On 1 November 1996 I was licensed by the then Bishop of Gloucester to a second curacy working with Fr
Stephen in the Parish of Prestbury. At that time I would never have imagined that at some future date I would
be preparing to be licensed as Priest in Charge of the Prestbury and All Saints’ Team Ministry. After all, we
only intended to stay for about three years! God certainly has had other plans!
The process which has led to Bishop Michael’s inviting me to take over from Fr Stephen has been a very
moving and very humbling one. When Fr Stephen announced his retirement people began asking me whether I would
take over. My reply tended to be, ‘well it doesn’t work like that in the Church of England’. However, when our
Wardens also asked me the same question and then resolved to speak to Bishop Michael, I decided I ought to see
him first! I told him what people were asking and said that if he told me it was out of the question then I
could tell them his response. We talked together about the parishes, about my journey and about the future,
especially the formation of a new North Cheltenham Team Ministry and then he declared that I should not rule
out the possibility but should go away and pray and reflect and let him know.
In July the Bishop contacted me to tell me that he also had prayed and consulted and had decided that he
wanted me to take the post if I was willing. I have given this much thought and believe that God is asking me
to bring continuity during a time of transition. I also believe that my local knowledge and the important
relationships which have already been established will enable us to move on with the building of the new Team
Ministry. Initially, for slightly complicated legal reasons, I will be Priest in Charge of Prestbury and All
Saints’, but when the new North Cheltenham Team Ministry is formed I will be the first Team Rector. As part of
the appointment process I have met with parish representatives from the other parishes of north Cheltenham and
all five PCCs have been consulted.
These past few months have also been emotionally charged, especially the first weeks of November, as we
have said our farewells to Fr Stephen and Vicky. Many wonderful tributes have been paid to Fr Stephen’s
thirty-eight years of ministry, the last eleven here in Cheltenham, and we continue to give thanks to God for
all the blessings which Fr Stephen brought to us. For me personally, working so closely for ten years with
such an amazing and Godly man, has been an incredible experience and a great joy.
Now we must build on all that has been achieved so far. The work of God’s Kingdom does not stop. As those
who share in that work, we are in a position to carry straight on without the ‘marking time’ which can so
often be a feature of a vacancy, or ‘interregnum’ as they were known.
One of my first tasks is to recruit someone to replace me! That was one of my immediate questions to the
Bishop and he confirmed that if he wants us to work towards a North Cheltenham Team Ministry, it does not make
sense to leave part of that area leaderless or understaffed. Please pray with me that we will be able to
recruit a Team Vicar who will enthusiastically bring new and different gifts to add to those with which we are
already blessed from amongst the many who exercise ministry in our Team. (Someone young would also be good!)
My Licensing on 3rd December is also a good point from which to move positively towards building the North
Cheltenham Team Ministry. This will include St Mary’s and St Nicolas’ Prestbury, All Saints’, St Lawrence’s
Swindon Village, St Mary Magdalene’s Elmstone Hardwicke with Uckington and St Peter’s Cheltenham. As you
probably know, St Peter’s Church on the Tewkesbury Road will be closed for worship and we expect that the
geographical parish will be added into the parish of Prestbury. Please pray for Fr Stephen Eldridge, Fr Mike
French and the people of St Peter’s at this very difficult time. Pray especially that those who currently
worship at St Peter’s will find a new spiritual home after its closure.
Many of us were able to share with Fr David Eady and Elmstone Hardwicke in their Harvest Celebrations in
October. That was a really good example of working across parish boundaries and supporting our fellow
Christians. I would expect there to be many more occasions like that. I have been able to visit Swindon
Village Primary School on a number of occasions to take their assembly. I would ask you all to think of ways
in which people from the other parishes in the area can be welcomed to join in with things which happen in
Prestbury and All Saints’, and also ask you to be prepared actively to support the other parishes in any way
you can. Inevitably the clergy of the parishes will be meeting together more frequently, especially as we
prepare for the clergy to become part of the new Team Ministry. I would also anticipate meetings between
Wardens and possibly, on some occasions, between PCCs. Our PCCs will certainly have the task of approving the
Scheme which will legally bring the new Team Ministry into existence.
