £60,000. We have already received several other generous donations totalling about £7,000. So we are currently looking to find the balance of £33,000 to successfully complete the project. Your present Vicar, like her predecessors, has faith that God will honour all our endeavours to make the best provision we can to serve the people around us – always “to be the best we can be” and to strive to bring about change for good in our neighbourhood and wider world through works of compassion, creativity, prayer and practical service.

Please consider how you might join us in carrying out this mission project, encouraging us in whatever way you feel able to do. Perhaps you might think of giving a Birthday present to St Oswald’s on the occasion of our 110th Birthday this October? It would certainly be amazing to be able to complete this kitchen project in time for the Bollington Festival next May, now just nine months away! Any donations, however small, will make a huge difference – and there are Gift Aid forms and Standing Order forms available to download here . Thank you! May God continue to bless us all as we strive to build one another up in faith, hope and love, over the months and years to come.

Veronica

Vicar’s letter – Summer 2018

A recent BBC TV Antiques Road Show episode marked the centenary this year of (certain) women in the UK having been granted the right to vote in parliamentary elections. We watched with interest from the comfort of our sofa as the many and varied pioneering women and/or their friends and descendants were interviewed: there was a wide range of contributions, each celebrating particular women whose lives and careers had served to promote greater gender equality across our society over the past 100 years, sometimes at significant risk to their own well-being. There were inspiring stories of political campaigners from the suffragist and suffragette movements, an early 20th Century soft toy designer, women’s dance band members, recorded broadcasts from a pioneering opera and jazz singer, the 1928 first women’s Olympic Gymnast Team, the first female press photographer from before WW1 (whose great-great niece is a priest), wartime pilots, spies and land army recruits, post-war cross-channel swimmers, glimpses of fashion models, multi-tasking home-makers and career women, 1960’s striking factory workers, women jockeys and trainers, Greenham Common protesters, polar adventurers, particularly ground-breaking MPs like Margaret Thatcher, Diane Abbott and Betty Boothroyd, and finally our very own Bishop, Libby Lane.

At the end of the programme, Dave expressed mild surprise that one of the first women Marine Cargo Insurance Brokers at Lloyd’s, who went on to become one of the first women to be ordained priest in the Church of England, had not been featured in the programme – but clearly I’m not yet an Antique, so didn’t really qualify!?!

Annually at this time of year, we rejoice in celebrating the many and varied achievements of all of our young people here in Bollington and Macclesfield. Whether it is in leisure centres or at Sports Days, or within our uniformed organisations, or in creative activities at RiCH our church after-school group , or in a whole range of academic, artistic and practical subjects in our local schools and colleges, we applaud the efforts and developing skills and expertise demonstrated by this future generation of pioneers and innovators, of public servants and others dedicated to make the world a better place.

I personally had the privilege recently of witnessing the graduation ceremony of a young woman, Dawn Biza, who has gained a BA in Theatre Studies at Millikin University, near Chicago in Illinois. As part of her four year University course, Dawn recently made her debut at the Globe Theatre in London! She is definitely a star in the making! I first met Dawn in 2001 when as a young child she encouraged her Mum to bring her to church and they became members of the congregation of Emmanuel Church, Forest Gate in East London where I was Vicar at the time. Although still only at primary school, Dawn was one of those who confidently chose a few years later to be confirmed by the Bishop of Barking at a special service to mark the 150th Anniversary of that church, when the then Borough Mayor (who happened to be a Sikh) was also present! I was honoured to be at her graduation ceremony in May this year, to celebrate her academic achievements and also her work as a socially aware global citizen who is a strong yet humble woman of faith. I am proud to count Dawn as one of my friends as she now steps up resolutely to take her place upon the world’s stage.

Whatever their aspirations and ambitions, may we continue to nurture all our young people in faith and love, praying that they may each be enabled to fulfil their true God-given potential and to discover and develop their talents, for their own continued well-being and for the greater common good. As the late MP Jo Cox declared: “We have more in common than that which divides us.” May we recognise the unique part we have to play in our society today and may we encourage one another to always be the best we can be, to the glory of God and for the betterment of the world we have inherited from all those who’ve dared to mark out new paths and sing new songs across the centuries.

