Annual Review of the life of St Peter’s for the 2013 AGM
Note from the Priest-in-charge
It’s hard to believe that as I write this it is only 6 weeks since I joined St Peter’s as Priest-in-charge. I have been made to feel so welcome that the time has passed swiftly, with none of the stresses normally involved in moving house and starting a new job. Of course, there have been the usual adjustments to be made when ‘bedding in’ a new priest, but on the whole it has been a productive time with lots to celebrate.
Worship is at the centre of all Christian life, and parochial life is no different. It is refreshing to find the 9.30 am Thursday Eucharist is well supported, as well as the much admired Little Fishes on Tuesdays and Youth Group on Thursdays. The monthly celebrations of Wednesday Church and Wednesday Fellowship show how much church can work for groups who are often overlooked.
Having come from a choral background I am deeply grateful that, with Mark and the choir’s hard work, we are able to offer choral evensong on a monthly basis. I look forward in the coming year to continue to do what St Peter’s does best – offering a range of well-thought out liturgies, in the Anglo-Catholic tradition, to a variety of groups.
If the Church can be seen as a ship, prayer is its engine. It is a delight to have people join me for Morning Prayer each weekday at 8.30. In the coming year, I hope to establish a pastoral prayer team. This team will pray for all those in need in the parish, giving thanks for good news and bringing concerns before God. Everyone on the electoral roll will then have someone praying for them on a regular basis.
We are very fortunate at St Peter’s to have such an able Ministry team. Joy, who has held the parish together during the interregnum, will hopefully be back to full health soon and complete the team again. We are fortunate too in having Ernest and Josie taking such an active part in the life of the parish. It is rare to have two such able preachers as Jenny and Fran, our Lay Ministers, and I look forward to hearing and learning more in the coming years. All of this is only possible because of the extraordinary hard work of those at the heart of St Peter’s – its congregants. I cannot thank enough Hugh, Julie, Judith, Jenny, Fran and Keith for all they have done – not only in making my arrival such a pleasure, but in their sterling work in helping Joy keep the parish running during the long interregnum. Their continued support will be pivotal to our success in growing St Peter’s.
We owe our thanks to a wide group of people who quietly get the ( often thankless) jobs done. I won’t name them all or this first note from me would be longer than a Gwynneth Paltrow Oscar speech – but you will find their names scattered throughout the reports in this APCM booklet. They include everyone on the PCC and serving team, the flower ladies and the Sunday School and all those who have kept things running in spite of – or perhaps because of – their busy lives. My thanks to all of these cannot be overstated.
In this coming year, I will be focusing much of my time within the Church on teaching. However, the parish finances are not strong and this will be a severe handicap to us unless we can plug the gap between our income and the calls on our budget, not least the parish share. At a time when everyone is feeling the pinch the Church of England is no different and unless we can maintain and increase our giving, the Diocese will have to cut staffing levels further – there are already plans to drop two full-time paid clergy from the Deanery. If we are to grow as a parish, we need to continue to work together to build the St Peter’s family further and to grow out and into the community. I look forward very much to exploring with you all how we can make this happen.
The vast majority of the past year has been spent in interregnum. It is therefore inevitable that the year has been dominated by the appointment of our new Priest. This has, of course, presented its own set of challenges, but St Peter's has continued to provide the same range of services as in previous years. We are indebted to the Ministry Team for the extra work they have taken on in this time and in particular to Rev, Ernest Adley and Rev. Josie Midwinter who have done so much for us during the year and particularly around Christmastide following Rev. Joy's fall.
While we have certainly missed the sort of pastoral guidance that a Priest-in-Charge provides, we have had the opportunity to reflect as a parish about our needs and mission. We have also enjoyed having a number of visiting priests to preside and preach during the year which has enabled us to see a wider view of ministry in the church and learn from some different perspectives from their preaching. Thank you to our visitors; Revd Dr Michael Beasley, Revd Dr Amanda Bloor, Revd David Heslop, Revd Andrew Thomas , Bishop Andrew, Revd Keith Kinnaird, Revd Angela Tilby, and Revd Caroline Kramer.
What was always going to be a challenging year has been made more difficult by the loss of several long standing members of the congregation. Sid Cox (head server and former Church warden), Mary Boyle (former Church warden), Dick and Gwen Hooper (Dick was the longest serving member of the choir, by some considerable margin), have all been a huge loss to St Peter's. People like this, simply can't be replaced. But each in their own way manifested their faith and supported the Christian community of St Peter's. They have shown us that we too, in our own different ways can make a real contribution to handing the faith down to future generations.
It is not surprising that in the current economic climate and with the loss of parishioners both through death and from moving away, we have had a particularly difficult year financially. Bishop Andrew's rather sombre warning, when he preached at the licensing service, about our future financial viability, stems from our current inability to pay our parish share. This is the money which pays for the support we receive from the Diocese, but most importantly for the costs of having a priest. The simple fact is that if we wish to keep a priest we need to raise this money.
This may seem a rather gloomy review of the year. Our losses seem great, both financial and human. The Gospel message, though, is full of hope and so should we be. Despite the difficulties of the year and a number of temporary set-backs, we have seen the successful appointment of a new Priest-in-Charge. The arrival of Rev Hannah is an answer to our prayers during the interregnum.
Indeed , the whole process of developing the Parish Profile was positive and one from which we have all gained. The profile (and indeed the church website) shows how much St Peter's does achieve and what potential there is to do more. And, who can forget the interview day -a real day of prayer and discernment, and an indication of what we can do when we work and pray together.
We can be positive about the future as we look to support Rev. Hannah in her ministry here. There are challenges of mission, finance and from the growth of Didcot, but we can look for inspiration not only to those who are around us, but also those who have gone before, like Sid, Mary, Dick and Gwen and many other special people we have met, and will continue to meet, at St Peter's.
Julie Mintern & Hugh Collins Rice March 2013
St Peter's Church, Newlands Avenue, Didcot, Oxfordshire. OX11 8PY
|© 2013 Keith Mintern|