Autumn is here. The leaves begin to fall. Here’s a parable for us to pause
and reflect upon. We all might well benefit from shedding a few things.
Ask yourself about priorities, take stock.
What is really important and fundamental in your life?
What is of secondary importance? What is trivial?
How do you share your time between all these?
Have you got your priorities in the right order?
There may be things that you well could shed, in order to bring about more
space in your life, and more time, more real quality of living, more opportunity
It’s right that you also ask the same questions concerning your Christian
journey. Questions about God. How important in your life is the One who made
you and gave you everything you have? And how do you respond to his generosity
It could even be that you need to shed some of the commitments you have made
in order to concentrate on spiritual peace. I think the most important
gift we can impart to anyone is the gift of finding God’s presence, and finding
an inner peace with Him. As Jesus put it, to love God with our heart, soul, mind
As individuals we need to be slimmer and fitter in a spiritual sense.
Slimming requires controlled dieting and fitness requires regular exercise if we
are to remain healthy. In health terms we would consult an expert: it’s no
use just picking and choosing at random. As I look at our clergy team here at
St Mary’s and St Nicolas’, I recognise that we are fortunate to have priests who
are experts in just these things - Fr Michael is a highly trained and qualified
spiritual director, whilst Fr Paul and Fr John and Fr Tim come with a
lifetime’s experience in spiritual counsel. Use their expertise!
These, too, are the questions we are asking as we review our parish life.
At times, we seem to be bogged down with committees locked in permanent
discussion, afraid to make decisions and to get things going, lest we offend. We
have to face the fact that birth, growth and movement are inevitably painful,
and we must accept that pain if we wish to see Jesus.
Over 190 people came to St Nicolas’ to give thanks for the life of Eileen at
her Funeral Mass on 1st September. This spoke volumes about the amount of
respect and affection in which Eileen was held.
Eileen came to Prestbury in 1966, when her husband, Stuart, became Head
Teacher of St Mary’s School. Eileen taught Special Needs at St Mary’s, followed
by stints at Dunalley, Gloucester Road and Swindon Village Schools. She finally
retired in 1990 after 40 years’ service, 20 of which were in Gloucestershire.
The Jones’ family played a full part in the life of the Church in Prestbury.
Eileen joined St Mary’s Players. She was Enrolling Member of the Mothers’ Union
for six years. Eileen was on the PCC, St Nicolas’ own Committee, and the Hall
Committee. Eileen served as Sacristan at St Nicolas’, where everything was
always in apple pie order.
In 1990 Eileen became Assistant Churchwarden with responsibility for St
Nicolas’. In the following years, she sang in the Camerata Choir, and the
Occasional Choir. She was also an active member of our Walsingham Cell, and
looked forward to our parish pilgrimages to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.
Eileen was prayerful. Her hard back copy of Celebrating Common Prayer, which
we started to use nine years ago on each weekday evening in St Nicolas’, was
almost worn out and had been repaired countless times. She had a strong faith –
which had been tested in various ways over the years.
A great friend / babysitter / and house-watcher for subsequent curates in
Boulton Road, Eileen was dearly loved by the clergy. And as parish priests, Fr
Michael and I also found her to be both a strong support and a wise counsellor,
not least at Churchwardens’ meetings to which she always arrived bearing a list
of matters to be discussed. Eileen had a deep love of St Nic’s – and she could
display quite a fierce guardianship. Who hadn’t been sorted out by Eileen at
some point? We all had!
I can’t write this appreciation of Eileen without mentioning her love and
care for David over the years. It was, of course, mutual, and they supported
each other. In David’s own words, “She wasn’t just my carer, she was my best
mate”. David is in our prayers very much at this time.
So we, in thanksgiving, commend Eileen to God’s keeping. “Well done, thou
good and faithful servant.”
Where did you first hear the stories in the Bible? How do the current
generations hear the stories from the Bible? These were some of the questions
posed at the recent Open the Book training. You may well know the stories of
Joseph, Moses and Jesus (to name but a few), but if you asked a 20 to 30 year
old – what answer do you think they would give when asked who was Joseph, and
what do you know about him?
Open the Book aims to share the Bible stories in an easy to understand story
with primary school children. Jacqueline Rodwell shared a story of a little boy
who went home and said to his mum that he loved the story of Joseph and his
Technicolor dream coat so much he wanted her to read it to him again. The family
spent ages searching for the family Bible hidden somewhere on a shelf. Then the
little boy’s mum (who had no Christian background) had to find the story in the
Old Testament, before she could read it! Each week it was the same until the boy
said to his mum: I think we should go to church and find out more about these
Each Wednesday a group from four different churches will be going into St
Mary’s Infant School to share the stories of the Bible with the children. Please
pray for the group, children, teachers and parents.
