St Peter's Church, Woolhampton – Annual Report for 2017
The PCC has the responsibility of co-operating with the Rector in promoting the whole mission of the Church, pastoral, evangelistic and social in the Ecclesiastical parish of Woolhampton and as part of the joint Benefice with Aldermaston and Wasing, Beenham Valence, Brimpton and Midgham.
Membership: The PCC is a charity accepted for registration with the Charity Commission. Members of the PCC are either ex-officio or elected at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting in accordance with the Church Representation Rules. During the year the following served as members of the PCC:
Rector: The Revd. Becky Bevan (until end July 2017) – the Benefice being in “vacancy” thereafter.
Associate Priest: The Revd. Pat Bhutta (HfD).
Churchwardens: Mr. Charles Davison and Mr. Malcolm Large.
Deanery Synod Reps: Mr. Charles Davison amd Mrs. Margaret Davison.
Elected members: (until APCM 2018) Mrs. Prue Matchwick (Treasurer), Mr. David Nicholls (Health and Safety Rep.), Mrs. Gillian Sitch (Secretary), Mrs. Catherine Lovell, Mrs. Kate Moir and Mrs. Stella Nesbit.
Electoral Roll Secretary: Mrs. Margaret Davison
Child Protection Rep: Dr. Chris Newman (Aldermaston and Wasing Parish)
Committees: The full PCC has met on 4 occasions, but should the need arise the Churchwardens call an extra-ordinary meeting or contact members by e-mail. There is also a Joint Benefice Group which is attended by one of the Churchwardens.
Church attendance: There were 43 parishioners on the Electoral Roll, a decrease of 1 over the previous year, with the average Sunday attendance being 18 adults and 1 child, although this rises considerably for special festivals. During the year there were 5 Baptisms, 2 Weddings and 5 Funeral services in church, with none at the Crematorium.
Review of 2017: Sunday services continue to be held at 11 a.m. with one Holy Communion, one Family Communion, a Morning Worship and a Family Service each month. On a 5th Sunday we join in a Benefice Service which rotates around the parishes. On these occasions there is the opportunity to worship together with a much fuller congregation. Each month there is a mid-week Communion service at Midgham and a weekly Morning Prayer service rotating three monthly around the other main churches in the Benefice. During Holy Week there are short Evening Prayer services and a communion on Maundy Thursday, again joint across the Benefice. ‘Messy Church' for children from across the Benefice continues to be held every two months on a Saturday afternoon to introduce children to church in a fun way with crafts and stories. It is held in the Church School and is proving to be very successful. There is also a session on Good Friday.
A Benefice Lent course was held reading aloud St. Mark’s Gospel and there was an Autumn Home Group with 6 sessions studying the Creed using the Pilgrim Course.
A Lent Lunch, serving homemade soups, bread, cheese and fruit, was held in the Village Hall, with donations going to WaterAid.
During Holy week a display of artefacts and scenes capturing key moments from the Passion Story was set up in the church by the Revd. Janice Macdonald, assisted by children from the primary school.
On Rogation Sunday in May those parishioners who were able walked across the fields to the Russian Barn at the home of a parishioner, where the service was held with the rest of the congregation.
At the end of July our congregation joined with others from across the Benefice in a special service of Holy Communion to bid farewell to our Rector. This was followed by a celebration in Aldermaston Primary School.
A Harvest Lunch was held in the Village Hall in October and proved extremely successful in that it involved people from outside the church community. The proceeds from this were sent to the Mothers Union for their Emergency Relief Fund.
A Benefice Quiet Day was held in October and attended by some of the church members.
A Quiz Night was held in the Village Hall in November and this again proved extremely successful. It was greatly enjoyed by all present and is seen as part of our outreach into the community. The Bring and Buy stall at the monthly Village Market, together with the sale of refreshments, continues to raise funds for a specific named charity, this year having been for the Salvation Army, for which they are extremely grateful.
A Carol Sing-along was again held in the Village Hall, aimed at those who find it difficult to attend the Carol Service in the Church. Beenham Band provided the music for the carols. Mince pies and mulled wine ensured a time of social get-together and there was a retiring collection for a Newbury based charity for the homeless “Loose Ends”. A Crib Service was again held in the church on Christmas Eve and proved to be extremely popular.
Elstree School continues to use the church regularly for worship during term-time, with joint Sunday services with the parish normally being held at the start and end of each term. Their choir also performed a concert at the beginning of the year raising funds for the church. Such occasions further promote the close links between the school and the church. The primary school also uses the church for specific services and the St Peter’s congregation is always welcome to join them. On Remembrance Sunday we again welcomed the Scouts, Cubs and Beavers, who presented their standards.
A Parish Safeguarding Policy is monitored and reviewed annually. As yet there is no Drink and Drugs Policy but this will be kept under review should the need arise. Health and Safety matters are reviewed regularly with the Policy being re-adopted annually. Both Policies are displayed on the Church notice board.
