Vicar’s Letter – December 2016

O holy Child of Bethlehem…Be born in us today!”

vicars letter003Christmas is not just for children! As adults we may tend to get overwhelmed with all the expectations of buying appropriate presents, writing cheery messages in hundreds of well-chosen charity cards, juggling seasonally over-stretched finances, having to entertain crotchety relatives, eating and drinking more than is good for us, listening to yet more carols or tinny festive music whilst out shopping, and eventually losing track of the number of other things we feel we have to do, before we can safely put our feet up and watch HRH the Queen give what is probably her 65th message on Christmas Day!
Contrary to what those tantalising Advent calendars (with or without chocolate) may imply, the main purpose of the Advent season is not simply to count down the days before we finally get to open all those other more satisfying presents on 25 December. It is instead about recognising the constant need to develop a more sustainable and generous attitude in ourselves, essentially the Christian mindset of fostering goodwill towards all people the whole year round. Just as we may take a few extra moments each day to open up the little doors of our Advent calendar this December, so might we also open the windows of our souls and catch a glimpse of the Light of the World dawning slowly onto our frosty hearts, encouraging a fresh habit of mindfulness that will gradually enable us to celebrate the glory and the challenge of Emmanuel, “God with us”, every single day for the rest of our lives.

“The bells of waiting Advent ring…”
Those of you who have mourned the loss of Bollington’s peal of church bells, since the closure of St John’s Church in 2003, may be cheered to know that you will have the opportunity to hear them ringing out again, now refurbished and re-hung in the tower of St Thomas’ Church, Stockton Heath – where by happy coincidence an erst-while Assistant Curate of Bollington, Revd Michael Ridley, is now the Vicar! Here is the open invitation recently sent to us by Dr Peter Banyard, one of the Churchwardens there:

Hello! You may be aware that the extensive tower refurbishment project at St Thomas’ Church is nearing completion. The project, of course, has included the installation of the bells that were generously gifted by St John the Baptist Church, Bollington, as well as two new bells that were funded separately by another generous benefactor. Without the generosity of your church, the installation of this impressive peal of bells would not have been possible. A dedication service will take place at St Thomas’ Church at 3.00pm on Sunday 8 January 2017. Bishop Peter will be officiating. We would like to extend an invitation to any interested members of your church to save the date!

Please do make a note in your new diary to come along to Stockton Heath this Epiphany to share in this special service. Just in case, unlike the Three Wise Men, you do not usually use the stars to guide your journeys, but instead rely on satnav, the postcode of St Thomas’ Church is WA4 6HJ!

Meanwhile it seems appropriate to offer as food for thought during this last month of 2016 the following poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, stirringly set to music more recently by Karl Jenkins in his choral work, The Armed Man:

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
    the flying cloud, the frosty light:
    the year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
    ring, happy bells, across the snow:
    the year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
    for those that here we see no more;
    ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
    and ancient forms of party strife;
    ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
    the faithless coldness of the times;
    ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
    the civic slander and the spite;
    ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
    ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
    ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
    the larger heart, the kindlier hand;
    ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Every blessing this Advent, Christmas and always,

Vicar’s Letter – November 2016

vicars letter003

“Happy are the people whose strength is in you!
whose hearts are set on the pilgrim’s way…
For the Lord God is both sun and shield;
he will give grace and glory…”
(verses from Psalm 84)


