Soon, again, we will be singing Charles Wesley's magnificent Christmas
hymn and the unforgettable melody which goes with it. The tune is called
Mendelssohn because, of course, it was written by him. A man to whom
Mendelssohn's father had been a very good friend once said of him 'he's the
best Christian I've ever met'. That lovely unself-conscious remark
underlines how confused most people can be about religions unless they
think things through. The Mendelssohn family were Jews! The man's mistake
reminds us that Christianity celebrates the birth of a Jew. For Christians
that is where Christmas starts.
No one knows with certainty the date of Jesus' birth and every year on
the radio or the TV someone tells us (as if we didn't know) that Christmas
is attached to the ancient midwinter celebrations which go deep into the
human psyche and date back long before either Christianity or Judaism.
Christians are never threatened by the facts. Actually it was a stroke of
imaginative genius which led Christians, in the northern hemisphere, to
celebrate the coming of light and life 'in the bleak midwinter'.
The Christian festival is surrounded by a variety of other festivities,
some religious and some secular. Birmingham's WinterFest is not really new.
However unaware many will be, it too points to the deep joy and hope for
which all human beings are searching.
There is a but though as this festival gets under way in all its
variety. Christians will want to explain and share with others what we are
celebrating. Our celebrations may well be quieter and more contemplative
than some others. They are also more firmly based in the real world of
politics, art and social order. Jesus' coming offers the chance to find a
definite and lasting purpose in life which can sustain and inspire not just
for a month of merry-making but day after day, all year round.
On one occasion Jesus said of himself 'I am come from God and I go to
God'. The story of his life is pictured as a journey from birth to beyond
the grave. Remember though how Jesus also said, 'I go to prepare a place so
that where I am you may be also.' Jesus took the journey not only on his
own behalf but in order that he might take with him any who will follow.
As we sing our carols this year we must take hold of our lives once
again and resolve to accept Jesus' invitation to stay with him. Being
Christian cannot be without cost to self but it is to journey in trust and
confidence that Jesus will bring us everyday to the presence and love of
God. The famous William Temple once finished a Christmas Day sermon saying,
'Let us then rejoice and be merry. Not because tomorrow we die but because
TODAY, CHRIST IS BORN!'.
It was with very great sadness that we heard of the death of Anne
Hawkins on 1st November. Anne was Deputy Headteacher at St Mary's Infant
School, a post she had held for nineteen years. Anne was an outstanding,
much loved and greatly respected teacher; she was also a wonderfully
supportive and encouraging Deputy Head and colleague. Anne always showed a
very real sense of love and concern, not only for the children in her care,
but also for their families and for all who had the privilege of working
with her in our school.
Anne's funeral took place in Wotton-under-Edge, where she grew up. There
will be a service of Celebration and Thanksgiving for Anne's life on
Sunday 5th December at 3.30pm. Due to the on-going heating work at St
Mary's, the service will be held in All Saints' Church. During the
past nineteen years, Anne has touched the lives of so many in Prestbury and
anyone who wishes to attend the service is very welcome to do so. We hope
that many of Anne's former pupils will be present, as well as former
colleagues. Some of the children currently at the Infant and Junior schools
will be contributing to what we hope will be a very fitting way of showing
how much Anne has meant to us all.
At St Nicolas' during Advent we are proposing to send out some small
crib figures on pilgrimage to the homes of our congregation - Journey with
The idea is that this small set of crib figures will spend two or three
nights with a family who will then deliver them to the next 'hosts'. The
figures will start their journey on Advent Sunday and be returned to Church
on Christmas Eve. We are not expecting them to just stay with families with
children, this is open to all members of the congregation at St Nicolas'.
Anyone is welcome to take part. If you are interested in participating in
this act of pilgrimage then please speak to Fr Grant or Linda Biggs.