Finance: The accounts for the year ended 31.12.17 showed a surplus of £1,739.64 which is rather lower than the previous year but it is to be noted that no fund raising initiatives were carried out this year apart from the usual annual quiz. We paid our parish share of £19,777 to the Oxford Diocese on time and we gave donations totalling £2,642.20 to various charities and organisations during the year, the major recipient was the Salvation Army who received the funds raised by the monthly village market. More details can be found within the annual accounts. No major expenditure was incurred in 2017 and we now have to concentrate on the repairs to the spire and bell hangings. The balance in our current account at NatWest was £26,630.85 as at 31st December, 2017.
Churchyard: At the start of the year a local firm was employed to give the churchyard a good tidy-up, with all the undergrowth round the boundaries being cut back and cleared, the resultant debris finally being burnt. The subsequent judicious purchase of a heavy duty battery strimmer and the enthusiastic efforts of Mr & Mrs Large kept all these areas tidy throughout the rest of the year.
General grass-cutting of the main areas of the churchyard continued to be undertaken by the same person who has cut it for a number of years now, being a fortnightly mulch cut, with the entombed graves being strimmed twice in the year as funds permitted.
One churchyard working party was held in the autumn albeit in 2 parts, a week-day session and a week-end one. Paths and around the church walls were weed killed, yew bushes pruned, the war memorial tidied up and cleaned, the road-side notice board cleaned and other areas of the churchyard generally tidied up.
Fabric, Goods and Ornaments: This year was another quiet year as far as work was concerned. A volunteer did clean the efflorescence off the west wall and touch up the paintwork but there is still moisture in the wall to come out. The boiler which was playing up early in the year was serviced and repaired. Unfortunately storm Doris in March dislodged one of the oak louvres from the tower and whilst cracking a few roof tiles and a bit of porch guttering did no other damage, repair of this will await the spire re-shingling when scaffold access will be available.
Other than this, grateful thanks needs to be given to all those who assist with general housekeeping within the church, cleaning, flower arranging and the like, together with all those other jobs which are carried out behind the scenes without which we would struggle to operate.
Deanery Synod: The Parish lies within the Bradfield Deanery and St. Peter’s is entitled to have two representatives on the Deanery Synod, this level of representation reflecting the numbers on our electoral roll, with both positions being filled. The Deanery Synod is an important link in the church structure and meetings provide a good source of information and a place to exchange news and views amongst similar parishes and benefices in the area.
There were three meetings in the year, being 21st February, 6th June and 19th October, this being re-scheduled from 5th October. Both representatives attended the first two meetings but unfortunately neither were available for the last one. In addition there was a Deanery Parish Share Review Group which met several times in the early part of the year and one of our representatives was on that.
The February meeting had two presentations, one from Revd Bevan on establishing a Deanery web site which was generally supported, the other by Revd Gadsby focusing on 4 themes around Deanery Synod meetings which were then discussed in small groups. There followed a financial update which was slightly strained by the splat between Theale and Englefield and an update on the Spiritual Development group meetings. It was also noted the Revd Bhutta had been appointed as a Vocations Adviser for the Deanery.
The June meeting noted that the Bishop had appointed Revd Parbury as Area Dean and Dr Chris Newman was elected Lay Chair of the Synod. Synod accounts for 2016 were presented and adopted, together with a summary of the Parish Share Review Group meetings. This was followed by a presentation on ‘Meet Monday’ which is a group set up in the Deanery 10 years ago to support adults with learning disabilities. As noted neither representative was able to attend the October meeting which had a presentation from a Schools Pastor working in Burghfield.
Benefice Group: The Benefice Group has been in existence now for a number of years and is a good forum for keeping in touch with happenings in the other churches of the Benefice and for exploring common issues and themes. The Group usually meets three times a year however the frequency is being increased now we are in a vacancy. Meetings in 2016 were on 9th February, 15th June, 8th September and 9th November.
Meetings generally start with an update from each Parish plus updates from the Wedding Co-ordinator and the Children’s Work Co-ordinator, with business then focusing on one or two specific matters at each meeting.
The February meeting looked at activity over Christmas and updated everyone on key Benefice dates in the first half of the year, it also noted the protocol should a monarch die, with condolence cards for signing in each church, and received an update on safeguarding. The June meeting received the Benefice accounts and set the wheels in motion for recruiting a new rector including setting up a small team to prepare the Benefice Profile. The September meeting mainly covered areas around the vacancy, receiving Pat’s new Working Agreement and establishing dates for the Section 11 and 12 meetings. November agreed an updated constitution for the Group and discussed the workload of the Ministry Team.
Benefice Report in lieu of Rector’s Report: As we are currently in a Vacancy due to our Rector leaving, this report has been compiled by the lead churchwardens of some of the parishes in the Benefice. The Revd. Becky Bevan moved on from the Benefice at the end of July 2017 to take up a new position in the south of Newbury. She was installed at Wash Common on 4th October, 2017.