I am sure that people will also be wondering about clergy housing. As many of you know, Gill, Anna, Simon
and I moved to All Saints’ Vicarage just over four years ago. You will all appreciate how disruptive it is
moving house and also how expensive; we spent all of my available grants on re-carpeting the Vicarage and on
new curtains! We have therefore agreed with Bishop Michael and the Diocesan Officials that we will remain in
the house in All Saints Road. This will not only avoid involving us in time and money involved in a move but
will also save the Diocese the costs which would be incurred in our move. My replacement as Team Vicar will
therefore live in the house in Tatchley Lane in Prestbury and it can be called ‘The Vicarage’ again!
This has been quite a lengthy article, but you will appreciate that there is a lot to say! I would like to
say ‘thank you’ to all of you for your warm and loving support at this time of my appointment. I consider it
to be a real honour and privilege to lead you as your Priest in Charge at such an exciting and challenging
time. I am very well aware that I can only do that in God’s strength and as a member of a much bigger team of
people who share this ministry with me. Please continue to pray for God’s blessing on us all.
Fr Michael’s Licensing
The Bishop of Gloucester will license Fr Michael as Priest in Charge of the Prestbury and All Saints’ Team
Ministry on Sunday 3 December 2006 at 3 pm in St Mary’s Church, Prestbury. Everyone is very welcome to attend.
NB There will be NO services at 6.30pm in either St Mary’s or All Saints’ on that Sunday
On Sunday 28 January 2007 the Reverend Maz Allen will be inducted as a Minister in the United Reformed
Church of Cheltenham. We welcome her to Prestbury and All Saints’ and look forward to meeting her at
Once again this Advent the Holy Family figures are travelling around our parish visiting the homes of
people from each of our congregations. The two sets of crib figures will leave St Mary’s and St Nicolas’ on
Advent Sunday to spend two or three nights with someone before being delivered to the next hosts and
eventually returning to church on Christmas Eve.
This little parish pilgrimage has proved very popular in the last couple of years but if you haven’t heard
about it yet, the idea is that making space in our homes to welcome the figures can help us make space in our
hearts to welcome the real Jesus. There is a little prayer that you can use at home if you like and a book
into which people are invited to put a thought or reflection, a favourite poem, a photo or a drawing. Above
all we hope that as the Holy Family is passed from one home to another, people will take time to offer
hospitality to one another, perhaps a cup of tea or a brief chat, reminding us that Christ does not just bring
us to God but to one another.
Meet the Celebrate! team members – do you know we have two hardworking projectionists who make sure the
right words and pictures are on the screen at the right time at Celebrate!? They are Harry Porter (he’s the
one in the photo) and Stephen Murton. Both are largely self-taught, with some extra guidance about which wires
connect where from Andy. Stephen finds this is a useful skill at work. Harry also researches and puts the
visual presentations together.
It is a crucial job but one that means they can feel a bit detached from everyone else at Celebrate!
However, they realise how important it is in order that Celebrate! can take place as it does. One of the
tricky parts is to listen carefully to pick up on (normally unrehearsed) cues from the front of the screen and
make sure that everything is on the screen at the right time.
Amusing episodes have been when a toddler ‘escapes’ and goes unexpectedly up to the projection area,
normally with a worried parent in hot pursuit, or Stephen using his finger in the projector beam to point at
something on the screen so it appeared as a ghostly shadow on the screen – the Hand of God!
They say the best part is getting everything right so it all runs smoothly and helps the service along. One
of them tells me that the worst part is being hidden and feeling somewhat detached, the other says the worst
part is when he is not able to get everything up on the screen at the right moment – perhaps you’d like to
talk to them and see who said which.
If you would like to hear more, or if you would like to consider joining them from time to time, please
speak to them or to any of the Celebrate! team.
You might not have noticed how old and grubby the carpet has become in the north-west corner of St Mary’s.
This is the area where there are toys for young children and so it is where they tend to congregate, usually
with a parent or two! A generous parishioner has offered to pay for a new carpet and the fabric committee has
obtained an Archdeacon’s Certificate allowing for its purchase and also for the opportunity to try a different
location for the ‘children’s area’.
I am concerned that having an area for children in the furthest corner of the church is saying something
that we would not really wish to say about their presence with us. It also means that the children, and the
adults with them, are very disconnected from the worship of whichever service they are attending. I am also
concerned that we now have a heater in that area which inevitably gets warm. Therefore we are proposing moving
the ‘children’s area’ further up the north aisle into the block near the piano. We will move some of the pews
to the back and put the new carpet down in this new position. I think this will mean that those who use the
area will feel more a part of the worshipping body, more welcomed amongst us and also be closer to the toilets
In September the Education and Nurture Group met to review recent events and to begin to think about
activities during the remainder of 2006 - 2007.
