We are about to experience a good deal of change together as a Parish. On the one hand Father Stephen, our
spiritual leader of the last eleven years, is retiring. On the other the nature of the Parish is about to
change, taking on board St Peter’s, Cheltenham, St Lawrence’s, Swindon Village, and St Mary Magdalene,
Elmstone Hardwicke – quite an expansion. There will be a replacement for Father Stephen and there will be
additions to the clergy team to cope with the extra workload the expansion will bring. But it is quite a
change and change can be something to get worried about. After all it is all an unknown.
But life goes on and our mission does not change at all. There is a whole world out there waiting to be
saved. That will not change with our change in circumstances. Jesus sent the eleven out with the instruction
to proclaim the Good News to all creation. ‘He who believes and is baptised will be saved – he who does not
believe will be condemned.’ That mission has not changed. We still have to deal with the everyday life of the
Parish and that will not get any easier, but we must not lose sight of Jesus’ call to us all.
Over the next few weeks our sermons will be on the theme inspired by John 8:32, ‘And you will know the
truth and the truth will set you free’. We shall be looking at the way we use the Bible at the moment. We
shall be led through an investigation into other ways we can use it – helping us to take what is written on
the page as being inspired by God. That is sometimes difficult to understand and may not even become clear at
the time of reading, but faith leads us on to read more and, like so many other subjects, the more familiar we
become with it, the more it becomes clear. I believe this has the potential to be the foundation of our
We have much to thank Father Stephen for and there will be many tributes and expressions of gratitude over
the next few weeks. For myself, I have to thank him above all else for suggesting that I put myself forward
for Ministry – a life-changing move. I believe the best way we can express our thanks to him is in the way we
carry on the good work. Our prayers will be with him and Vicky and I know their prayers will be with us.
If you have the opportunity, please do visit St Mary Magdalene’s church in Elmstone Hardwicke over the
weekend of 14 and 15 October. The church family there is very excited about their Harvest Celebration which
will include a scarecrow competition, various exhibits in the church, stalls around the outside of the church
selling locally produced food, art and craft displays, Morris dancing, a ploughing competition, a working
threshing mill in action and much, much more!
Elmstone Hardwicke, along with our parishes of Prestbury and All Saints’, and the parishes of Swindon
Village and St Peter’s Tewkesbury Road, is part of the northern area of Cheltenham – now designated as the
‘Northern Mission Area’. This weekend is an ideal opportunity for us to meet with one another and share
something with some of our brother and sister Christians in the other parishes of our area. During the weekend
some of our clergy will be taking part in leading a ‘Sacred Spot’: a prayer and a Harvest hymn on the hour,
You would be very welcome to join in the Harvest Supper which is at 7pm on Saturday 14 October, tickets in
advance. There will be a service especially for children at 3pm on Sunday 15th and a Festival Eucharist in the
church at 6.30pm on Sunday evening. The congregation at Elmstone Hardwicke was described to me as ‘very
willing and keen to be involved’; however, there are only about 20 of them! If anyone feels moved to offer
them any help with the weekend, please let them know.
A huge thanks to all those who participated in the 360° Project this summer – helping to transform the
wildlife area at St Mary’s Junior School. It was a week of very hard work and fantastic team spirit. Thanks
also to Mr Howes for his vision and dedication which saw the project through.
The finished pond, seating, paths and fencing
Outdoor Learning Area
The outdoor learning area was a project I have wanted to do since teaching at Prestbury St Mary’s. With the
help of Father Grant, Andy and a dedicated group of volunteers this large project became a reality. The work
was hard, but we had a great sense of team spirit and some lighter moments on the way. Seeing the pond area
take shape was a wonderful feeling as I know the benefits it will have on the children’s scientific learning
as well as giving them the opportunity to have stories outside (weather permitting). My sincere thanks go to
the volunteers and for the kind gift of seven benches from the church.
Two recent occurrences have prompted me to put some thoughts on paper and to share them, perhaps inviting
controversy, perhaps not.
