In February the days lengthen and so, as the word indicates,
LENT begins. Each time it comes round we are given a chance to know more
of God and give to him more of ourselves and our love. That is the positive
and liberating purpose of keeping Lent. This time of year is always forward
looking – an invitation to adventure – to go beyond where we are. Some
things during Lent will be repetition – but never mere repetition –
rather they will be a creative and more disciplined doing of what lies at
the core of Christian discipleship.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the courageous Lutheran pastor writing from his
prison cell in 1944, said of our various Christian observances: In our
traditional rites and ceremonies we are groping after something new and
revolutionary without being able to understand it or utter it yet. That is
our own fault. During these years the Church has fought for
self-preservation as though it were an end in itself, and has thereby lost
its chance to speak a word of reconciliation to mankind and the world at
large. So our traditional language must perforce become powerless and remain
silent, and our Christianity today will be confined to praying for and doing
right by our fellow human beings. Christian thinking and speaking and
organisation must be reborn out of this praying and action. Those words
remain thought provoking. They push the boundaries and clarify much of what
the churches have been struggling with in our lifetime.
Another courageous Christian of our own time, who wrote from her convent
cell, discovered much the same sense of forward direction in her Christian
Life. Mother Mary Clare said: God’s call is to radical service. At the
moment when we finally see him face to face, Christ will not ask us whether
or not we have supported the established order of things, worn ourselves out
with activities, kept the hierarchical structures intact, pleased everybody.
His question will be that of Jesus to Simon Peter on the day of his
resurrection, whether or not we have loved Christ and fed his flock.
Looking back, every Lent will have been less successful than we would
have liked. In the famous phrase, yes we will have missed the mark. But we
face the truth to set us free. Truth is never discouraging precisely
because it opens up the chance to start again. Here is the way to find hope
and rebuild our intentions. Jesus’ words spur us on, anyone who wishes to
be a follower of mine must leave self behind; he must take up his cross, and
come with me (Mark 8:34).
All we shall be doing in our congregations between now and Easter should
help us to attend more closely to the call of Jesus and respond better to
him. Daily prayer; definite, directed study; conversations and encouragement
from our companions who share with us the bread of life; all provide vision,
strength and determination. Through Lent we travel together not alone.
New Team Vicar
We didn’t think we would be able to interview just one candidate but
Bishop Michael thought otherwise (thank goodness!) and we now look forward
to welcoming Fr Daniel Papworth who will become Team Vicar designate
in the proposed North Cheltenham Team Ministry. Fr Daniel will live in
Prestbury Vicarage and will be licensed by Bishop Michael at a service in
St Mary’s on Wednesday 30 January at 7.30pm. Please make a note of
I am thirty eight years old and have been ordained for eight and a half
years. I was brought up as a Roman Catholic and made my own response to
Christ at the age of twenty-one. My first degree, Environmental Science, was
in Plymouth, where I remained for a further two years,
working for the City Council and attending St Jude’s Church. I then went to
North Devon to work as a member of the Lee Abbey Community for a further two
years, during which time I began exploring ordination in the Church of
I have worked as a Lay Assistant in Berkshire and, following ordination,
in parishes in Cardiff and Somerset. I have spent the last three and a half
years as an NHS Chaplain in Dudley and Exeter. I am excited by the
combination of continuity and change that the parishes of North Cheltenham
seek to embody. I feel it is vital that we reach out to people in a way that
shows them the timeless relevance of the Christian gospel, inviting people
to encounter God’s love and trusting his work in, and through, us.
My licensing service takes place at St Mary’s Church, Prestbury, at
7.30pm on Wednesday 30th January. I look forward to meeting you all.
Last term members of Synergy (young people aged 13 and over) looked at
the topic ‘How does God heal today?’. They thought about how God works
through ordinary people to heal others. The young people wrote these two
We pray that you would enable us to go out into the world and be a
positive influence on those around us. Give us the gifts to heal
those in need.