Many of you will be aware that Fr Grant has been working on academic
research in order to complete his D.Phil from Oxford University. This work
has been ongoing for several years and is now almost finished. In order
that Fr Grant may complete his writing and submit it to the University, we
have agreed some time when he will be on 'study leave'. This means that he
will only be on duty on Sundays during the study periods, allowing him time
to give his academic work his full attention! The study leave is as
Monday 6th - Friday 10th December
Tuesday 4th January - Saturday 12th February 2005
Monday 28th February - Saturday 12th March 2005
Bishop Michael has approved this study leave, recognising the importance
for the wider Church of having priests of Fr Grant's academic ability. We
too should feel privileged to be able to support him in this way as he
completes this academic work. Please respect these study periods and also
hold Fr Grant in your prayers as he continues the difficult task of
balancing parish life and his academic work.
Fr Stephen & Fr Michael
Please come and enjoy this special service on Sunday 12th December at
4.00 pm in St Mary's church. Help us raise money for the work of
The Children's Society by collecting a donation in a Christingle candle
collecting box and bringing it to the service. If you would like a
collecting box or have any queries about the service please contact
Caroline Sexton or Sarah Woodall. We look forward to seeing you there!
Youth Team Social Saturday 11 December from 7pm
Elevate - Christmas Party Sunday 12 December
(next term starts Sunday 9 January)
Synergy - Christmas Party Sunday 12 December
(next term starts Sunday 9 January)
The Lounge - Christmas Special Tuesday 14 December
(next term starts Tuesday 11 January)
The Space - Christmas Party Thursday 16 December
(next term starts Thursday 13 January)
Y11+ Social and Support
Christmas Special Friday 17th December
For more info: Andy Macauly youthprestbury.net
There will be a Christingle service at St Mary's on Sunday 12th
December at 4pm.
On Christmas Eve (Friday 24th December) we have the following
4pm in St Mary's: the Crib service, with carols and
re-telling of nativity story.
6pm in St Nicolas': a Candlelit service of carols with
re-telling of nativity story.
Term will end on 19th December and will resume on 9th January 2005.
There will be a post-Christmas party for all church children on 15th
January from 3pm to 5pm. Further details after Christmas.
Carol singing at Cheltenham supermarkets to raise funds for Christian
Aid will take place on Saturday 18th December. St Nicolas' group will sing
at Tesco stores, Colletts Drive, 10-11am. St Mary's group will sing at
Sainsbury stores, off Tewkesbury Road, 11am-12noon, with accompaniment on a
keyboard. All Saints' congregation members and all others are most welcome
to join in - do come!
In addition to money raised by the Darfur and hurricane relief appeal in
October, a further £20.00 was raised at St Nicolas', making a total of
£160.00. Thank you, all contributors.
Parish Carol Singing
Last year we had a fantastic carol singing evening in the village. It
was really well received and was an important act of outreach for us. We
hope to arrange a similar evening this Christmas. Watch the pewsheets for
Music for Advent and Christmas
Musica Vera will be singing a Concert of Advent and Christmas
Music in St Nicolas' church on Saturday 11th December at 7.30pm. The
programme will include The Nativity, a lovely sequence for Christmas
by Elizabeth Poston, and a number of other Advent carols. The audience will
be invited to join in with the singing of some of the more familiar items.
After the concert there will be an opportunity for the audience and
choir to relax together over a glass of mulled wine and spiced cake.
Tickets £7.00, to include refreshments, can be purchased from Peter Attwood
(St Nicolas') or Jill Yates (St Mary's) or at the door. All proceeds will
go to the Cheltenham Special Care Baby Unit (see below).
Special Care Baby Unit
The Cheltenham Special Care Baby Unit is based at Cheltenham General
Hospital and has the facilities to care for up to twelve babies at any one
time. Examples of the kind of care it provides for premature babies are
ventilation support, and establishing feeding and weight gain prior to
going home. Parents are encouraged to care for their babies as mush as
possible while they are in the unit and there is overnight accommodation
for the use of parents with especially sick babies. Money is always needed
for maintaining and updating equipment and Musica Vera has decided
to give the proceeds of this concert to this very worthy cause.