September 8th – 11th; 2pm – 5pm: this was the period when we opened
our doors (both of them – south porch) to the general public.
English Heritage and The Civic Trust organise this weekend throughout England
annually, and this year we were invited to join in. Considering their generosity
to our sister church of All Saints, whose roof is quite literally leaking (down
the back of the organ) it seemed rude to refuse.
We revamped our guidebook, produced four different quiz sheets and a young
visitor’s guide. Oh, and some colouring sheets for children waiting for parents.
To our relief, our first visitor arrived at 2pm on Thursday, just as I was
removing the leftovers of the final flower arrangement. He was followed by a
comfortable trickle of friendly and interesting people.
On Saturday afternoon, the flash flood in Prestbury High Street marooned us
and five visitors in the church. Cyril Beer, with his usual efficiency, stemmed
the flood brimming over the porch steps with hands full of J cloths and we all
settled down to an entertaining hour or so. Sadly it was so wet that no further
people arrived. We managed to complete all the quizzes ourselves before we
Sunday saw an increase in visitors. It was really enjoyable meeting, talking
and exchanging local knowledge. It more than compensated for the previous day’s
Because of the great interest in the early life of St Mary’s Church as we
know it, and the discovery of so much of our background as a parish, we have
been requested to produce a series of short articles for the magazine.
The title WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN? seems an appropriate one. It will not just
be Victorian or Medieval St Mary’s, but the early days of St Nicolas as well;
they have a good tale to tell, and I had glimpses of this as I ploughed through
packages of old documents at the County Records Office. As a St Mary’s
worshipper I know none of this and would love to know more. I hope others feel
Thank you to Brian Wood, Ken Bradbury, Colin Holman and Cyril Beer for their
magical working of computers, photocopiers and stapling machines; without them
this event would not have happened. Thanks also to Linda Biggs for the loan of a
remarkable degree dissertation and everybody else who helped in all sorts of
Next year we must be more organised because we would love to go public again.
Riotous entertainment, cheese and wine, tremendous fellowship – and all in
the name of good stewardship! This excellent event was staged at St Mary’s
Infant School on Saturday 10 September; the second in a series of social
activities organised by the Stewardship team to highlight our duty to make
regular giving to God. About 70 people attended, and were treated to a truly
original collection of sketches written and performed by many of the people who
were involved in last Easter’s Passion Play. Under the direction of Daphne
Philpot, the players had their audience in stitches with their tongue-in-cheek
portrayals of the clergy, the stewardship committee, harvest, and much more!
The aim of the evening was to encourage people to think more deeply about
regular, planned giving, which is essential to keep our churches running. Two
more ‘fun’ events are planned: a Pudding Evening at St Nicolas’ on
October 3 December, and a quiz at St Mary’s Church Hall on
12 November. For more details, please contact Marion Beagley.
This year’s Greenbelt Festival at the Racecourse was, in my opinion, one of
best so far. It provided a great mix of talks, music and fellowship resulting in
a great weekend, enjoyed by, among others, more than 20 young people and five
leaders from the Synergy and Elevate youth groups. We all camped on site for the
duration of the weekend, and luckily we were blessed with good weather. We
enjoyed four days of camping, cooking, malletball (!) and each other’s company.
Particular group highlights were seeing Tim Hughes and Matt Redman, and the
Sunday morning communion. My personal highlights included seeing the Proclaimers
perform, and also volunteering in the Mix, which was the venue for 11-14 year
olds. I found it really rewarding seeing and helping the young people develop
friendships and their faith in such a short space of time. Overall, this year’s
Greenbelt was a definite success, and probably my best Greenbelt ever.
Setting up camp for a great weekend
On 26th August a group of about 25 young people and adults set up camp on
Cheltenham racecourse for this year’s Greenbelt festival. There was a wide range
of talks, music, and various performing arts for us to sample, catering for all
ages from the youngest at two, through various ages of young people to the
adult. Most enjoyed the music at night, especially the Proclaimers on the Sunday
night. Camping was an interesting experience for all, luckily the weather didn’t
get too bad, with rain only for one morning. I think almost all of those
camping for the weekend felt that there was a good atmosphere within the group,
and staying there for the weekend meant that it could be quite a relaxing
experience. All could be said to have had a very enjoyable weekend, although
returning home to a shower and a sleep in a comfortable bed was also enjoyed!