The first thought ties in with the second and was prompted by our Bishop’s letter a few weeks ago, about
praying for vocations to the ministry of the church. Women and men throughout the Anglican Communion are
serving in various capacities throughout the world, and still there are areas where the ministry of women as
ordained priests is not accepted. Not only not accepted, but openly rejected. I must admit that I find this
attitude quite against my ethos, both as a Franciscan Tertiary, and as a committed and convinced Christian. I
may say that I am usually able to understand opinions and beliefs which differ from my own; this particular
belief, though respecting the right of my brothers and sisters in Christ to hold it, I am unable to
We, in this country are very conservative; most other parts of the Communion have gone forward and accepted
women as Priests and Bishops of the church, and the American Communion has gone as far (do I mean ‘As far’) as
to elect a woman as Presiding Bishop, and still we agonise over the validity of women’s ordained ministry. I
wonder, are there any women in this parish/benefice anxious to be ordained? are they reluctant to come
forward? have they heard the Lord calling them, but are afraid to answer that call? Bishop Michael did not
specify the gender of those called to be priests and I would be dumbfounded if he had.
My second thought follows on the first one. I shall be so sad to bid farewell to Father Stephen. He
welcomed me to St Mary’s, and has always supported me in the short time that I have been here. It has occurred
to me however, could the Holy Spirit be nudging us to consider whether Father Stephen’s successor is to be a
By law, no profession, no work, is denied to both genders equally, and of course this has applied to the
Anglican Communion. Did not St Peter have a vision of a sheet full of all sorts being lowered from heaven? And
where do we read that there is no discrimination between men and women, between Jew and Greek, and so on?
The ‘8:32’ Bible awareness project continues through October with two more Education on Location evenings,
the Quiet Day at Nympsfield and the following Sunday themes:
1 Oct Harvesting the Word (Responding to the Bible in our Daily Lives)
8 Oct Sharing the Word (Tackling ‘Bible Poverty’ around the World)
15 Oct Praying the Word (Using the Bible in our Daily Prayer Lives)
We would also love to hear from you about particular passages from Scripture that have moved you or played
a big role in your own life, some of which we will share in future magazines and on the website.
The Youth Groups’ film was launched in style at the Our Voice Oscars evening on Saturday 9
September. Everyone was dressed in their finery, St Nicolas’ Church was given the red carpet treatment,
stylish refreshments were circulated – everything was glitz and glamour.
The films did not disappoint. There was a great variety – from documentaries about Wyman’s Brook to a
wooden-spoon puppet version of Joseph, from Jesus and Satan doing Big Brother to creative
footage of the holiday project. The films blended thoughtfulness and humour – showing great creativity and
The evening would not have been complete without awards: particularly for the editors James Radburn and
Matthew Bestwick, who had slaved for so long to create the finished items. It was most of all a team effort
over so many months – the event was made by those who helped decorate the hall and prepare refreshments, by
the technical crew, by all those who had created the films over the months before and by the fantastic
audience – thank you all! (and thanks to our expert auctioneer!) It should not be forgotten that the scale of
the project would not have been possible without the hard work of Tricia Wilson to secure funding.
Whilst the evening celebrated the contribution of young people, it also aimed to raise money for Prestbury
& Pittville Youth. We raised around £500 on the night – a fantastic amount. This local funding is vital for
our long term work – if you feel you could become a regular financial giver, please contact Gill Wood. DVDs of
the film are still on sale – please contact Andy Macauly for further details.
It has been such a privilege to be part of the project and the premiere.
All dressed up!
The red carpet treatment
I am an elderly member of St Mary’s Church, Prestbury, but felt I should support the young people in the
Parish and attend the Premiere Night of the film entitled Our Voice at St Nicolas’ Church on 9
September. However, it meant going on my own to St Nicolas’, which is unfamiliar to me and where I know hardly
anyone in that congregation. Saturday came. I deliberated. If I stayed at home, I really would feel guilty
because it is our duty to support the young people. I myself had been very involved with the Youth Group at St
Mary’s Church, Charlton Kings, for at least thirteen years, but that was a long time ago. What should I do? I
really didn’t want to go on my own.