Please help in the world’s healing. Guide the doctors and nurses
who heal the sick and the ministers and priests who help in our
communities. Please help those who are sick in body, mind and
spirit. Also remember those countries where there is extensive
Our main event this term is our ‘re-create’ project exploring the theme
of ‘our world’ through creative arts. The focal point will be a residential
weekend at Viney Hill, 29th February to 2nd March, attended by young people
from across the groups. Please pray for all those involved in the project
that they may be open to the wonder of God-given creativity.
Another exciting development has been the way in which members of
different groups within PPY have connected with each other and had a chance
to experience something of the Christian message. Please pray that Christian
leaders and young people would communicate the love of God clearly in what
we do and say.
For more info about PPY and the youth work please contact
Andy Macauly (520534)
On 24th November 2007 Liz Bennett and Dyan Campling from Celebrate! and
Kathryn Thomas, also from St Mary’s, were confirmed by Bishop Michael in
Our three were part of a group of forty-seven candidates being confirmed
that day, which Bishop Michael described as ‘a bumper crop’.
The cathedral was beautifully lit for the ceremony, which involved Bishop
Michael leading the candidates on a journey around the cathedral to
represent the journey through faith and life. Our three were accompanied by
Father Michael, who acted as our ‘minder’!
We started at the door of the cathedral before moving to the front of the
cathedral for confirmation and then to the altar for first communion. The
candidates then returned to the door with lighted candles to the spontaneous
applause of the large congregation.
It was a very beautiful and moving service with the choir and organ music
being particularly memorable and it made a lasting impression on us and our
sponsors Sue Read, Sharon Macauly and Jean Pritchard alike.
During Lent this year we are asking members of all three churches to
‘Drop a tin in the bin’. We will be collecting the tins of food for
Cheltenham Open Door in Grosvenor Street, which is within the parish of All
Cheltenham Open Door is a local charity working to relieve poverty,
hardship and social or emotional distress. They aim to serve those whom
life’s circumstances have deprived of the comforts and security most of us
take for granted, by offering them hospitality, warmth and food and
somewhere to relax.
Some have lost their jobs through injury or sickness and are not fit to
work again. Some read and write only with great difficulty. Some are chronic
mental patients resettled into the community without the support they need
to make sure they take their medicine regularly. Some are in a programme to
get off drugs. Many come from broken homes, or were in care as children or
experienced broken relationships. Some are sleeping rough.
Cheltenham Open Door is open all the year round and operates from 39
Grosvenor Street. There are showers and a clothes store, and a professional
chiropodist attends every few weeks.
What we are asking of you is during Lent to put a tin of food each week
in the box at the back of church and thereby help Cheltenham Open Door to
Raymond Hunt, Homeless Officer, All Saints’ Church
Following the November Team-wide Education and Nurture Group meeting, the
proposed future programme got off to a good start with Rachel Murray’s
workshop offering help and encouragement to current and prospective
lesson-readers. Twelve people from All Saints’ had a very profitable morning
and benefited from Rachel’s expertise, which she will be happy to share on
another occasion, if members from other churches in the Team would find this
The Iona Workshop at Holy Name Hall also went ahead successfully on
Advent Sunday, but apart from these two occasions, the best-laid plans of
mice and men really did go awry, with unexpected events leading to a number
of unavoidable changes.
In November, the failure of heating at All Saints’ caused Father Brian
Torode’s presentation on Pilgrimage and Medieval Gloucester, to be postponed
until the Spring. A date for this will be announced nearer the time.