With not a little help from my friends (including Malcolm and Julie who lent me a walking stick and Christine who lent me a rucksack) I managed to walk most of the St Cuthbert’s Way again from Melrose to Lindisfarne during the first week of October! The weather was just right for trekking up and down the hills (or “undulations” as our esteemed leader Canon Taffy Davies kept calling them!) – not too hot, some bits of blustery wind but hardly any rain. We stayed at a place called Akeld Manor, near Wooler, and progressed along the pilgrim’s route by travelling out in our mini-bus each day to a different starting point which was where the group had left off the previous day. With fifteen or so good companions (both ordained and lay), we enjoyed much laughter together, times of reflection, great home-cooked food, lovely scenery, varied conversations, a reasonable amount of alcohol, optional prayers morning and night, and helping hands over the stiles and across rocky paths. Some of us took time out for the odd day, enabling our blisters to heal and aching limbs to ease! By the end of the week, we all felt a sense of achievement and clearly had all enjoyed the time to think and reflect back individually and with others about our different life journeys and also to explore in anticipation the paths that might lie ahead for each of us.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As the season of Advent comes round once again at the end of November, we recognise the signposts along the way, leading us towards the light and joy of Christmas there in the distance, travelling in our imagination with Joseph, Mary and the donkey across the hills to Bethlehem. As the nights draw in at this time of year too, we naturally bring to mind those good and faithful companions we once knew and who travelled alongside us for a while, but who now have already reached our longed-for home in heaven, way ahead of us. We look to Christ, the light of the world, to illuminate our path as we continue our journeying, grateful that Jesus is willing to shoulder our burdens for us when we stumble or grow weary along the way. We pray for grace and humility to accept help from others in times of need, and for the energy and perceptiveness to offer an outstretched arm or a shoulder to cry on, to those who may need that from us, from time to time.

Just as our motley little group of St Cuthbert’s Way pilgrims last month encouraged one another to persevere, so may the congregation here in Bollington journey towards Christmas together with fresh energy, undeterred by the uncomfortable blisters that inevitably appear when “the feet that bring good news” rub up against hard-heartedness, cynicism or consumerism. May we honour the memories of saints and loved ones who have gone before us, and may we continue to be a people of generous hospitality, of positive compassion and of loving concern for anyone (whether among us or beyond our circle) who may need an encouraging word or a helping hand, walking together in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Every blessing,


Vicar’s Letter -October 2016

vicars letter003After two years here in training with us since his ordination, we have just said farewell to our Assistant Curate, Michael Fox. A few days later we saw him welcomed into his new role, being licensed on 31 August as part-time Priest-in-Charge at the Parish of St Paul’s Macclesfield. The following Sunday afternoon, I was invited to be present for another Welcome Service, this time for the newly appointed Superintendent Minister of the Macclesfield Methodist Circuit, Reverend Graham Edwards. All ministers who serve in the Methodist Church expect to move on to new posts after a fixed period of years in one place, and for them the “transfer window” opens each year at the end of August, around the same time as for footballers, I gather!? I suspect that no church minister, of whatever denomination, can command anything like the remuneration of even the lowliest celebrity football player! However, all parishes and congregations are asked to contribute a considerable sum annually to cover the costs of having a minister or priest working alongside them, as sadly for the past thirty or more years there has no longer been any central funding available to pay for this from the National Church. In our case, here in Bollington, the cost of having a full-time priest is levied in the form of a Parish Share by the Diocese of Chester, currently to the tune of over £60,000 a year. Nearly two-thirds of that figure goes towards the wider Diocesan costs of clergy housing, pensions, ministry support and advisory services, including the educational, finance, safeguarding, vocational and social responsibility departments, whilst a figure just over the remaining third pays my stipend.

As regular worshippers will see from a letter shortly arriving through their letterbox, our present level of regular income each year does just about cover our Parish Share, but leaves very little with which to pay all the other “household bills” which we need to meet simply so as to keep open our doors, to maintain and improve the facilities of our building, and to support all the activities and services that we would like to continue to offer for the benefit of our local community. We are therefore appealing to everyone who values having St Oswald’s Church at the heart of our community life, to consider making a regular commitment, however small, preferably by Standing Order and Gift-Aided if possible, so that we can be certain to still be available to serve at least one or two more generations of Bollingtonians! Please see our website Giving page for the relevant downloadable forms, or contact our PCC Treasurer in confidence if you would like to know more. Thank you for your support.

