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

Vicar’s Letter – August 2017

“To see a World in a grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an Hour…”
(William Blake 1757 – 1827)

The summer holidays are coming to an end and a new school term is about to begin, but let us not entirely lose that refreshing change of perspective we may have had a chance to find when taking time out to appreciate once more the little things of life. Pictures of Bollington’s wide-eyed pre-school graduates, soon to be photographed in their “big school” uniforms by proud parents, bring to mind our own early adventures when we were encouraged to set out to make our way in the world beyond our own front door. The bond of family and friends never ceases to be important to each of us as we grow up into adulthood, and a healthy and welcoming church community is one of those places where we can find acceptance, learn perseverance and experience companionship that will stand us in good stead, whatever lies ahead of us as we progress through life.

Here at St Oswald’s we endeavour to provide a safe environment and a variety of worship styles where people of all ages and all different personalities can enjoy one another’s company and can seek and find God. We continue to develop our links with babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers through our Praise & Play Group on a Tuesday morning, and through an open policy of welcoming children and their families to be baptised here, as the beginning of a life-long involvement with the world-wide family of Christian people, embryonic saints on earth linked with God’s saints in heaven, whom we remember each year on All Souls’ Day. Alongside our regular pattern of child-friendly worship on the First and Third Sundays of each month, we specifically offer yearly celebrations such as the Epiphany Party in January (when we have a visit from the Three Kings bearing gifts) and the Light Party on All Hallows’ Eve (when we enjoy celebrating the light and hope and courage of God’s holy people, past and present). On Christmas Eve we make the journey to Bethlehem to welcome Jesus’ birth (usually with a whole flock of sheep and the occasional dinosaur!) and on Good Friday we follow the sad trail taken by Jesus at the end of his life, until we gather again at Easter to be woken up by showers of mini-eggs!

There is a new Sunday afternoon Puppet Ministry Group for older children as well as adults, which meets on the Fourth Sunday each month. Our Thursday afternoon RiCH (Refreshment in Church) Group welcomes youngsters who’ve just moved up to High School, following on from the many opportunities given to them at Primary School to explore their spiritual heritage, not least in our interactive Schools’ Experience Weeks covering a whole range of themes, including Epiphany, Easter, All Saints, Jesus’ Parables, the Creation Myths and the Life of Moses. The local school children come to celebrate Harvest Festivals and Christingle with us, and we have special annual services to welcome the Reception Classes at our two Church Schools each September and to say “God Be With You” to the Year Six children in July.

As part of our social calendar we also have Family Fun Days each summer, periodic CHUB outings (visiting interesting church buildings before repairing to a nearby pub for lunch!), monthly Mothers Union meetings and a whole host of fundraising events all year round, including Big Breakfasts, Posh Teas, Coffee Mornings and, of course, our Garden Party each September. From time to time we share in Taize style worship, regularly benefit from our ad hoc instrumental group and also experiment in hand-bell ringing together. We meet for prayer and discussion groups (such as Faith Hour on Wednesdays), hold occasional Confirmation Preparation sessions, and during the season of Lent we usually enjoy thought-provoking lunchtime discussions and a series of evening meetings based on a study programme focussing on a book, a musical or a film.

With all this activity, interaction and excitement, it is vital then that we take time to be quiet too, and to contemplate “the meaning of life” as William Blake encourages us to do. St Oswald’s is open every Wednesday during the day, so do make use of this free space, make yourself a hot drink, light a prayer candle and maybe just sit and rest for a while. At every Communion Service there is the unique opportunity to “hold Infinity in the palm of your hand” when you receive the Body of Christ. We take time to think of the things of “Eternity in an hour” as we gather in worship together, each bringing into church with us the different pre-occupations and priorities we carry in the forefront of our minds that week, as well as the deeper griefs and joys hidden in our hearts. Sometimes we speak of these things to our companions; at other times we bring them silently before God. As the carol goes, “the hopes and fears of all the years” are met in the Christ we worship.