With the end of 2007 fast approaching, plans for the Epiphany Event to be
led by Father Tim underwent urgent rearrangement. When the time came, a
joint presentation of Kings or Commoners? by John Elliott, Frances Murton,
Jennifer Swinbank and Andy Hughes was ably abetted by Karen Winder on
flip-chart and David Smart at the organ. Thanks are due to Janet’s catering
team, and to all whose participation on the day helped to make the afternoon
a success. We have since been glad to learn that Father Tim is now
It was a great disappointment to discover that our planned study of
Narnia will have to be deferred until 2009 due to the postponed publication
of Hilary Brand’s accompanying book. As a result, House Groups will now be
meeting to look at the Lord’s Prayer, using the 2008 York Course. Please
speak to Colin Holman, Margaret Compton or Jennifer Swinbank if you have any
A booking has been made for a Team-wide Quiet Day at Nympsfield on
Saturday 9th May. Please reserve this date in your diaries and watch for
further information in the Pew-sheet and the Magazine.
The Bereavement Support Scheme in Prestbury
February is a time to look forward, to Lent first, and Easter, and then
to spring. The obvious time to think about our parish bereavement support is
not now but in the autumn, around All Souls’ tide, when we hold a Memorial
Service for those who have died during the year. Yet autumn and spring
alike, every week of the year, brings the grief of bereavement to someone in
In Prestbury we have a team of lay people who assist the clergy in
supporting the bereaved. The group was set up in the autumn of 1996 when a
dozen of us met for three training evenings provided through the diocese.
About half of that original group are still part of the team, and as others
have retired, we have recruited and trained fresh people, so our numbers
have remained fairly constant.
Immediate support for the bereaved family in the early days and weeks
after someone dies is still the care of our priests. Our role as lay
supporters begins later, after a month or more; following the funeral the
clergy tell us of any family members living in the parish, and one of us
will get in touch. We cover all funerals conducted by our parish clergy,
whether or not the family worship in our churches. We hope also to offer
support to people in the congregations when they lose someone, perhaps a
parent, whose funeral takes place elsewhere; but we are not always aware
when this happens, so if someone you know is in this position, please tell
one of the clergy.
Everyone’s needs are different, and how much or how little support we
give is up to the bereaved person. We may make one visit or several, or it
may be just a phone call. Be it much or little, almost everyone is pleased
and comforted to know that ‘someone out there cares’, and for many in the
wider parish we bring a new appreciation of a caring church.
Our main role is to listen, allowing a bereaved person to talk about what
has happened and to express their feelings. There is no pressure for anyone
to disclose more than they want to, and any confidences are safe with us. We
are not counsellors, and we do not pretend to have all the answers, but we
can often bring comfort and reassurance, just by our presence and our
acceptance of them and their situation.
We have been commissioned to take on this work as representatives of the
church in this place; we value your continuing support, and your prayers.
Between 2 and 5 o’clock on Saturday 8th December St Mary’s church became
a focal point for anyone from Prestbury and elsewhere to meet and enjoy some
unhurried moments of Christmas preparation and reflection.
The tree had been put up, and was resplendent with lights and
decorations, the lowest ones being hung by children. There were supplying
cards, gifts and decorations, some of which were beautifully carved in olive
wood by Palestinians in Bethlehem.
Father Michael conducted opening prayers, and then came a selection of
musical entertainment. Firstly Frances and Ruth with the recorder ensemble
played Christmas carols and other seasonal pieces; then members of the choir
sang carols, and lastly the handbell ringers, Matthew joining them for the
With these lovely sounds around us, in a completely informal atmosphere,
a very pleasant afternoon was enjoyed by many people, some from our
congregations, some visitors, some helpers. There was much industrious
preparation of oranges and sweets for the Christingle Service the next day,
undertaken by cheerful young Mums and others, mainly from Celebrate!. To cap
all of this, mulled wine, tea, coffee and delicious Christmas goodies were
served at tables around the Church, allowing time for people to have a chat.
This was organized and facilitated by Lynda and Shirley and their
refreshments team; our thanks to them, to the music makers and to all who
helped to make this a time of ‘real’ Christmas preparation.