Twelve Hours at Greenbelt – Saturday 9.45am - 9.45pm
I spent the first hour wandering round the site identifying venues for later
in the day, but also managed to fit in a short while sitting on the grass in the
quiet of the stable area painting a picture. The theme of Greenbelt this year
was ‘Tree of Life’, so I painted a tree: brown trunk, lots of green leaves on
the branches, roots dipping into a bright blue stream. Then I mixed the colours
a bit and added flowers, butterflies and birds. No, I am not an artist, but it
I heard two talks, the second speaker a friend from my distant past – former
minister of a Baptist church I attended as a student. Thirty or more years
dropped away to nothing as we spent the next two hours chatting and teasing each
other over lunch! ‘You haven’t changed a bit…’ was the mutual opinion.
A somewhat disturbing walk through a display on asylum seekers, a browse in
the bookshop, and a quick bite to eat filled the rest of the afternoon and then
in the evening I attended three services. Orthodox Vespers in a darkened room in
the grandstand, with its haunting music, icons and candles, was both stirring
and calming. Then down to a large tent for a vibrant African ‘bring your own
drum’ Eucharist – spectacular, noisy and so refreshing! We sang in various
African languages as well as English, we clapped our hands and danced, and those
who had drums beat them.
By contrast the short service led in sign language by Deaf people provided a
lovely peaceful end to a varied and enjoyable day.
During the summer, our youth groups were part of the 360° Holiday Project; a
series of week-long projects for young people aged 11-18. The activities ranged
from an outdoor activity day, to community action, to team building. The
initiatives enabled our groups to be part of a great team doing something really
Painting – a community action project
Outdoor activities at Viney Hill
Some of you may remember we raised the idea of a Fair Trade stall after the
Eucharist with a Difference which addressed the issue of Making Poverty History.
I have made some enquiries and have decided to run a stall after the service on
the second Sunday in the month for a trial period of three months to gauge the
interest. It will focus on food and small gifts with nothing costing more than
£5 and with items beginning at less than £1. The first stall will be on October
9th so I hope you will come prepared with your pennies! A few people have
expressed an interest in helping me so if anybody else would like to help then
do give me a ring on 678458.
Thinking ‘Fair Trade’
The concept of ‘Fair Trade’ is being adopted with increasing fervour
throughout our churches: stalls are being organised, and the youth groups have
enthusiastically embraced fairly traded snacks and drinks at their meetings.
However, Fair Trade has also been under discussion by members of the Mission
& Outreach team, in the context of a wider environmental concern – from
recycling, to the efficient use of energy, to creating a greater awareness of
what we can all do to care for our world.
Among the ideas from M&O members was a suggestion that we organise an event
to highlight environmental needs and policy, including the need to think ‘fair
trade’ wherever and whenever possible. We have set up a small working party to
take this idea further, and will keep you posted on our progress.
In the meantime, please support any fair trade activity within our parishes –
and beyond. Thank you!
St Mary’s Church Hall – a Hall Users’ Group has been formed consisting
of many members of the church as well as interested parties. A solicitor is
drawing up the lease at present. Hall has been painted and the hedge cut.
Parish Office - due to pressure of space the Parish Office will have
to move from the Rectory. The possibility of using one of the vestries at St
Nicolas is being explored. The advantage to the Parish of this will be increased
parking and more easily accessible toilet and kitchen facilities. No meeting as
yet with architect re. location.
New Signs - designs for new signs for St Mary’s, St Nicolas’ and All
Saints’ are completed. All Saints’ is in need of a photograph; once this is
available an order will be placed.
St Nicolas' Church - the Quinquennial report contained many errors and
was of unacceptable quality. The architect has been requested to resubmit. The
WC pan in the south toilet has been repositioned to provide space for the
construction of a storage cupboard. Discussions are continuing with architect
and window manufacturers regarding the ventilation of the church. The youth have
decorated areas of the church as part of their 360 project. We are grateful to
them for this. The hall, church kitchens and toilets have passed their hygiene
inspection by the local authority.
St Mary’s Church - the tower is to have new electrical wiring
installed. Emergency repair work is to be undertaken to the church floor. The
architect is to be consulted re. a long-term solution. A stone shelf is proposed
for the North Chapel. Local stonemasons are submitting designs, which will be
put on display once available. The Quinquennial report is awaited.
St Mary’s Churchyard - it is proposed to increase the number of lamp
posts in the churchyard.
St Nicolas’ Hall - a structural survey needs to be carried out re. the
crack on the internal wall in the NW corner. A structural engineer is being
General Parish Business - English Heritage sent a 2005 Church Fabric
Needs survey. This will be completed and returned.
