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.