No, that’s being rude, though Neil would probably agree with me. Out of
the apparent chaos Neil Jones, Reader at Elmstone Hardwicke, masterminded a
wonderful Carol Service in St Mary Magdalene’s on Christmas Eve.
The church is built in such a way that whichever half you sit in, you
cannot see the front of the other half, so the focus of the action had to be
constantly moving. The ‘small’ crib figures were arranged under the altar
Front Right (the Victorian bit), where the children also lit the Advent
candles. The children and Neil then moved across to set up a ‘real-life’
crib in the much older Front Left. Real-life figures were gathered up from
all parts of the church – a local farming family were the shepherds; parish
councillors and churchwardens were hauled out of the congregation as ‘wise’
men and women.
After each reading the music group (Liz and Ruth on flute and clarinet,
Sarah and me on violin and viola, all held together by Marion at the organ)
accompanied another carol. Neil delivered his ‘sermon’ in stages throughout
the service from wherever he happened to be – back, front or middle of
either half (the wonders of a roving microphone!) – and led prayers from the
cross aisle at the centre of the church.
After the final blessing and carol who should appear ho-ho-ing Back Left
but Father Christmas himself, resplendent in red suit and white beard,
complete with sack of gifts! The evening ended with mince pies and mulled
wine for all. Actually the evening ended with sweeping the floor front to
back, both halves, but it all adds to the sense of belonging!
Present enjoyed another
Yearly supper event
Thank you to the organisers, cooks, entertainers, furniture removers,
priests and anyone else who made the Epiphany supper such a wonderful event
for all who attended. We are looking forward to next year’s.
From the time we arrived, being greeted in the porch by about eight young
boys (who were they?), to the time we left, three hours or so later, it was
pleasure all the way. Candle-lit tables were all ready and soon friendly
groups were awaiting – what?
Father Stephen from St Peter’s was our host for the evening. After his
introductions and grace there followed a choice of main course – beef,
chicken, vegetarian – even gluten-free, plus wine, all served swiftly and
efficiently. After ‘seconds’ (and even thirds in some cases!!) tables were
cleared cheerfully and we moved on to the entertainment.
Father John introduced our entertainment, but where were the other men of
the parishes? All ten items were delivered by women. If anyone had tried to
arrange a varied and interesting programme they couldn’t have bettered what
the volunteers produced. Musical, humorous, serious – it was very enjoyable.
Lynda Hodges and Avril Keen serving David Price
Photograph by Brian Wood
Then came our dessert. A delightful roulade and an up-market apple
crumble. Again, seconds – and thirds – were consumed enthusiastically. All
the cooks, servers, helpers and entertainers deserve our heart-felt thanks
for yet another success for the Prestbury Team.
Going into church on the Sunday after Christmas, I was struck by the
number of Christmas cards lying on the foyer table, which had obviously not
reached their intended recipient before Christmas. This got me thinking.
I would like to propose that for Christmas 2008, we hold an embargo on
Christmas cards. They are a pain to write, a nuisance to deliver, and
although pretty to look at, serve no real purpose after January 6th. They
also have to be disposed of, or sent for recycling, once the Christmas
period is over.
I suggest that, instead, everyone gives the money that they would have
spent on Church Christmas cards to me, and I will, in consultation with
Paddy Spurgeon, use the Christian Aid Christmas Catalogue to donate gifts to
worthy causes overseas. We already do this at my workplace, and over the
last three years have given two sheep; a hen, a rooster and twenty chicks;
and (this year) a pair of goats.