Christian-AidOur Harvest Charity this year is Christian Aid, which works alongside the poorest of people in different communities across the world, many of whom can only dream of the comparative luxury afforded by a Vicar’s annual stipend. As probably your grandparents said to you too as a child, “There’s always someone worse off than yourself!” This was marginally more helpful than that other admonition to “Eat your greens! There’s a starving child somewhere who’d be grateful to have the chance!” As responsible and caring adults, we are all called to re-examine our priorities in life and always to seek to serve the needs of others before looking to meet our own. However St Oswald’s, our local Parish Church, has a responsibility to carry on the legacy handed down to us from past worshippers and parishioners, humbly offering a place of sanctuary, compassion, truth-seeking, neighbourliness, challenge, consolation and care, being available for all in our community, whether or not they consider themselves to be religious. We recognise our now urgent need for the financial support of friends around us locally in order to continue to be a beacon of light and hope in dark times, in the same way as we ourselves reach out to support other charities like Christian Aid whose partners are involved in critical and life-affirming projects across the world.

May God bless us as together we work, in so many varied and complementary ways, to make this world a fairer, more compassionate and more hopeful place to be, where all God’s children may thrive and grow. May God bless our going out and our coming in, from this time forth and for evermore.


Vicar’s Letter – September 2016

vicars letter003Thank you all for the warm welcome that you offered me when I came back from my sabbatical leave towards the end of the school summer term! I’m very grateful to (our sadly now erstwhile Assistant Curate) Michael Fox, and to (the erstwhile Rural Dean of Macclesfield!) Canon Taffy Davies, for standing in for me here in caring for our parish and our deanery respectively, and to Revd Dr Gary Bowness for covering several funerals for Bollington parishioners over recent months. My warm thanks also go to Canon Roy, Beverley, Brian and Anne who continued to offer their well-honed skills in pastoral care, preaching and leading worship both at St Oswald’s and at Mount Hall Nursing Home during my leave of absence.

The first six weeks of my time away was spent in the beautiful setting of Venice. I was very pleased to be joined there by a whole series of friends and family who came over for several days at a time to share the “rooms with a view” which I had rented on the Venetian island of Guidecca. Welcoming all my guests during this time gave me a brilliant excuse to return again and again to a whole variety of my favourite places of artistic excellence, uplifting worship and delicious food and drink! Several local restaurant owners I think were particularly sad to see me return home at the end of my stay! It was good to be in Venice for St Mark’s Day as well as Ascension Day, festivals which are celebrated annually in colourful manner by the Venetian people.

One of the daily disciplines I tried to follow during my sabbatical was to spend some time each morning reflecting on “The Joy of Being” (a little book of daily spiritual readings given to me by Roy) and reading one poem a day from the modern anthology “Lifesaving Poems” (presented to me by Michael just before I set off on my travels to the Venetian lagoon). One particular poem struck me as being very apt during my time away: it is called “A Poem for Someone Who Is Juggling Her Life” by Rose Cook. I thought you might like to read it, and perhaps usefully apply it to yourself too, especially as things begin to pick up again after the summer holidays and we all become busy with both necessary and more trivial tasks once again:

This is a poem for someone
who is juggling her life.
Be still sometimes.
Be still sometimes.

 It needs repeating
over and over
to catch her attention
over and over,
because someone juggling her life
finds it difficult to hear.

 Be still sometimes.
Be still sometimes.
Let it all fall sometimes.

One thing that happened here during my time away was that, for two separate short periods (thanks to a rota signed up to by willing volunteer keyholders) the doors of our church were left open during the day for people to come into St Oswald’s at times other than for our usual services or events. One week was dedicated to offering some different focus areas within the church to enable people to reflect on aspects of The Lord’s Prayer, as recommended by our Archbishops during the time leading up to the feast of Pentecost. The other Open Church week was when we offered a place of sanctuary following a tragic death of one of our parishioners, where people, young and old, could freely come in to mourn, privately or collectively, and to write in the book of condolence provided. These opportunities given to the wider community to come in to use their Parish Church for times of focussed reflection, including searching for peace or trying to make sense of things, were readily taken up by adults, by children of our various schools and by our RiCH Group. At our recent PCC meeting we agreed that making the church building more available for people to call by sometimes in the midst of otherwise busy daily routines, was an excellent thing for us to pursue, remembering also our experience of opening the church during last autumn’s Refugee Crisis Appeal, which again was welcomed by members of the local and wider community.