Our human anxieties about the present imbalance of power, the economic inequalities and the systemic injustices of our world are all part of what we bring in with us through the church door, and we pray for inspiration and encouragement to go out more hopeful and with greater energy to work together for a brighter future. May we be able to focus on the smallest things we can change in our personal circumstances for the greater good of those around us, rather than be totally daunted and paralysed by the enormity of the problems that face our society and the wider world. Let us learn afresh from the youngest child in our midst, how to “see a World in a grain of Sand and a Heaven in a Wild Flower”; let us learn afresh from our teenagers the passion and immediacy of living in the moment, whilst not shying away from bigger issues; let us learn afresh from those of an older age whose lives are well-lived, how to look with active compassion on the world and to find serenity in knowing every human being to be infinitely loved by the One who created us. May we lift up our hearts and voices to join in our own “Songs of Innocence and Experience” as we embark on this next phase in our church life together.

Every blessing,

Veronica

The Vicar’s Annual Report – May 2017

I would like to thank all those who enabled me to take time out in April, May and June last year and to enjoy some of my sabbatical leave in Venice! Particular thanks are due to Christine Osbaldiston, Revd Michael Fox, Bev Nixon, Canon Roy Arnold, Anne Coomes, Brian Reader and others who took on extra liturgical and organisational roles during that time, including offering prayer stations both in church and in our local schools for the week leading up to Pentecost, and again later on when our Assistant Curate was supported in officiating at his first two weddings! Later in the year we celebrated with Bev Nixon as she received her well-deserved Children’s Ministry Certificate in Manchester Cathedral. Her tireless enthusiasm and innovation alongside young and old within our congregation (and also reaching out to our schools) is a huge asset in our church life – and all amazingly freely given, as are the other creative, compassionate, organisational, fundraising, musical and serving gifts of so many others who make up our varied congregation here at St Oswald’s!

Sadly there were also two bereavements during the latter part of my sabbatical following the sudden and untimely deaths of Sue Bennett and Guy Wharton, whose creative and inspirational lives had made a deep impression on many people within our local community. It was impressive how well the church supported the families and friends most closely affected by these losses, including the staff and children of Year Six at Bollington Cross School and our RiCH Group, by literally opening our doors in the immediate aftermath to allow people to express their grief and shock in personal and unique ways within the sanctuary of God’s house. St Oswald’s congregation has once again proved itself well able to respond appropriately to strangers as well as friends on both joyful and sorrowful occasions. (It is good that the PCC agreed last September that we open our church doors routinely on Wednesdays to allow people to venture in for private prayer or refreshment during daylight hours.)

As many of you will know, Canon Roy Arnold is presently recovering from a broken hip after a recent fall and I know both he and Hylda will value your prayers and ongoing support especially over the next few weeks of rehabilitation. We look forward to welcoming Roy back safe and well into our midst. Our good wishes also extend to Revd Dr Gary Bowness who has from time to time kindly offered his high-speed, in-depth ministry whilst the Vicar’s been away on other commitments during the past year! Gary will shortly be moving house to retire (properly this time) up to Lancaster in Blackburn Diocese. The Deanery will certainly miss him and we wish him God speed!

Last autumn we said a fond farewell to Revd Michael as he took up his new role of part-time Priest-in-charge at St Paul’s, Macclesfield. Whilst continuing as Michael’s mentor, as Rural Dean I am pleased to say that by the end of May 2017 six new incumbents will have been licensed or inducted to fill all fourteen vacancies that have arisen in parishes across our Deanery over the past three years! The only parishes that have in recent years retained their existing incumbents are Bollington, Gawsworth, Prestbury and Rainow! As we look to the future, it will be good to heed the warnings expressed elsewhere regarding our Parish Finances, since the trend is to amalgamate parishes where there is insufficient income to support a full-time Vicar in a single benefice. I’m grateful to Canon Taffy Davies who in retirement has returned to act as Chapter Clerk and to Richard Raymond for his continuing work as Deanery Lay Chair, as well as to Julie Brunt and David Marriott who have valiantly undertaken the other voluntary roles of Deanery Secretary and Treasurer respectively.

Our ministry and outreach in this parish is greatly enhanced by 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 Ofsted results from the short inspections carried out in March this year! Do visit the website www.gov.uk/ofsted to read the full and detailed reports, which warmly commend our two Head Teachers, Mrs Downing and Mrs Walker, for their continued high quality leadership. We are blessed in having such dedicated staff, parents and governors whose efforts combine to offer a good and inspirational education to all our children. Please pray for the right choice of a new Head Teacher for Bollington Cross School as from September 2017 when Mrs Downing will have retired. Please also continue to uphold in your prayers the children of Pott Shrigley School, following the choice made by members of Pott Shrigley staff, parents and local community, for the Local Authority and the Diocese to dissolve the Federation which previously existed with Bollington St John’s, and which took effect on 28 February 2017.