At 6.45pm I decided I must go. Posh frocks were the order of the day. My ballroom dancing days are over,
and only this year my last remaining evening dress went to the charity shop! However, I dolled myself up, put
on a smart dress I had worn at my grandson’s wedding in America, wore my best shoes, picked up my stole and
posh evening bag and off I went. I arrived early (I didn’t even know what time it all began) so that I could
park easily, sat in my car for a few minutes, then saw two people I knew from St Mary’s, all dressed up too,
and we went in together.
As soon as we entered the church we were offered a drink, a glass of orange, lemonade or apple juice, all
served beautifully. It was good to be there early because we could enjoy seeing everyone else arriving. It was
fascinating seeing various families arrive all dressed up, men in dinner jackets, ladies in evening wear. The
young people too were all in their best and looked delightful. As people entered they were photographed and
offered drinks. Barbara Lyle looked fabulous in her feather boa, Bob very smart in his dinner jacket. Father
Michael looked extremely handsome in his dinner jacket and his wife very glamorous; also his daughter and son
equally smart. The atmosphere was fantastic, just like arriving for the Opera or any other Premiere night.
I’m afraid I’m a traditionalist when it comes to television – dare I confess I have never even seen Big
Brother; Blind Date I’ve watched once. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to understand all the jokes!
However, as soon as the lights went out and the film began it was magical. There was a buzz of excitement and
anticipation throughout. I enjoyed it all immensely, especially listening to the views of the young people
concerned. Then the Awards afterwards – really exciting and most professional. Then a really fascinating end
to the evening when Charlie (I believe from All Saints’) decided to auction the puppets from the Joseph
part of the film. The air was electric as bids were made and everyone got carried away – I think the last one
fetched over £50!! More drinks were served.
A truly delightful evening. Many thanks Andy and your supporters for all the wonderful work you do with the
young people. I can appreciate the hard work that goes into it all.
It was good being part of that evening. Thank goodness I made the effort to go – I wouldn’t have missed it
A group of 25 young people and leaders (and Ben) had a great time at Greenbelt festival this year, it was
great to see more new faces joining us this year. We were blessed with good weather – especially to set up and
pack up which made such a difference. The spirit of community was fantastic with a real sense of including
all. The worship led by Andy Wood each morning helped everyone focus on the amazing God we worship and serve.
Other highlights included Daniel Benningfield’s stage presence, the joyous Fischy music and sharing communion
together at the Sunday Worship. Many young people also became proficient at the diabolo over the weekend.
Thanks to the fantastic team who helped the stay run well – from first aid to making toast – from washing
up to deep and meaningfuls. Personally I was most challenged by the line from a Martyn Joseph song: ‘Wherever
you lead me, I will follow…’ how about you?
Putting up the huge mess tent
Getting stuck in to Fischy Music
Annual Sponsored Ride/Walk
This year I cycled a route round Cirencester, starting from St Mary Magdalene, Baunton, where there is a
large 15th century wall painting of St Christopher, and on to St Peter’s at Stratton, where I was given a
lovely welcome and a rum and raisin cookie – delicious! Then across the busy A417 to find Daglingworth’s Holy
Rood Church of Saxon origin, with Saxon doorway and stone altar, and the Duntisbourne churches, St Michael’s
at Rouse and St Peter’s at Abbots; the Rouse one has traces of wall painting in the chancel, the Abbots one is
quite large, early Norman, as was that of my next visit, St Margaret’s at Bagendon. Many of these churches had
lovely wooden outer gates to their porches.
There is much of interest at All Saints’ Church, North Cerney, including a beautiful rood and carved wood
screen in a sort of balcony style, with realistic figures of Christ, the Virgin and St John, a lovely Lady
chapel and wood ceiling, also stone carving on the outside.
The next three churches were ones I visited many years ago (on a Mothers’ Union outing!) – and I
underestimated how far they were. Running late, I hitched myself and bike into the car and asked Roger for
lift up to Chedworth, thus cutting off about five miles, and this helped a lot, even if highly irregular. I
visited St Andrew’s, then cycled on to St Michael’s, small with faded wall painting, and St Leonard at
Stowell, tiny with its marvellous 700-year-old wall painting.