Every blessing,
Veronica

Extracts from the Vicar’s Annual Report 2018

Firstly I would like to thank all those who have faithfully worshipped together and served God here in so many and varied ways here at St Oswald’s during the past year. Without the selfless individual and corporate exercise of your gifts and talents, our church and community life would be so much the poorer, far less effective and certainly not half as much fun! Over the past twelve months we have been blessed with engaging and challenging preaching, from both our newly licensed Readers, Anne and Brian, as well as from Canon Roy, even when he has been enduring a tiresome burden of ill-health over such a prolonged period. We continue to benefit hugely from the work and dedication of Beverley, our Children & Families’ Worker, and the other willing volunteers who enable us to offer care and support for a whole variety of young people and families.

We have held several “firsts” of what we hope might become regular features of our life and worship, including our Pet Service in July (particularly popular with the dogs who enthusiastically applauded when invited to do so by the Vicar) and featuring a local friendly llama; several delicious servings of Sunday Afternoon Teas & Cakes over the summer months, including the opportunity to have a go at ringing the hand bells; our Teddy Bears’ Picnic in November (with an engaging re-enactment of the story of Goldilocks and The Three Bears by some of our young Puppet Group members); our accomplished Children’s Choir, an excellent initiative of Suzie one of our young mums; our emerging young Servers’ Team who now assist at the altar for most of our main Sunday Eucharistic services (and not forgetting Toby who got up early enough to be boat-boy, assisting our thurifer Matthew at the Dawn Eucharist on Easter Day!); our “Big Brekkie” for Christian Aid Week (hosted by Lorraine); and an enjoyable autumn Parish Pilgrimage Walk from Prestbury to Bollington going “the pretty way”, thanks to our intrepid leaders Ruth and Kerrian.

All these activities of course go alongside the regular tasks of maintenance and care of our church building, its effects and adornments, and its surrounding gardens, not to mention those who keep an eye on (and actively help tend) our Churchyard and Columbarium at St John’s in Church Street. Thanks to so many of you who give your time and effort to keep us functioning well, often working quietly behind the scenes, including those who take the trouble regularly to open and close the church on Wednesdays to allow other people to enjoy coming in during the day simply to pray or meditate as they wish. Thank you to the PCC and Deanery Synod members, the various cleaning teams, the church linens’ laundress, the flower arrangers, the musicians and choir members, our readers and intercessors, our caterers and washers-up, our Deputy Wardens and Vergers, the Website Manager, our weekly sheet printer and other publicity people, Katharine our longsuffering Church News Editor and her team, our Sidespeople and Sacristy assistants, Maggie our GAP co-ordinator, Bev our Safeguarding Officer, Julie our PCC and Deanery Synod Secretary, Sally our Treasurer and the wider finance team including Ann, Janet and Chris our Parish Giving Officer, Allen our sexton, Jean our Faith Hour leader, our Christian Aid Co-ordinators Richard, Margaret and Anthea and all the street collectors, our WHAM Nightshelter and Street Angels volunteers, our CHUB outing co-ordinators, and so many others, too numerous to mention but nonetheless appreciated!

Our ministry and outreach in this parish greatly benefits from our two church schools and our links across the whole Bollington Family of Schools, including our continuing close relationship with Dean Valley Community School. It is great to be able to report that both Bollington Cross School and Bollington St John’s School received excellent results from the statutory Church Schools’ SIAMS inspections carried out through the Diocese during the past twelve months. We are blessed in having hugely dedicated staff, parents and governors, whose efforts combine to offer a good and inspirational education to all the children of Bollington. We said a sad but fond farewell to Mrs Julie Downing who retired from Bollington Cross School in July 2017 after 15 years’ dedicated service, but were delighted to welcome Mr Yenson Donbavand as her equally energetic and innovative successor as Head Teacher in September 2017. Please also uphold in your prayers the children, governors and staff of Bollington St John’s School, and in particular Mrs Melanie Walker our excellent Head Teacher there, who continues to develop Bollington St John’s in educationally imaginative and financially effective ways, enabling the school to go from strength to strength since the dissolution of the Federation which took effect at the behest of Pott Shrigley School on 28 February 2017. Last summer we invited over 300 of our primary school children to take part in another Schools’ Experience Week, following the Story of Moses, complete with searching the bullrushes, praying beside the burning bush, enduring the plagues, enjoying a Passover feast, daring the crossing of the Red Sea and finally receiving the Ten Commandments. Special thanks to Bev, Hilary, David and Becca for enabling another memorable Experience!