Finally, I would like to express my sincere thanks to our two dedicated and equally hardworking Churchwardens, Hilary and Christine, who have greatly encouraged me in my calling as your parish priest and who, alongside the other members of the Ministry Team, continue to share a vision for the future thriving and growth of our church community here in Bollington and beyond.

Every blessing,

Veronica

(To read the whole Annual Report compiled by our Churchwardens concerning all the activities and events in our Parish during the year ending 30 April 2017, click here.)

Vicar’s Letter – January 2017

vicars letter003God willing, when we see the signs of Spring in a few weeks’ time, I will have served a whole decade as your Vicar here in the Parish of Bollington! Doesn’t time fly! During the course of these past ten years, together we have experienced all sorts of new developments both in the content and shape of our buildings and in the styles of worship we are fortunate to be able to offer to our community. I realise I personally have seen a whole generation of children move on within our church life from Reception to RiCH! And thanks to many gifted colleagues, both lay and ordained, we have ministered to the needs of young and old in a whole variety of circumstances and in many different ways. My task of being a Vicar has only been made possible by the friendship and support (and occasional challenge!) offered variously by a series of dedicated Churchwardens, patient and diligent Treasurers and Secretaries, a whole variety of PCC and Congregation members, Sacristans, Sidespeople, Vergers, Sextons, Flower Arrangers, Door Keepers, Intercessors, Administrators of Communion, Magazine Editors and Distributors, Group Leaders, Project Managers, Diocesan Officers, Mothers’ Union members, Head Teachers, School Governors, Readers, an occasional Assistant Curate, a very wise and experienced fellow Canon, a dedicated and energetic Children and Families’ Worker, a swell group of Organists, a tuneful bunch of Choristers, a willing and imaginative group of Praise & Play leaders, a long-suffering and compassionate group of RiCH volunteers, a whole hidden army of Cake Bakers, Church Cleaners, Gardeners, Floor Polishers, Linen Launderers, Brass Cleaners, Money Counters and Bankers, Furniture Movers, Maintenance Workers and Jacks of All Trades, not to mention all those essential people who step up regularly to become Fund-Raisers, Caterers and Prayers! Thank you! May God bless all of you in your different and complementary ministries in the service of Christ in this place!

Looking forward, no doubt this coming year will bring its own unique challenges and opportunities, sorrows and joys. As the seasons turn, so I reflect on the loss over the course of ten years of so many friends and family no longer beside us here, whether they have moved away or died. As we continue to hold in our hearts the precious memories of them all and as we entrust the living and departed to God’s safe keeping, we know that, whatever our personal situation, we are all still called by God to build up and nurture new relationships amongst people in our community. As companions on life’s journey, we have uniquely been given the unchanging task of finding ways to plant seeds of hope, love, joy and peace in the world around us and to share the Gospel afresh with each new generation. May we continue to be inspired and encouraged in all we undertake in Christ’s name, now and always.

Every blessing,

Veronica

Advance Notice! Lent is traditionally a time for thinking together about our personal faith journeys and sharing some of the experiences and challenges we face as Christians in the modern world. We are planning to hold our popular weekly Lent Lunch Hours once again in St Oswald’s on Tuesdays from 12 noon till 1.00pm for six weeks, starting on 07 March and finishing on 11 April. As usual we are asking for volunteers to provide simple “food for the journey”, such as bread and soup, cheese or pate, offered in return for a gift of money from those who participate in the meal. We’ve not yet decided to which good cause the proceeds will be given this year, but any suggestions are welcome. I’m very pleased to say that Canon Roy Arnold has kindly agreed to offer us another little series of “Food for Thought” to mull over during our lunches! When the list appears in due course at the back of church, please do sign up if you’d like to be catered for, or if you are willing to host any of the lunches. Come along and bring your friends and enjoy good food and one another’s company in an informal and friendly setting.

Veronica

 

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,
Veronica

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.

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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,

Veronica

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.

Veronica

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.

Veronica