This is a very advance notice, and is just to see how people feel about
this. I will write again in the October magazine to remind you and confirm
that it is going ahead. I would propose to start collecting money from 1st
November 2008. In the meantime, if you have any views or comments, please
contact me at St Nicolas’
Alternative Christmas Card
Thank you to all who took part in the alternative Christmas Card scheme
at St Mary’s instead of sending individual cards. We collected £155 for
photograph by Ken Bradbury
Much of the work going on in St Mary’s, though essential, is rather
mundane, such as the replacing of floor tiles and roof tiles. However one
thing that will hardly be seen by anybody is quite magnificent and that is a
new oak door for the boiler house. The picture shows Francisco Ferrolho the
carpenter and joiner (on the left) and Chris Newcombe, mason. They had a
problem getting the door down the very steep steps then horror! They found
that it would have to be cut out to make room for the gas pipe and electric
cable. Francisco was quite upset with having to disfigure his masterpiece,
but it had to be! It is sad that few people will see the detail of the door
with beautiful chamfering and elegant air vents.
Last autumn I was privileged to join a group visiting Russia. We divided
our time between Moscow, St Petersburg and the places that make up the
‘Golden Triangle’, so saw some of the most beautiful ecclesiastical
buildings in the country. Each is different, but many have an entire wall of
gold framed icons and a central carved and gilded screen hiding the High
Altar, and yet more gold on the faces of the pillars and forming the
On two occasions we were able to attend services in the Russian Orthodox
tradition. There were no pews or seats in the cathedrals. The congregation
of all ages stood throughout, facing the central golden screen, the
iconostasis, from behind which the celebrant intoned the liturgy. At the
climax of the service, the doors in the elaborate screen opened to reveal
the priest and his acolytes, and there was a beautiful burst of singing from
an invisible choir. There were no books or prayer sheets, but the people
were sufficiently familiar with the ritual to be able to bow and make verbal
My lasting impression is one of a sense of deep spirituality, surrounded
as I was in that truly beautiful setting by such devotion. I was both
humbled and moved. Now that the Church has returned to its former place in
Russian life the Sunday schools are full, and many parents who missed any
kind of spiritual education in their own childhood now learn alongside their
Seen on a church notice board as I travelled round the Caribbean island
of St Kitts on the sugar train:
No God, no peace;
Know God, know peace.
Planning will begin this month for the Gloucester City Centre Benefice’s
annual pilgrimage to Walsingham. Over the years we have been joined by
members of other churches in and around Gloucester and we are more than
happy to extend that invitation to anyone from the Prestbury and All Saints’
parishes who would like to join us this time.
The pilgrimage is a mid-week one and this year will be from Monday 7th
July until Friday 11th July. Travel is by coach and, as a guide, the cost
last year was £260 per person inclusive of full-board accommodation, coach
fare and a ploughman’s lunch on the way there and back.
For further information or to express an interest please contact Fr
Stephen Eldridge at St Peter’s Vicarage on 01242 524369 a soon as possible.
NB We are not running our own pilgrimage to Walsingham this year, as we
were unable to book the weekend we wanted. We have just had confirmation
that our next Prestbury and All Saints’ Team pilgrimage is booked to take
place between 1st and 4th May 2009.
‘…God is greater than any mortal. Why do you contend
against him, saying, “He will answer none of my words”? For God speaks in
one way, and in two, though people do not perceive it. In a dream, in a
vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on mortals, while they slumber
on their beds, then he opens their ears, and terrifies them with warnings,
that he may turn them aside from their deeds, and keep them from pride, to
spare their souls from the Pit…
… then he prays to God, and is accepted by him,
he comes into his presence with joy, and God repays him for his
righteousness. That person sings to others and says, “I sinned, and
perverted what was right, and it was not paid back to me. He has redeemed
my soul from going down to the Pit, and my life shall see the light.”’
Job 33:12b-17, 26-28
There is a time in every person’s life, when for whatever reason, they
are suddenly snatched out of their comfort zone (by illness, the death of a
loved one or a similar tragedy), and they are faced instantly with the
complete unknown. They are left completely unaware of how to react, how to
carry on even, in some cases, and the most common question is ‘Why me God?’.
In a way this must have been how Job felt, to have had ‘everything’ one
day, and then to have it all taken away from him, including his own health.