So starting this September, we have decided to open the doors of St Oswald’s during the day every Wednesday (except of course if the church happens to be needed for part of that time for a funeral service, for example). We are calling this new venture #quietplace and we do hope that everyone in our local community (and other visitors from further afield) will be able to benefit from the chance to simply come inside our lovely Parish Church, to rest here for a while, to spend time with your own thoughts and with God, and by doing so to find inner guidance, renewed strength and courage for any trials or adventures you may face. Why not come in and enjoy a moment’s peace and quiet within the walls of a building that has served local people in so many different ways over the course of its 108 year long history!

We’d be grateful if you could let all your friends and neighbours know about this new plan to open up St Oswald’s between the hours of 8.30am and dusk every Wednesday, beginning on Wednesday 07 September 2016. Please feel free to make yourself a cup of tea or coffee whilst you are here, if you wish, and there will be a small library of books to dip into and some other occasional resources available to help you relax and focus your mind. We have a permanently well-stocked Children’s Corner too, so please don’t hesitate to bring along any small children you happen to have in your care that day: they will of course be welcome to come and play alongside you, as long as you remember to keep at least one eye open as you pray, to make sure your baby or toddler remains safe! And of course as you know there are baby-changing facilities and loos alongside our main entrance. Before you leave, please do also write a comment (signed or not, as you like) in our new Visitors’ Book, so that we can pick up on anything you have found helpful, or any new suggestions you may have for us to consider, or perhaps simply mentioning anyone or anything you would like us to include in our prayers on the following day at our regular Thursday morning 9.30am Communion service. Thank you.

May the God of care and compassion, who seeks to offer each of us a whole range of opportunities for relaxation, refreshment and renewal of purpose, bless our church and community this autumn and always.



A letter for Summer 2016 from our Curate Michael Fox

It seems no more than a moment ago that I was first pinning on my deacon’s sash in the vestry in preparation for my first service as the new assistant curate at St. Oswald. Now a mere two years later, here I am saying goodbye.

For me it has been an extraordinary journey of discovery, surprise and delight. Welcomed in to the St. Oswald community (I already knew Bollington well and have many friends in the town), I can certainly testify to the warmth and friendliness of the congregation and their genuine commitment to the well-being of the neighbourhood and of those who are in need of any sort.

My way into St. Oswald was paved by your vicar, Veronica, to whom I must now pay tribute as mentor, supervisor, trainer-upperer, colleague and friend.

White-Nancy-Arch2I could not have wished for a wiser or more generous person to induct me into the mysteries of parish life. She is generous not only in the thoughtful presents she has provided on countless occasions – the pre-ordination retreat survival pack was an earnest of things to come – but more profoundly in the way she gives space for others to flourish. This giving of ‘space’ may seem insubstantial, but it is the most important thing a leader can do for those she leads. It enables others to be creative and to give of their best selves, safe in the knowledge that the leader’s wisdom and experience are available when help is needed. Veronica’s leadership is certainly resilient and firm when it needs to be for the sake of the health of the whole, but it is flexible, encouraging and good-humoured, as well as being genuinely self- sacrificing. If I am able to bring even a very little of these qualities to my new post as priest-in-charge of St. Paul’s, Macclesfield, then I will be able to serve the community there well.

What have been the highlights of my time? I was plunged on arrival straight into the middle of the preparations for a Schools Creation Experience week, which was memorable firstly for the wonderful teamwork between the church members who created and led various ‘days’ – I remember moving quickly from the cacophony of the ‘chaos orchestra’ into the waters covering the earth, or the chancel in this case, and getting quite wet, before participating in a ‘living planetarium’ as the solar system sprang into being.

Secondly the week showed me the potential for the development of children’s spirituality, a theme which has spread through my time here, with the reinvention of family worship and the opportunity to encourage children to express themselves in worship and to know that they have as much right to the space as adults do. Seeing children feel ‘at home’ in church with a real desire to be there has been one of the special joys of the last two years. It is also the secret to that most sought-after phenomenon, church growth. This was emphasized for me recently when the prayer stations that church members created during the Wave of Prayer week leading up to Pentecost were visited and used with such alacrity by children from three of the Bollington schools. The prayers they left behind were a testimony to the depth of children’s spiritual lives.