Date of next meeting - Friday 11th November, 4.15pm at St Nicolas’.
Should you have any comments or questions, please submit them in writing to
Jackie Moles at the Parish Office or by email to
These will be presented to the committee at its next meeting.
10th September, four of our intrepid church members took part in the Annual
Cycle Ride of the Historic Churches Trust. Gill Ashman, Matthew Bestwick, Mary
Turner, and Bob Lyle braved torrential rains to raise funds for our churches and
the Trust – and seemed to enjoy every minute…!
Just the weather for plastic sheeting!
I set out at 10am to visit 12 churches, going north through Bishops Cleeve to
St Martin, Woolstone. It was wrapped in plastic sheeting as the roof was being
repaired – how could they do this without help from the Trust?
The road to Tredington is pretty straight and open – the heavens opened, too,
and I wished I was wrapped in plastic! I was grateful for the shelter of St
John, sharing the porch with the fossil of a Coelocanth and three riders from
Tewkesbury who were quite dry; they had had no rain up to then.
I continued – and so did the rain – to St James, Stoke Orchard, Elmstone
Hardwick, Swindon Village, St Nicolas, and home – 20 miles and 13 churches.
Despite the conditions I enjoyed it and one always learns something new – I
know where the Bethel Chapel of the Slavic Baptist Church is – do you? And
between us we raised over £350 for our churches and the Trust.
Oil, mud and dire thoughts!
Gloucestershire’s only heavy rain in recent months fell with a vengeance when
I happened to be in the Church porch of St Mary the Virgin at Westcote. After
the heaviest deluge, I ventured forth again, meeting a fellow-cyclist at the
gate, who remarked that “at least we are both clean”; a somewhat dubious
speculation considering my oily, muddy legs and feet (not to mention the dire
thoughts in my head at that point!). But the wet I had been dreading all day was
quite exhilarating, as I splashed through rivers and lakes on the roads and
lanes. My brakes were in good working order, due to Roger’s careful checking and
Starting from Upper Slaughter I look a route around Stow-on-the-Wold, trying
to avoid the steepest hills, but finding a few where I needed to dismount and
walk. Having left the Slaughters and Swells I headed towards Broadwell, then to
Evenlode and Adlestrop, being reminded of its railway connection by the shelter
and bench on a corner, and of Edward Thomas’ poem “Adlestrop”.
At Oddington I found two churches, Holy Ascension and the 11th century St
Nicholas, with its Mediaeval “Heaven and Hell” wall painting.
I met Roger for a quick picnic lunch at Bledington, afterwards straying into
Oxfordshire to visit the churches at Kingham, Fifield and Idbury. Lastly, a
visit to St Peters, Little Rissington and St Lawrence, Bourton-on-the-Water,
where Roger picked up my bike and me to return home, both of us dripping wet!
In many of these lovely churches I found someone there with a welcome, drinks
and refreshments, sympathy for the weather and help with directions. All the
villages were so beautiful that the whole day was most enjoyable!
I visited 15 churches and covered some 30 miles. Thank you very much to all
those who generously sponsored me.
A feeling of achievement, satisfaction…
and wet trainers!
On Saturday 10th September I woke to the sound of fairly heavy rain – a bit
of a disappointment as this was the day I was to accompany my grandson, Matthew
Bestwick, on the Historic Churches Sponsored Bike Ride.
We spent the latter part of the morning making sure our bikes and ourselves
were ready and roadworthy – I had to have a little practise also as it is about
fifteen years since I last rode a bike!
We set off about 1.45pm, duly helmeted and illuminated. The plan was to visit
as many Cheltenham churches as possible in a round circuit. We had visited five
before the afternoon deluge began; undeterred we went on to visit another eight
- by which time we were well and truly soaked and so decided to head for home.
It wasn’t really just because we were so wet that we called it a day (after
all, once you are soaked to the skin you can’t get any wetter), it was also
because we were making our way through flood water, and visibility was extremely
limited. (I’m sure Mike Brick will vouch for us as he passed us in Swindon Lane
pushing our bikes up the last hill, in the pouring rain).
In spite of the weather Matthew thoroughly enjoyed his ride and wants to do
it again next year! I’m not sure that ‘enjoyed’ is quite the right word for me,
but I certainly felt a sense of achievement and satisfaction and we have raised
well over £100 in sponsorship money.
We both enjoyed a hot bath (not together) when we arrived home and a lovely
tea cooked by Kate (Matthew’s Mum). I later went on to the Stewardship Cheese
and Wine party and was able to sit and recover and enjoy the wonderful
entertainment provided by our talented Church members.
Our trainers are still wet!