We welcomed Andy Macauly, who spoke about how work with young people fits into the spectrum of Education
and Nurture across the Team. He mentioned Elevate and Synergy, which meet weekly; both are faith-based groups
aiming to create a sense of belonging which supports individuals as they grow in faith. There is also a
monthly meeting of older young people and students, providing a supportive network which prepares them for
moving away from home or into employment.
Discussion led the Education and Nurture Group to reflect upon how this model of fellowship groups amongst
young people might be extended more widely to the whole church, to provide a network of small self-supporting
groups in which individuals of all ages can be nurtured and sustained as they continue their faith journey. It
was agreed that this would be worth further consideration at a future date.
Events for Advent and Epiphany are detailed elsewhere in this magazine. A new initiative, Education for
Discipleship, has been developed by the Diocese from the earlier Framework for Faith course and is being
piloted in two parishes. It will probably be available more widely from September 2007.
As the Christian Aid representative for the St Mary’s part of the parish I find it is time for me to cut
down on the work involved for Christian Aid Week, which takes place May 13th-19th in 2007, so I am appealing
for a kind person to replace me! If you are interested please see me.
I have much enjoyed carrying out this particular task, as Prestbury people have always been very supportive
and generous in collecting and giving. It only needs a few more persons to organize street areas, and it could
then be led by two or three people overall. This would avoid too much burden, and I am most willing to work
with or alongside others, if this would help.
The Christian Aid Director, Dr Daleep Mukarji, is to give a talk on Saturday 3 February 2007 at St Mark’s
Methodist Church, Gloucester Road, and on 12 March the Cheltenham Area AGM takes place at the same venue. Both
of these events should be informative and helpful. I shall be attending them, and would welcome anyone wishing
to accompany me.
Yes, I know; it is not even Advent yet! But next year Lent will be different. Instead of a number of
separate Lent groups meeting at diverse times and in many places, Lent 2007 will be offering a choice of two
groups, held on one afternoon and one evening.
The afternoon group, led by Father Paul, will meet at St Nicolas’ on Mondays and follow either the 2007
York Course or an alternative guided course with accompanying booklet. The evening group, led by Sue McLeish
from Kemerton, will meet on Thursdays at St Nicolas’ and follow the Refreshed with Jesus video presentation of
St Matthew’s Gospel, accompanied by readings from Bruce Marchiano’s book In the Footsteps of Jesus.
Further information will be made available closer to the time, via posters and the weekly pew-sheet. This
is a new approach to Lent, in a busy year when the Team will face new challenges and new opportunities. We
hope that as many people as possible will be able take part.
Part 3: Iona
The third stage of my sabbatical journey involved the most travelling. A combination of train and aeroplane
took me to Glasgow where I stayed overnight in the city before another combination of train, ferry, bus and
ferry eventually brought me to my destination: the island of Iona.
The Iona Community is an ecumenical Christian community founded in 1938 by the Revd George MacLeod, a
parish minister in Glasgow. The original inspiration of the Community lay in the need to communicate the
Gospel more effectively in contemporary urban society and was expressed initially in the rebuilding of some of
the monastic buildings of the medieval abbey on Iona. The original monastic community can be traced back to
the 6th century when St Columba first landed on the island in 563 and founded a Celtic monastery. Today the
Iona Community is a movement of over 240 Members, 1,500 Associate Members and over 1,500 Friends, men and
women from all sorts of backgrounds, living throughout Britain and also overseas. The island of Iona has two
residential centres run by a small permanently resident community and many volunteers. People come to stay in
these centres, usually for a week.
My first challenge (after managing to get to the island!) was to live for a week in community, sharing a
room with three strangers and living in the Abbey with forty-five other visitors and members of the resident
community. We ‘built community’ by worshipping together, eating together and working together on our daily
chores, which included cleaning the showers and toilets! Although I felt challenged by the lack of personal
space, I reflected, through this experience of living in community, on my ‘wants and needs’: what I feel I
‘want’ in my life balanced against what I realistically ‘need’. A humbling experience!
We also met together each day for a time of discussion and sharing on issues of peace and justice. We were
fortunate to have with us the leaders of both the Iona Community and the Corrymeela Community in Northern
Ireland, and I was especially challenged at how engagement with real issues of justice and peace is taken to
be an integral part of the life of both communities: a natural outcome for them of following the Gospel of
Christ. Twelve of our group were from a church in the USA and it was a real privilege to hear them sharing
some of the issues of justice which are very real for them, especially concerning Iraq, what it means to be an
American and also issues of gay rights.