Continuing the creative theme, another highlight has been the writing workshops I have been privileged to lead. The first of these in Advent 2014 was in preparation for a ‘community litany’, an exploration of the thoughts and feelings generated by the town’s losses during the First World War. A number of church members found new ways of expressing themselves confidently in what became a moving reflection on conflict and the search for peace. A second series of workshops open to the community during the autumn of 2015 led up to a public poetry reading, Poems and Pies, just before Christmas. The poets concerned grew in confidence and scope throughout the process, discovering in themselves a new voice and new potential for personal growth. I hope in future that this workshop might be repeated in the company of writers from my new parish, if I can persuade them to join in some of the silly games necessary to the ‘creative process’.

Perhaps the greatest joys, though, have come from the quiet, everyday realities of parish life; listening to your stories, triumphs, pains, sorrows; sharing life and also death; worshipping the Lord together and exploring the heights, depths and widths of our mutual faith; praying and learning together – even if it was to the soundtrack of Les Miserables!

Now it is time to prepare myself for my new role at St. Paul’s, Macclesfield but I hope to welcome some of you to my ‘installation’ on 31 August at 7.30pm. I shall certainly never forget my time in ‘Happy Valley’ – how could I? It has some of the best pubs and people I know! God bless and thank you (as we comperes like to say).

Waiting, Waving, Praying

A letter for June 2016 from our Curate Michael Fox

In early May the Christian church celebrates two festivals which never quite hold the limelight in the manner of Christmas or Easter or even Harvest. The first, Ascension, marks the endpoint of Christ’s bodily presence on earth. The second, Pentecost, celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit – the outpouring of the Spirit’s blessing upon those few early believers assembled in Jerusalem.

Ascension and Pentecost are best experienced in relation to one another. Ascension asks us to think about the first disciples as they undergo yet another parting from Jesus. “Are you finally going to restore the Kingdom of Israel to its rightful place?” they ask Jesus on the way up Mount Olivet. “No,” says Jesus, “it’s down to you to build the Kingdom of my Father. But you will not be alone. Didn’t I promise that the Holy Spirit would come to you and be with you, giving you guidance and authority? Go back to Jerusalem to wait and to pray.”

At Pentecost a few days later the Holy Spirit was indeed poured out upon the believers gathered in a house in Jerusalem, and so the church was born, ‘baptised with the Holy Spirit and fire,’ as John the Baptist had foretold.

thykingdomcomeThis year the Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued an invitation to all Christians across the UK to take part in a ‘wave of prayer’ during the period between Ascension and Pentecost. The Archbishops invited us all to spend a week in prayer for a renewed confidence in sharing the Gospel. Since our Patron Saint, Oswald, was much concerned with confidence and courage, it seemed like a good invitation to accept. Twenty members of the church signed up to pray the Lord’s Prayer each day and for five friends or family members to know Jesus more deeply. Some members signed up to help create prayer stations in church based on the Lord’s Prayer. Some brave souls also signed up for a prayer walk around part of Bollington.

The prayer stations were created all around the church and were woven into the fabric of the Thursday morning Eucharist and the Family Communion on the Sunday of Pentecost itself. Each station took a line or couplet of the Lord’s Prayer and created an immersive environment in which to sit and allow God to speak ‘between the lines’. The stations ranged in concept from a table set for a meal, with representations of our basic daily needs, to a tent with a ‘heavenly ceiling’ and a rug to lie on. There was an opportunity to ‘wipe the slate clean’ at the Forgiveness table and an opportunity to think about how Thy will’ is done throughout the cycle of life. A pillar became a tree dressed with tempting apples while in the chancel there was a declaration of ‘Holy ground’ and the opportunity to kneel in response to the holiness of God’s name.

Part of the intention was to investigate different ways of praying, involving the whole of one’s body, mind and spirit, and to explore the heights, depths and breadths of the prayer we often pray without pausing to let its wisdom shape us and enfold us.