A short way down the Fosse Way, turning off to St James’ at Coln St Dennis, then on to St Andrew’s at Coln
Rogers, where the Coln Valley Fete was taking place. It was necessary to watch my wheels in the narrow lanes,
as so many cars were on their way to attend this! Through to St Peter’s at Winson and on to St Mary’s, Bibury,
bright and large, with lovely East and West windows and carved wood ceiling.
Next I checked in at St Mary’s, Barnsley, then found two lovely churches, All Saints’ at Preston and St
Peter’s at Siddington. By this time on the outskirts of Cirencester I sought St Lawrence at Chesterton,
finding after some difficulty that it functioned also as a community hall and was closed. Pressing on, I found
the beautiful Holy Trinity Church at Watermoor, and lastly Cirencester’s own St John the Baptist.
Many of the churches I visited were manned by kind parishioners, refreshments were offered, and there
seemed to be a fair number of cyclists calling on them, a worthwhile effort, as some have pretty small
congregations, one person quoted thirty.
All in all I enjoyed a lovely day out, though my pedal power is showing signs of wear, so no hills next
year! A certain member of St Mary’s congregation did warn me – but he shall remain anonymous!
Five Hours in the Saddle!
Five hours jumping on and off the bike is more like it, with a fair bit of walking thrown in. We left home
just after 1pm, notched up St Mary’s and the URC fairly quickly and sped up the hill to St Nicolas’, then down
the other side to St Lawrence, Swindon Village, where we once attended evensong twenty-nine years ago to hear
our banns called. At St Mary Magdalene in Elmstone Hardwicke we discovered that their harvest celebrations
(details elsewhere in this magazine) include a Scarecrow competition!
The next few miles were easy riding on the flat, apart from the cruel man-made hills on the motorway
bridges. The hedgerows were dripping with blackberries; we ate a few, but did not have time to linger. After
St James the Great, Stoke Orchard, and St John the Baptist, Tredington, we crossed the motorway for the fourth
and final time and reached our first decision point – home or on?
St Mary's at Little Washbourne
It was not yet three o’clock, so on to Woolstone (St Martin) and Oxenton (St John the Baptist) where the
churches are on the side of the hill we were cleverly skirting round, and yes I had to walk the last bit both
times, but it was fun coming back down! We carried on round to St Nicholas at Teddington, St Margaret at
Alstone, and then the tiny church of St Mary at Little Washbourne, no longer needed for public worship, but
still consecrated, with box pews large enough to have a party in!
A box pew in St Mary’s church, Little Washbourne
We reached St Margaret of Antioch in Alderton at half past four and turned for home. I had to walk a couple
more stretches, by no means steep, just a gradual incline over too great a distance, visiting Gretton and
Stanley Pontlarge, then a long descent to Gotherington and Bishop’s Cleeve. We finished with the climb up to
Southam and the Church of the Ascension, and then coasted home, arriving just before six o’clock, having
visited twenty churches in approximately thirty miles.
Part 1: Franciscan Community
Some of you may not know that I have been away from the Parish on sabbatical leave. During this time I
stayed with three quite different Christian communities. As that falls nicely into three separate articles for
the magazine, this is part one!
As I reflect on this sabbatical time I am amazed at how my experiences in the communities that I have
visited have led to a wonderful ‘progression’ in my own spiritual journey. I can now see clearly that God had
a hand in the planning of my use of this special time!
I began the sabbatical with a stay of almost a fortnight with the Franciscan Community at Alnmouth Friary.
The Friary was originally a large private house and is in a stunning position on the hill top overlooking the
bay. This time perfectly fulfilled the need for rest and for relaxation. I was especially helped to settle
into the sabbatical experience through reading Henri Nouwen’s journal of his sabbatical year which he took
shortly before he died. Nouwen was a Catholic priest, pastor of L’Arche Daybreak Community in Toronto and a
prolific spiritual writer; his books include ‘The Return of the Prodigal’. I always find Nouwen to be an
inspiring writer and I felt that many of his reflections during his sabbatical time spoke directly to me.