Pianists needed for Bay Tree Court Evening Service
If you could play the piano once every four or five weeks for the hymns
at the 5.00 pm Sunday service at Bay Tree Court, please contact Diana
Good Friday 25th March 2005
Although Easter seems a long way off Good Friday is only three calendar
months after Christmas Day. However, the Passion Play Production Team has
been working for some months since the Parochial Church Council decided to
go ahead and all is beginning to roll. The script has been revised to
emphasise the conflict with both the temporal power of Rome and the
spiritual power of the Pharisees.
The Scout Headquarters and field are booked for the final rehearsals and
the two presentations. Costumes are being checked, repaired, made and
obtained - hiring some from the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford. New
scenery is being prepared but some staging has yet to be ordered, props are
to be checked.
Most important of all was a very encouraging meeting on 13th October
when the Director, Daphne Philpot, set the scene and the script was read
Based on all this the Production Team have made a cast list of all the
players for the characters, some have come forward to play leading roles,
many are willing to support in the Crowd and some have been persuaded. Yet
more would be helpful, particularly men for the Crowd.
This is one of our great outreach efforts when everybody can play a part
- by prayer, by promoting the play or by acting a character, however minor.
Prestbury was well represented at the AGM of the Cheltenham branch of
the Gloucester and Bristol Diocesan Association of Church Bellringers which
was held at St Peter's Winchcombe on Saturday November 6th. The meeting was
preceded by ringing, a short service and an excellent tea. Janice Sweetman
was elected Branch Secretary. She joins Janet Covey-Crump, who continues to
serve as joint Branch Ringing Master.
The ringers were saddened to hear of the death of Cyril Wratten of
Charlton Kings. Cyril's home tower was St Mary's parish church in
Cheltenham. He was an internationally renowned ringing expert. Readers of
the magazine who served at GCHQ will doubtless remember Cyril with
affection, as did the ringing community.
On Remembrance Sunday we rang half-muffled in the morning, and then in
the evening we rang a half-muffled quarter peal of two methods of doubles
to congratulate Fr Stephen on his installation as a Canon of Gloucester
God willing, we shall be extra busy over the Christmas and New Year
period. We all wish all readers a Happy Christmas and a healthy New Year.
We shall celebrate Epiphany on Thursday 6th January in St Mary's
church with a Sung Eucharist at 6.30pm followed by supper and entertainment
- by popular request a return visit by Vital Spark. See the pewsheets for
Do not be caught out: Lent begins very early - on 9th February 2005!
Bishop Michael has asked the Diocese to ensure that every church in the
Diocese of Gloucester is prayed in every day of Lent next year. If we look
at the pattern of services in the three churches of our Team Ministry - a
pattern which includes the Eucharist and Morning and Evening Prayer - we
see that we are fairly close to achieving this already. However there are
gaps and this initiative would be a good opportunity for different groups
of people to fill the gaps, perhaps using different forms of prayer and
gathering at different times of the day. Watch out for more details, but do
speak to a member of the clergy if you have any suggestions to make about
Term ends on 9th December and we hope many Rockers will be able to come
to the Christingle, Crib and Christmas services during the holiday. Next
term will start on Thursday 13th January 2005 at 2pm in St Mary's
church. This short informal service is ideal for parents, grandparents and
other carers to bring babies and pre-school children to, without worrying
that they are disturbing anybody. We sing bible-based action songs, listen
to a story from a children's bible and have a chat over a cup of tea,
finishing in plenty of time to get to school to meet older children.
For most of this term, during the work on the new heating system at St
Mary's, we have been meeting in Prestbury United Reformed Church in Deep
Street. Many of our Rockers were already familiar with the URC through
Urchins, the mother-and-toddler group run by Mrs Fiona Hall on Monday
mornings, and we have felt very much at home there on Thursdays. I am very
grateful to the Revd Joan Winterbottom and the Elders of the URC for
allowing us to use their warm, carpeted church throughout this period.