Of course the intention of the Wave of Prayer is to equip us for mission, to give us the confidence that the Holy Spirit brings. This mission started during the week with visits from 3 different classes from Bollington Cross School, continued with prayer stations set up by invitation at St. John’s and Dean Valley schools (during the stressful period of the SATS tests) and developed as we took our first faltering steps in the art of prayer-walking around the streets of Bollington. This is a simple way of blessing the community we live in, walking and pausing to pray for residents, businesses, shoppers, walkers as well as all those who help to make Bollington a safe and secure community in which all can thrive.

I hope and pray that some of these new ways of praying and blessing will stay with us as we venture on into summer. If you are out for a walk in the town, why not stop and say a prayer for someone nearby? And don’t forget to (prayer) wave as you pass by St Oswald’s!


Vicar’s Letter – May 2016

vicars letter003For a whole week this March we had the privilege of leading about 350 children from our local community through another “Easter Experience” here in St Oswald’s. The difficult and moving story lived out by Jesus and his friends, from the hosannas of Palm Sunday through to the alleluias of Easter Day, was portrayed by three trustworthy women witnesses, Beverley Nixon, Sue Berry and Jo Belfield, accompanied by reflections from the Vicar. It was a pleasure to listen and respond to the children and staff of our schools and to explore with them the very human experiences of celebration, companionship, betrayal, courage, cruelty, sorrow, solidarity, kindness, grief, loss, and finally, delight in life and hope restored. Then on Good Friday morning, Beverley offered a captivating Craft Trail around the church, in which parents and their young children together discovered the Way of the Cross, assisted by Helen Nixon and three members of our RiCH After-School Group who graciously served refreshments and willingly moved furniture (these same lads had helped out the previous weekend at our grand Church Spring Clean too!). Witnessing some of our younger children trying to make sense of what happened to “Baby Jesus” when he grew up was a humbling and literally “wonder-full” experience. Anyone who thinks of children as disruptive in church would have done well instead to have dared to share that special Holy Week and Good Friday journey alongside these thoughtful and insightful young members of our community.

It seems to me that sometimes children demonstrate a sharper sense of spiritual hearing than we adults do, an apparent ability to hear the voice of God which perhaps we have become deaf to over the years, maybe thinking we already know what God wants and not listening out keenly enough for the fresh challenges God might be calling us to? One of those challenges for future consideration here at St Oswald’s is the idea of literally keeping our doors open more often. Last autumn we tried it very successfully after Teddy, one of our Year One children, asked his parents what it meant to be a refugee, picking up on all the coverage on the news. On having their desperate plight explained to him, Teddy’s immediate and straightforward reaction was, “We should help them!” At our next Growth Action Planning Meeting later that week, we woke up to the childlike simplicity of this call for us to show practical kindness. We organised an emergency Appeal whereby St Oswald’s became a temporary drop-off point for much-needed supplies, which were then transported on to the charity Refugees Aid in North West England, based at Warrington. The wider community of Bollington too responded readily to this Appeal to help people displaced from their homes, calling into our church throughout the day for six weeks from Monday 21 September until Friday 23 October. They brought along life-saving items of clothing, shoes, tents, toiletries and foodstuffs for onward distribution, and some also took the chance to spend a moment or two praying for a peaceful solution to the terrible conflicts and wars that cause people to flee their homes in the first place. During Lent, Tobias, another of our young church members, sent me a heartfelt letter urging us to pray for the children of Syria, again having seen coverage of their plight on the news. Thank you to Teddy and Tobias for spurring us all into action, and to all the willing volunteers who opened and closed the church last autumn and helped to sort the huge piles of donated goods, and especially to Hannah, Dave and Beverley who acted as unpaid hauliers to take the much-needed supplies to the central distribution point. Apart from helping those in need, opening our church doors must give us food for thought about the benefits of unlocking our doors more often…Why not come along to our next Growth Action Planning meeting here in church between 10am and 11am on Saturday 4 June, and share your thoughts and ideas about this or any other venture you may feel we as a local church could embark upon.