The experience of living in the Abbey for a week, strongly aware of the connection right back to the
community which gathered with St Columba, was very powerful. I found the daily worship to be fresh and
relevant. The words and music were simple and grounded and yet somehow conveyed something of the awesomeness
of God, speaking of the wonder of God in creation and also of God with us and at work in our lives.
Iona is a small, rocky island in the Scottish Hebrides. It is only three and a half miles long and a mile
and a half wide. It has been described as ‘a Hebridean jewel’ because of the whiteness of the sand contrasting
with the emerald green of the sea. I only really saw it like that on my last day, because the weather had been
so wet and windy for the rest of the week! Just before I left I joined some other brave souls – mostly
American – in a small boat which took us on a very rough journey to the small island of Staffa. We were able
to land for a short time and took a very precarious walk over wet rocks, dodging large waves, so that we could
visit Fingal’s Cave. Well worth the trip!
I returned home from Iona nearing the end of my sabbatical time. When I met with my Spiritual Director I
found that I had so much to reflect on from the journey that I had made. A journey that had taken me to some
wonderful Christian communities and that had also taken me on a profoundly rewarding personal journey of
faith. Thank you for letting me go!
Snippets from the Tower
On the morning of 4 November a peal of 5040 changes of Plain Bob Major was rung at St Mary’s. The band
consisted of five of our own tower ringers and three from other local towers. The treble was rung by Hazel
Sweetman (one of our ringers), who is to be congratulated as it was her first peal. The ringing lasted 2 hours
55 minutes. It was dedicated to Fr Stephen on his forthcoming retirement.
As is our custom we rang all eight bells half muffled for the service of Remembrance on the morning of 12
On the evening of Sunday 12 November our ringers gathered at the Tower armed with snacks and wine and were
joined by Fr Stephen and Vicky. A surprise gift of a Garden Token was presented to them with our best wishes
for the future. Everyone enjoyed the occasion. Service ringing that evening started a little later than usual!
Fr Stephen's Last Sunday at St Nicolas'
Eucharist of Thanksgiving for Ministry and Marriage
Fr Stephen's Last Sunday at St Mary's
Compline by Candlelight
Looking for peace, space and time to think amid the hustle and bustle this Advent? Why not
join us for Compline by Candlelight at 8pm on Tuesdays 5, 12 and 19 December at All Saints? Relax to
the ancient plainchant melodies and spend some quality time with God.
St Nicolas’ Patronal Festival
St Nicolas’ will celebrate their Patronal Festival with a Sung Eucharist in St Nicolas’
church on Wednesday 6 December at 7.30pm. Mulled wine and mince pies to follow. All are welcome.
NB there will be no service at St Mary’s that evening
The Churches of Prestbury invite everyone to step back from the rush and relax with seasonal
refreshments and music in St Mary’s church between 2pm and 6pm on Saturday 9 December. Mince pies,
shortbread, spicy biscuits and German Stollen cake will be served, together with tea, coffee, mulled wine or
fruit juice. Our cream teas in the summer were really popular and we were asked to ‘do this more often’, so
this is our Advent equivalent.
Informal carol singing and Christmas music, lots of candles and festive greenery will help
to set the mood. Our Christmas tree will be there, newly decorated for the Christingle service the following
All the churches in the North Cheltenham area will be represented, including the United
Reformed Church and Holy Name Hall. It will be an opportunity to check up on all our Christmas and Advent
services and to browse for a special Christmas card or decoration. This is not a Christmas bazaar, just a few
small charity stalls selling seasonal things.
Profits from refreshment sales are to be used to support homeless children in the old and
new world – Let the Children Live! in Colombia and a charity for orphaned or displaced refugee children in the
Holy Land. Considering the circumstances of Jesus’ birth this seemed the most appropriate thing to do!
Lynda Hodges, Parish Events Committee
Christingle Service 2006 – Shining light into darkness…
This year’s service is in St Mary’s Church, Prestbury, on Sunday 10 December at
4.00pm. In a simple moving service with great appeal to children, young people and their families, Christingle
oranges, bearing a candle, red ribbon and decorated with sweets, are presented to everyone who brings a gift
of money for the work of the Children’s Society. The highlight of the service is when all the Christingle
candles are lit, shining light into darkness. If you would like a collecting box to bring to the service
please contact Rachael Buttress or Claire Burge. Everybody is most welcome to join us!