It is with very mixed feelings that I have decided to retire from
Rockers at the end of this term after more than twenty years. It was
through Rockers that I started coming to St Mary's on Sundays. I have
enjoyed leading the service, playing the piano (occasionally both at the
same time!) and just being with the mothers and children. I joined Rockers
with my baby daughter and took over the leadership a year or so later, when
expecting my son. They are now aged twenty-two and nineteen, and it is time
to let someone else have a go!
If you would like to know more about Rockers please speak to Vicky Dunn,
Hilary Brick or Susan Banks, or email rockersprestbury.net
On Sunday 7th November we went to Gloucester Cathedral to see Fr Stephen
be made a Canon. We thought that this was a rather strange name until our
parents explained what it was!!! We saw the Bishop, Registrar and other
important people. Although we were sitting in the front row, we still had
to lean forward to see. We also heard the lovely singing of the choir! Two
of the songs were written by
Ian Higginson. We were
scared that the roof would collapse because the roof looked so far away!!!
Our visit was very interesting and we felt very important to be there.
by Sam B and Simon C, both aged eight
See pictures of
The Installation of The
Reverend Canon Stephen Gregory as Honorary Canon of Gloucester Cathedral
St Nicolas's Patronal Festival will be celebrated on
Saturday 4th December with a Family Eucharist at 4.30pm followed at
5.30pm by a birthday tea and beetle drive. Everyone is welcome. If you want
to come to the tea please obtain an invitation from Ruth Rudge (St Mary's)
or Gill Wood (St Nicolas'). There is no charge but we need to know how many
are coming for catering purposes.
A very great Thankyou to all those who arranged and also
to those who delivered the Harvest Flowers to the housebound. I have had so
many messages of thanks and gratitude from our recipients.
St Mary's Bakestall
There is no bakestall in December. The next one is on
Sunday 16th January, when we welcome contributions from all three teams. If
you would like to join one of the teams please speak to Margaret or Linda
any Sunday morning.
Linda Matthews & Margaret Waker
Our December meeting will take place on Tuesday 14th
December at 7.30pm in St Nicolas' Church. We invite all members, new
and old, to join us for worship, followed by a social. Please bring a small
plate of food to share and if you have a Christmas Craft idea, we should
also be very pleased to share this with you.
My thanks to all who have made the re-opening of the
Mothers' Union here in Prestbury this year a possibility.
Sunday Morning Refreshments at St Mary's
We will be sending £100 to Cheltenham Open Door for their
Christmas shelter to be held in St Luke's Hall. If anybody is willing to
help with this venture on the following dates: 22-24 December (preparation
period), 24-27 December (when the shelter is functioning) or 27-29 December
(clearing up period), please let me know.
Do continue to join us for coffee, sherry and fellowship
after the Sunday morning Eucharist.
A Flock of Sheep for Christmas!
A flock of sheep, a tube well or a new Mum and Baby kit:
these are just a few of the unique Christmas gifts which we can help
provide to some of the world's poorest people by supporting the World
Vision Alternative Christmas Card instead of exchanging individual
Christmas cards. The card will be available at St Mary's from Advent
Sunday. Just sign your greetings and put your donation in the World Vision
Margaret Waker & Margaret Holman
Abertillery Orpheus Male Choir
Thanks to everyone who supported the recent concert given
by the Abertillery Orpheus Male Choir. We had a superb evening and the
amount raised for the Youth Work was £1,200.
Gloucestershire Historic Churches Trust Cycle Ride 2004
This year the Cycle Ride coincided with the Church Fete
in the Scout Headquarters. However, Jill and Martin Kannreuther braved the
uncertain weather to visit twelve churches in Fairford, Quennington, Coln
St Aldwyns and neighbouring parishes. They raised a total of £270, half of
which goes to the Trust and half to St Mary's. We are very grateful to them
and their sponsors.