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