‘Angels in Art’
A one-off event for Advent presented by Vivian Northcote at 7pm on Tuesday 12 December
in All Saints’ Church followed at 8pm by Compline by Candlelight.
The Alternative Christmas Card
This will again be available in St Mary’s during Advent for you to sign to greet your
friends instead of exchanging individual Christmas cards. The donations will all go to World Vision to provide
help for those in great need.
Margaret Waker & Margaret Holman
Rockers term dates
The last Rockers meeting this term will be 14 December. We start back on Thursday
4 January 2007 at 2pm in St Mary’s church. All pre-school children and their parents/carers are welcome.
We are always on the lookout for pianists or other musicians to accompany the children’s
singing. If you think you could help even once or twice a term please contact Vicky Dunn or email
Christian Aid Carol Singing
Carol Singing will take place on Saturday 16 December at the new Sainsbury Store in
Priors Road: St Nicolas’ Choir 10.00-11.00 and St Mary’s Choir 11.00-12.00. Everyone is welcome to join the
Choirs – it’s good fun and, for many of us, quite near this year!
For your Christmas gifts PRESENT AID Catalogues are displayed in both churches – please use
them for friends and family, and remember the extra money which can be raised by gift-aiding your donation.
Gill Ashman & Paddy Spurgeon
St Nicolas’ Sunday Club
Sunday Club at St Nicolas’ will finish on 17 December and begin again on Sunday 14
January during the 9.30am Eucharist. We will also be arranging a post Christmas party – further details
Our Christmas Social will take place on Tuesday 19 December at 7.30pm at the home of
Sheila Beer by kind invitation. All are welcome. Please bring a small plate of food to share.
Our first meeting next year will be on Tuesday 23 January at the United Reformed Church,
Open Door at Christmas
As Christmas approaches once again we are reminded of loneliness and the needs of others.
Our churches have supported ‘Open Door’ with harvest gifts in recent years. This Christmas volunteers are
needed to give some time during the period from 22 to 27 December. Can you spare 3-4 hours of your time
to give rootless people with no families a feeling of belonging and a warm welcome over this period? Leaflets
have been placed in each church giving more details; please read one and consider what you could do to help.
Crib Service and Candlelit Nativity
The Crib Service will be at 4pm on Christmas Eve, Sunday 24 December, in St Mary’s
church, telling the traditional nativity story with carols. Children are invited to bring gifts for those less
fortunate than themselves.
Also on Christmas Eve, at 6pm in St Nicolas’, there will be a Candlelit Nativity Service,
the traditional nativity story with carols by candlelight. Again, children are invited to bring gifts for
those less fortunate than themselves.
One in a Taxi, One in a Car …
An Epiphany presentation by Andy Hughes in St Nicolas’ Church at 4pm on Sunday 7 January,
followed by tea and cakes. The evening will conclude with a congregational Epiphany Carol Service at 6pm.
St Mary’s Bakestall
Our final bakestall for this year was in November. We resume on Sunday 21 January
when ALL members and any supporters are invited to contribute. Thank you to everyone who has baked and bought
this year, enabling us to send a total of £450 to the following charities: Christian Aid, Care International,
British Red Cross, Everychild, Practical Action, Helen House, Cambodia Trust, Children in Distress, Mission
Aviation Fellowship, Harvest Romania Appeal and SOS Children’s Villages. We have welcomed one or two new
members this year but are always on the lookout for more to keep up our numbers and our giving.
Margaret Waker & Linda Matthews
Churches Together in North Cheltenham
The next ecumenical service is in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and will be on
Sunday 21 January at 3.30pm in All Saints’ church. All are welcome to join us.
Prestbury & All Saints Pilgrimage to Walsingham
Friday 4 May – Monday 7 May 2007
I will soon be distributing booking forms and further information about our 2007 pilgrimage
to Walsingham. If there is anyone who would like to know more about this and receive information
(accommodation, transport, cost, a sample programme), please contact me. Booking forms and a non-returnable
deposit will need to be returned to me by the end of January.
Colin Holman, colin.holmanprestbury.net
Plant Sale at St Nicolas'
Here’s a bright thought to sustain you through the January gloom. We plan to hold a Plant
Sale in May so if you are planting any seeds, etc early in the New Year, perhaps you could grow us a few
extra. Later on offers of greenhouse space would be appreciated.