Nouwen wrote a great deal about friends and friendship and this prompted me to reflect on the value of
friendship and on the importance of working at maintaining friendships, especially when parish life can easily
become all-consuming. Later in the sabbatical I was able to meet with some friends from my time at theological
college; this was a very valuable opportunity to ‘re-connect’.
At the Friary guests are welcome to join in with all the daily services: the ‘offices’ of Morning Prayer,
Midday Prayer, Evening Prayer and Compline, as well as the daily Eucharist in the middle of the day. During my
stay I came to realise how much Jesus Christ is at the centre of Franciscan spirituality. The sense of
‘journeying into Christ’ became probably the major theme of my sabbatical time. I reflected on the simple
power of the Eucharist at the heart of each day, realising again how much I personally value and need that
physical connection with Jesus. I also valued enormously the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at Alnmouth and the
opportunity to spend time there during the day, praying, reflecting and simply ‘being with the Lord’.
Living in a monastic community also strongly reminded me of the value of a structured day which gives an
appropriate balance to prayer, worship, reflection, work and rest. The community of five brothers at Alnmouth
are a very diverse group of men. The oldest is in his late 80’s and has been at the Friary since it opened in
1961. The next ‘youngest’ (in his 70’s) has spent a number of years working in AIDS projects in the Americas.
The Guardian (equivalent to the Abbot) is in his late 40’s and has had a strong sense of vocation to the
religious life since childhood. The two youngest brothers are in their early 30’s and with the Guardian do all
the cooking, sometimes for up to thirty guests. Hospitality is at the heart of the life of the Friary and the
Brothers were all keen to ensure that their guests were regularly and generously fed and as comfortable as
possible. By the end of my stay I was feeling well-rested and also well-exercised by my daily walks along the
miles of deserted sandy beaches.
Returning home I became aware of how much my pace of life had slowed down and I slipped into a pattern of
prayer-time, of reading and of some exercise – mainly in the garden! I also prepared for my visit to the
second community which I had chosen as part of my sabbatical journey.
Ofsted inspectors have paid tribute to school life at St Mary’s CE Infant School by showering staff and
pupils with the highest possible grades.
The school received ‘outstanding’ grades across all areas of the inspection – and there was praise for
children and staff in equal measure. The inspectors highlighted pupils’ outstanding behaviour and attitudes,
inspirational teaching, and the positive atmosphere which permeates every aspect of school life.
Inspectors judged the school to be ‘outstandingly effective’ in providing a very high standard of education
and exceptional care for its pupils. ‘Very good teaching is consistent throughout the school, and much is
inspirational. Consequently, pupils are enthusiastic learners, behave well and do exceptionally well by the
time they leave school’, the report says.
From keeping fit, to eating healthily, to supporting charity – the children at St Mary’s Infants also make
exceptional progress in their personal development. Inspectors noted how the positive atmosphere was enhanced
by an inspirational programme of collective worship supported by our churches. They also highlighted the very
good relationships between adults and pupils, and how the children treat each other with kindness and respect.
The school was also applauded for its ‘outstanding’ leadership and management, and the atmosphere of mutual
respect and support among all staff members. The report added that the school’s capacity to improve further
was ‘excellent because there is an uncompromising whole school commitment to raising standards’.
The report reflected the talents and dedication of teachers and support staff, and the enthusiasm and hard
work of every child, said headteacher Miss Ann Fitzpatrick. ‘We are thrilled by this official recognition of
our commitment to providing the highest standards of education and care in a Christian environment. Every
member of this team – staff, governors and clergy – is driven by the belief that each child deserves the best
possible start. The report confirms that we’re doing the right things in the right way. Now we’ll build on
that for the future.’
Caroline Sexton, Foundation Governor
have moved to their own slot
Sunday 1 October, 6pm, St Nicolas’ Church
The Bishop of Gloucester is joining us for this great celebration on Sunday 1 October. There
will be worship led by the young people, the youth work team will be commissioned and Andy Macauly will be
licensed as a Youth Minister. Please do be a part of this significant
Please note the change of time to 6pm.