Last summer we celebrated with our part-time Assistant Curate, Michael Fox, when he was ordained priest at Chester Cathedral. Michael has continued to develop his ministry among us, including taking a full part preaching and presiding now in our Communion services on Sundays and Thursday mornings, leading Creative Writing Groups, offering a series of homilies based on the elements of the Eucharistic liturgy, working with myself and Beverley in leading our evolving family-friendly services, now on both the First and the Third Sundays of each month, contributing to our discussions at PCC meetings and also convening our Marketing and Communications Group which is looking to find new ways of encouraging financial sustainability, initiating for instance our recent “Easy Peasy” fundraising venture. I am grateful that Michael’s presence on our staff team has enabled me to take advantage of an overdue period of sabbatical leave for three months (April, May and June). Although, during my absence on sabbatical, the Churchwardens are primarily in charge of Bollington Church and Michael is still only available for 12 hours a week of parish ministry, I’m hoping this experience will stand him in good stead for when he subsequently takes up his new part-time post as Priest-in-charge of St Paul’s Macclesfield, as from 31 August 2016! We shall be sorry to see him go, but nevertheless in my other capacity as the Rural Dean, I am also pleased Michael will be filling one of the four current clergy vacancies in parishes in our Macclesfield Deanery!

At our recent Vestry Meeting on 21 March, Christine Osbaldiston and Liz Thomas were elected as our two Churchwardens for the coming year. It seems that (like our out-going Churchwarden Jackie Pengelly) both their fathers have served as Churchwardens in the past, so they both have a head start in understanding the role! They will be sworn in officially at the Archdeacon’s Visitation service on Monday 16 May at 7.30pm at St George’s Stockport. Do go along to this service, especially if you are a sidesperson or a member of the PCC, and please offer them both your prayers and your support now and over the coming year, as they seek to serve our church and wider community in this important role. During our subsequent Annual Parochial Church Meeting on that first day of Spring, we elected six new members onto the PCC, including Rachel Lake and Julie Brunt, so please also pray for this new Council whose task it is to listen to members of our congregation and our local community and to help discern the best way forward for our church in mission and ministry.

May God bless us all as we work together, young and old, to serve God to the best of our ability and to grow in faith and holiness as we follow the Christian way of truth, kindness and peace, empowered not by old prejudices or preconceptions from the past but by the ever-living, ever-challenging and ever-loving Holy Spirit celebrated afresh at Pentecost!


Vicar’s Letter March 2016

vicars letter003As we enter into the month of March, Spring will no doubt have blessed the bare tree branches around Bollington with welcome signs of new green leafy shoots, and probably all the daffodils in the Vicarage garden will be out in full bloom by now. The March winds in their due season will also herald a few temporary as well as longer term changes in the make-up of our Ministry Team here at St Oswald’s!

The Vicar is pleased to be taking sabbatical leave for three months from 1 April until 1 July (partly in the delightful surroundings of Venice), thanks to the fact that our Assistant Curate is willing to provide cover for our services here whilst I’m away and that Canon Taffy Davies is providing any emergency care for parishes and clergy across Macclesfield by acting temporarily as Rural Dean in my place! However, you will also by now have heard the news that Michael Fox will be preparing to move on from our parish at the end of August, when he will be licensed as part-time stipendiary Priest-in-Charge of St Paul’s, Macclesfield. Every Curacy has a shorter term than is often to be desired, but we do wish Michael every blessing in taking up his new role from the autumn, fortunately remaining in our splendid Deanery of Macclesfield and within the ecumenical group of 39 churches which make up local Christian lay and ordained ministry under the label HOPE in North East Cheshire.

St Paul's, Macclesfield
St Paul’s, Macclesfield

The other changes to our Ministry Team will occur in the natural scheme of things as on the evening of Monday 21 March we come to our Annual Vestry Meeting (for the election of Churchwardens, an ancient office which is open to anyone from amongst the wider parish community and is voted for by anyone who lives within the Parish or who is on our church Electoral roll), followed by our Annual Parochial Church Meeting (which includes the election of new members onto the Parochial Church Council, who may be chosen from amongst those people within our worshipping congregation and voted for only by those on the church Electoral roll). We are blessed with many “good and faithful servants” within this Parish, who give uncomplainingly of their time, talents and energy to benefit the life of St Oswald’s Church and community.