As you are aware, our architect’s outline plans for the Kitchen Development Mission Project have now been given the blessing of the PCC and it is exciting to announce that more than one third of the cost of this Mission Project will be met by the recent grant of £20,000 we have now successfully claimed from the Diocese. So as we anticipate hosting another range of enticing events during the next Bollington Festival in May 2019, we are keen to bring in the necessary remainder of the funds to enable the development of our new kitchen to be completed in time! Over this coming year may we rise to this renewed challenge, alongside our everyday fundraising needs, and so enhance our capacity for hospitality and service towards others, all for the bringing about of God’s Kingdom here on earth, as it is in heaven.
Finally, I would like once again to express my sincere thanks to our two dedicated and equally hardworking Churchwardens, Christine and Hilary, who have greatly encouraged me in my calling as your parish priest (now beginning my twelfth year here!) and who, alongside the other members of your Ministry Team, continue to share a positive vision for the future thriving and growth of our church community here in Bollington and beyond.

Every blessing,
Veronica

Vicar’s Letter – January 2018

As we begin another New Year, we look forward to the exciting prospect of seeking faculty permission from the Chancellor of the Diocese for the continuance of our plans to enhance the hospitality of St Oswald’s Church building, which outline plans have now been given the blessing of the PCC. With the expert guidance of our volunteer project manager, Richard Raymond (known to many of you as our Deanery Lay Chair and joint organiser of the award-winning East Cheshire Hospice Christmas Tree Collection) we are looking to create an improved kitchen facility within the porch of the former main entrance to St Oswald’s, adding a new part-glazed fire escape door into what is currently the window immediately adjacent to the old porch (for which we have already been granted planning permission by Cheshire East), and building some new wall-hugging storage cupboards at the west end of the nave in place of the now outgrown servery kitchen and former loo space.

Approximately one third of the cost of this mission project will be met by the funds we can claim back from the net proceeds which the Diocese obtained following the sale of the old vicarage on Shrigley Road and the subsequent purchase of a new house on Waterwheel Way (which will become the home of future Vicars of Bollington after I retire!). At our last PCC meeting in November, there was broad agreement that this project is much needed since our present facilities for hospitality are now inadequate for our evolving ministry and mission, but some anxieties were properly expressed about where to find the remainder of the money for these necessary works. We will be able to apply for grant funding from a whole variety of charities aimed at supporting community development, but we will also need to tap into the goodwill of the wider Bollington community through imaginative fundraising efforts and events, in order to achieve our goal. As we heard at this same PCC meeting, in the late 1990’s when it seemed that St Oswald’s dream then of installing a loo and an ancillary tea/coffee making facility was running into difficulty due to lack of funds, the Assistant Curate challenged the Committee to nevertheless take “a leap of faith” and continue on with their proposed plans, which they did – and amazingly the full amount of money needed to complete those works did indeed materialise! The resulting construction has served the church well until more recent years. However, progressively since 2003 and 2009, St Oswald’s has taken on the responsibility of having become the sole focus of worship, witness and service for Anglicans here in Bollington. This has required us find a new way to maximise our floor space once again, to find more efficient and effective ways to offer hospitality, and to increase our ability to meet the needs of the many established groups and future missionary activities that we now aspire to support as part of our church life within the local and wider community.