On Saturday 7 October there is an opportunity to interest a wider audience in the work of
Prestbury and Pittville Youth. The charity has arranged with Waitrose Superstore to set up a display in their
entrance lobby from 8am to 8pm. We will be collecting funds, handing out leaflets and talking to shoppers
about the significant work that Andy Macauly and his team of volunteers do for local young people. Perhaps we
will recruit new members or even new volunteer workers. Hopefully we will raise a decent sum to help us
continue the good work.
Anyone who can give an hour or two on Saturday 7 October to help and support our young
people and the charity would be most welcome. Please contact Tricia Wilson.
This year’s Education on Location sessions will continue on Thursdays:
5 October at St Mary’s
19 October at St Nicolas’
We are using a video presentation on the letter of St Paul to the Philippians, produced for
the Caister Retreat of 2005 by Sister Margaret Magdalen of the Community of St Mary the Virgin.
Each session begins at 7.45pm and follows the usual format of presentation, break for
refreshments, group discussion and closing prayers.
There is no charge for this series of events, but donations towards the cost of refreshments
will be appreciated.
Celebrate! Men’s Night
Celebrate! are hosting another men’s social evening at the Royal Oak in the Burgage on
Monday 9 October from 7.30pm. Do join us if you fancy a drink and a chat – no previous experience of
Trip to the Holy Land
Fr Michael will be giving a
talk on his trip to the Holy Land in St Mary’s church on Thursday 12 October starting at 7.30pm.
Refreshments will be served.
Food for Thought – Autumn Quiet Day
The Quiet Day at Nympsfield will take place on Saturday 14 October.
The day starts at 9.30 and offers three short sessions considering different aspects of
hospitality in St Luke’s Gospel, with plenty of opportunity for quiet reflection, concluding with a Eucharist.
A generous lunch provided by the Sisters is included.
Please sign up on the lists displayed in each church, indicating whether you need transport
or can offer transport to someone else. The cost of the day is £14, including lunch. A total of 30 places is
available across the Team. Please make bookings with payments no later than the first Sunday in October.
Further information is available from members of the Education Group:
Colin Holman at St Mary’s
Margaret Compton at St Nicolas’
Karen Winder or Julia Hook at All Saints’
St Mary’s Bakestall
The next bakestall at St Mary’s is on Sunday 15 October with contributions from those with
surnames A-F. Do contact us if you would like to join the rota.
Margaret Waker & Linda Matthews
Churches Together in North Cheltenham
The next ecumenical service is on Sunday 15 October at 3.30pm at St Michael’s church,
Whaddon. The theme for this year’s One World Week is Mind the Gap
and will be on the themes of exploitation, health, poverty, education and climate change.
Our next meeting will take place on Tuesday 24 October at 7.30pm in St Nicolas’ Church. All
existing and new members welcome when our speaker will be Mrs Pam Staite who will give a talk entitled
A Christmas Patchwork.
A big thank-you to everybody who helped to make our first venture into Bible Study at All
Saints’ such an enjoyable experience. We will be resuming again for five consecutive Tuesdays, beginning on
31 October at 7.00pm, with a study of the Book of Ruth. Introductory material will be circulated in advance –
if you would like to receive a copy please contact Julia Hook or Jennifer Swinbank.
Churchyard Autumn Tidy-up
There may, possibly, be an autumn tidy-up of St Mary’s churchyard one Saturday in late
October or early November. Details will be in the pewsheet.
Dates for your Diary
The Eucharist of Thanksgiving for 38 years of Fr Stephen’s Ministry and 40 years of his and
Vicky’s Marriage will be at 11.30am on Saturday 4 November at All Saints’ church, followed by a light buffet
lunch. If you would like to come, please sign the list in church or email fr.stephenprestbury.net. This will help us to
arrange the catering and seating.
Fr Stephen’s last Sunday at St Nicolas’ will be 29 October, his last Sunday at All Saints’
will be 5 November, and at St Mary’s 12 November.
Retirement Present for Fr Stephen
Anyone wishing to make a donation towards a retirement present for Fr Stephen please put it
in a marked envelope and give it to one of the Churchwardens.