This year, we will give particular thanks for the ministry exercised over the past six years by Jackie Pengelly as Churchwarden and we will certainly be looking for a new Churchwarden to take up the space she must leave as she will have reached the limit of the time eligible at one stretch to stand for election in this role. We trust that her recent adventures visiting New Zealand and Australia will have given her a foretaste of how blessed it will be for her to be free from Churchwardenly cares and responsibilities now for a time, as a new Churchwarden will taking up the role for us as from the yearly “Archdeacon’s Visitation” on Monday 16 May! Please do not be shy about considering whether God may now be calling you to step into this role for the forthcoming year!? “Be strong and of good courage!” There is a wealth of experience for you to tap into from a whole swathe of former Churchwardens still worshipping with us and who will no doubt be happy to offer you assistance or advice when asked. There will of course also be natural opportunities presented too for other new people to serve as members of our Parochial Church Council this year, and thus to pool and share new ideas and perspectives and to offer an increasingly wider set of skills and experience within the representative decision-making body of our Parish Church.

May God bless all of us as we approach the Easter season, not only made humbly conscious of our own limitations and shortcomings as we journey through Lent, but also – in the light of the Risen Christ – once again able to celebrate and exercise of a whole variety of personal gifts, talents and strengths found within the growing worshipping and witnessing Servant Community we call St Oswald’s Church, Bollington!

Have a holy, blessed and happy Easter!


Vicar’s Letter February 2016

vicars letter003This year, Spring Cleaning takes on a whole new meaning at Bollington Vicarage! Not only do we have nearly nine years’ accumulated stuff from our time so far in Bollington, there are all those boxes of unsorted papers and belongings that I simply left unpacked when moving on from at least two or three parishes ago! Not to mention extra furniture that was given to us when we left the last parish, to help fill our new home. And when you have the privilege and joy (and of course considerable expense) of living in a seven bed-roomed mansion, there seems little urgency to de-clutter your life!? I was certain at the time that all these things I had carefully (or maybe sometimes lazily) transported from one vicarage to another, were items I surely would be needing at some future date…”It’ll come in useful sometime!” was the unspoken justification! Well, some things have certainly found a purpose in my ministry here, but there is now a good deal of recycling to be done, as we down-size to move into our own property newly acquired in Tytherington (just outside the parish boundary, but perversely about a mile closer to St Oswald’s Church!).

Our spiritual lives often benefit from a bit of serious attention, looking into those dusty old boxes we’ve been carting around with us over many years, and discovering that they’ve become irrelevant or burdensome to our hoped-for way of living. What habit or “comfort blanket” is it that you have clung onto, that you realise you’ve now outgrown? What enduring hurts or regrets have you boxed away which, if you allowed the healing light of God’s forgiveness to shine upon them, might actually be shown up as simply a waste of space in your life? What are those gifts and talents which you’ve stored away but never got round to using, waiting instead for a rainy day or the right person to come along who might appreciate them? What of all those good intentions you have, to change your attitudes, to open the windows of your heart and mind, which remain unfulfilled and just for show, like a library of worthy books unread?

ballet shoesLent (which in Old English means “Spring”) is the opportunity we are given by the Church, each year, to do a bit of serious Spring Cleaning. Don’t wait until you physically need to move house! Now is the chance to look again into those hidden corners of our lives which we’d rather not acknowledge most of the time. We might well discover forgotten treasures and happy memories in amongst the accumulated debris, like my old discarded ballet shoes, reminding me of carefree childhood days, though in my case tinged with regret that I never kept up that level of fitness as I moved into my teenage years! Whatever joys or sorrows we unearth from amongst all the baggage we carry with us, God will indeed honour our searching for the truth that will set us free and our striving for the coming of God’s kingdom here and now. As we enter into the season of Lent once again, may we be shown the true path to life and ultimately to our longed-for home with God.

Every blessing,