2016 was seen as a year of celebration, whereas this year has been more one of consolidation and steady forward progress. Our Ministry Team continued to grow with Cara Smart, our children’s work co-ordinator, being accepted for training as a stipendiary priest and commencing her training for ordination on the Oxford Ministry Course at Cuddesdon.
The large number of special services we have had in the past few years continued to grow, with 38 Baptisms, 66 Weddings and Blessings and 37 Funerals in 2017. It is an enormous credit to our current Ministry Team that these were conducted despite our Rector leaving mid-way through the year. This considerable number of special services, whilst a challenge in some ways, provides numerous opportunities for engaging with those on the fringes of the church and a number of ideas to capitalise on this are being explored.
We continued to work with our three Church and other schools in the Benefice. Particular thanks go to our Foundation Governors for the extremely helpful role they play, along with our clergy and others, to maintain and continue building the links between the schools and our churches. It is heartening to see the numbers of parents, grand-parents and siblings attending the school services held in our churches. This provides a solid grounding of understanding for our future generations.
Our Pastoral work, led by the Revd. Pat Bhutta, continues to provide support for those in need and meet the spiritual needs of those who can no longer get to church. This year also saw an expansion of our Mental Health awareness initiative with the start of a monthly Walk and Talk Group. This group is specifically aimed at those who are currently suffering or have suffered in so many ways, and their carers. The walk of an hour or so ends back at a pub for a warming drink and further chat and fellowship. There is also a small and confidential pastoral team made up of both clergy and lay members from our villages with particular gifts. All have received training in pastoral work to meet the needs of our six churches. The group have monthly meetings to hold those in need in prayer. They also carry out personal home visits to celebrate a home communion or simply have a chat to break the long periods of loneliness for those who have difficulty getting out.
When the news of our Rector’s impending departure surfaced a meeting of the churchwardens from our six churches was held. Subsequently a meeting was held with Bishop Andrew, the Bishop of Reading, when the procedure and time frame for finding a replacement was set out. The first step was to write a Benefice Profile and a small group of one member from each parish and a member of the Ministry Team was set up to do this. A meeting of all five Parochial Church Councils was followed by a meeting with the Bishop and our six patrons, one for each of our churches. The Benefice profile was approved at this meeting. As Christmas was fast approaching it was felt that no one would be thinking of applying for a different position then so advertising the vacancy was scheduled for January. So at the time of writing this report we are still in the vacancy period and pray that someone is moved to join us and lead us in worship.
It is a huge credit to our Ministry Team, Revd. Pat Bhutta, Revd. Janice Macdonald, Revd. Derek Spears and Margaret Davison, ably supported by Brenda Scott, Benefice Administrator, Samantha Cave, Wedding Administrator, and Cara Smart, Children’s Work Co-ordinator, as they have risen to the many opportunities that have arisen since our Rector left. They have adopted a ‘business as usual’ ethos with all our church services and the many Benefice activities, as detailed in the following paragraphs, continuing.
Spiritual Development, alongside our Sunday Services, continues, thanks to the above and many others who work and offer support behind the scenes. These include the monthly Noah’s Ark baby and toddler group which continues to flourish, as does the bi-monthly all age “Messy Church”, the monthly Midgham Café Church which continues to be appreciated by many who attend; the weekly weekday Benefice prayer service, which rotates around the different churches in the Benefice during the year, and the monthly weekday Benefice communion services at Midgham Church and Watermill Court.
Lent Groups were held at three different locations in the Spring and a series of Home Groups in the Autumn. The monthly “Dwelling in the Word”, a session of quiet contemplative time listening to a passage of scripture, continued. In October a successful Benefice Quiet Day was held in Cold Ash, giving an opportunity for self-reflection in different surroundings.
There were also a number of community events run throughout the year, many raising money for charity, with The Children’s Society, Christian Aid, the Royal British Legion, the Salvation Army, Water Aid, the Mothers Union and West Berkshire Foodbank being among the more prominent, with many others also benefiting. We also kept in touch with the wider community through the publication and distribution of our church magazines to every household in the Benefice, the Weekly Notes distributed to congregations at the beginning of each service and our website. Sincere thanks go to our volunteer editors and those who administer the website and to the numerous volunteers who deliver the magazines.
In closing we give our heartfelt thanks to everyone who supports the work of our churches in so many hundreds of diverse ways - the army of volunteers behind the scenes, from flower arrangers to church cleaners, bell ringers to the people who unlock the buildings, to grass cutters and all the people who work on the upkeep of the churchyards. The list goes on and on as do our sincere thanks for your help keeping our churches open and welcoming for everyone to enjoy. And finally, we cannot forget the sterling work of the Ministry Team. They have excelled and gone the extra mile during the vacancy period for which we all appreciate beyond doubt and are extremely grateful to them.
Brenda Scott George Dunford Charles Davison
Charles Davison (On behalf of the PCC)