So please do look out for the imminent launch of our new Kitchen Development Fund! Coincidentally, during the season of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday 14 February, we will be taking time to reflect together, not just on what is the nature and quality of the hospitality we can offer to others, but also on what it really means for God to welcome us all to feast at his table. We will be using a little book by Kenneth Stevenson (a former Bishop of Portsmouth) called “Take, Eat – Reflections on the Eucharist” and I hope you will be able to find time to join us in exploring the implications of daring to accept God’s invitation to grow, to adapt and to change not just the external features of the buildings of which we are jointly stewards, but also the internal attitudes of the everyday lives we have likewise been entrusted to attend to.

The cover of the book says: “Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them!” This intended insult to Jesus recorded in the Gospels captures the wildly extravagant idea at the very heart of the Christian faith: God, in Christ, invites us – deserving and undeserving alike – to be his friends, to sit at his table and to share the feast of eternal life. Nowhere is this more clearly expressed than in the Eucharist. Of all the ways in which Jesus might have asked his followers to remember him, it is in the sharing of bread and wine that we are drawn together as a community and made one with Christ. Such a simple and powerful ritual, yet it is easy for our appreciation of it to become dulled by formality or by repetition. ‘Take, Eat’ is a biblical and practical guide to the central act of Christian worship. It opens our understanding to see how it feeds and nurtures us, and sends us back into the world with the life-giving message: ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good!’

May we take up this renewed challenge to our church community during 2018 to literally enhance our capacity for hospitality and service towards others and to spiritually enrich our understanding about how God desires to wait on us and nourish us as his beloved children around his table, here and now on earth as it is for eternity in heaven.

Every blessing for this new project and this New Year!

Veronica

Vicar’s Letter – November 2017

If November is a month both for remembrance of the pity of war and also celebration of friends and loved ones lost from our sight and touch, then December is a month both for reflection on our own mortality and also thanksgiving for the joys to come. The Church offers us the season of Advent as a time of preparation, not just for Christmas but also for some (hopefully distant) future time when our earthly life’s journey will reach its end. This certainly doesn’t mean these next few weeks should be all doom and gloom! Rather it means that between now and the end of the year we have opportunities to celebrate the gift of life and the legacies left to us by others, as well as to consider what our own legacy will be, what we will be remembered for, what positive difference we might make to the wellbeing of the world and of the people entrusted to our care.

You are warmly invited to come and spend some time here at St Oswald’s over the course of one particular December weekend, when you can take a break from “retail therapy” and enjoy some reflective, relaxing, quiet, contemplative time in good company and with God!

On Saturday 16 December, we are offering you the chance to spend part or all of the day in church, when we might explore some Advent themes in a whole variety of ways. The Quiet Day will begin with coffee/tea at 9.30am, leading into the first of a succession of “thoughts for the day” from the Vicar at 10.00am, followed by some optional creative activities/prayer aids/reading material to help you settle into the silence as the day progresses. There will be interludes when we break for a simple lunch at 12.30pm, for tea/coffee (and cake?!) at 3.30pm, and for a further simple sustaining snack at 6.30pm, then we’ll finally close our Quiet Day by sharing Compline (Night Prayer) at 9.30pm. My intention is that people may like to come and go during the break times, with the chance to stay for as long or as short a time as they wish, but with those specific transitional refreshment intervals offering an easy point at which to arrive or depart without undue disruption to others.

On Sunday 17 December, as always everyone is welcome to share in our informal Third Sunday Family Communion at 10.30am. Then, later on, you are invited to return at 3.00pm to round off the whole weekend with another kind of feast – this time to join in singing Carols by Candlelight, followed by seasonal refreshments and then enjoy listening to music played on our pipe organ, appreciating its newly re-furbished bellows (achieved thanks to your generosity in fundraising once again)!

So this whole weekend will be something of an Advent Adventure! Please do make a note of it all in your personal Advent Calendar – a great seasonal opportunity to open the doors of your heart and mind to God’s angelic message, as Christ humbly comes to greet us here, asking to be let into our busy lives and offering us perhaps a gently challenging, as well as powerfully refreshing, glimpse of heaven.

Every blessing,
Veronica