His friends ridicule him, his wife mocks him and there appears to be nobody
‘on his side’. And yet he does not blame God! Rather he blames himself, and
tries to search for what he has done wrong to so upset God. He is so
convinced of this that he will not accept that he is merely being tested,
and that God is prepared to listen to him. In Job 40 v.8 God says, ‘Will you
even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be justified?’.
This is a mistake we all make, by trying to go it alone, by thinking that
we have to fight our battles ourselves, keeping a stiff upper lip! We pray
and ask God for the strength to continue this fight, when, in fact, it may
well be that God would rather we were weak and relied completely on him. As
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11 v.30, ‘If I must boast, I will boast of the
things that show my weakness.’.
One cold winter’s afternoon, not long ago, I was stood outside St
Nicolas’ waiting to see if someone would come for Evening Prayer. As I stood
there, there were the lights of cars hurrying past, the surrounding houses
were lit up, there was even an aeroplane in the sky. It struck me that this
is how it must feel not to know God; to see the whole world rushing by and
to be ‘locked out’ from the one thing where there is an unending supply of
comfort. To be out in the cold, unaware that there is always ‘help at hand’;
not perhaps, in the way that we expect, but in a way that eventually is more
beneficial to our spiritual journey. As David says in Psalm 18 v.6, ‘In my
distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help.’ God does
answer our prayers, but probably not in the way we want, or in the time span
that we expect.
In the meantime, as we wait and pray, this passage from Hebrews 12
v.12-14 ‘Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,
and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put
out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with everyone, and the
holiness without which no one will see the Lord.’.
Ash Wednesday Services
6 February 2008
10:30am at St Mary’s:
Said Eucharist with Imposition of Ashes
2:00pm at All Saints’:
Said Eucharist with Imposition of Ashes
7:30pm at St Nicolas’:
Team Sung Eucharist with Imposition of Ashes
An invitation for you, family
& friends to:
All Age Fun Afternoon
Saturday 2 February 4 - 6 pm
St Nicolas’ Church, Swindon Lane
Games and creative
challenges for all ages
Bring and share Tea
Short time of Worship
bring a small plate of party food to share!
Hot & Cold drinks provided
There is no charge for the
Under 11s must be accompanied by an adult
For more information: Andy Macauly (01242) 520534
Come to St Nicolas’ Hall
on 9th February for the
PARISH QUIZ NIGHT
Starts at 7 pm
Teams of maximum 4 players
Over 16s £2 pp Family team £5
Questions to suit all ages
Women’s World Day of Prayer
A Study Day will be held on Friday 1st February between
10.30am – 3.00pm in the Friends’ Meeting House, Warwick Place, Cheltenham.
The cost is £3; tea and coffee will be provided. Bring a packed lunch.
Town-wide Services will take place on 7th March 2008. This
year’s Service takes the theme God’s Wisdom Provides New Understanding and
comes from Guyana.
St Mary’s Bakestall
Thank you to all who baked, brought or bought last year.
Altogether we made £443, which we shared between the following charities:
Children in Distress,
MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship),
Everychild (for Romanian and Bulgarian orphanages),
The Alice Glenister Foundation,
The Smile Train,
SOS Children, and
The next bakestall will be on Sunday 17th February,
proceeds to Care International, and we welcome cakes and other contributions
from those whose surnames start with N-Z.
Margaret Waker & Linda Matthews
Prestbury Mothers’ Union
Our February meeting will take place on Tuesday 26th
February at 7.30pm at St Nicolas’ Church. It will be a short AGM followed by
a Eucharist conducted by Fr Michael. We will renew promises and any new (or
old!) members are most welcome to join us. For further information ring me
Thursday Morning Eucharist at St Mary’s
At the 10.30am Thursday Eucharist at St Mary’s we raised
£350 last year for the Church Heating Fund. After the service we meet
socially for a cup of coffee and biscuits, for which we usually pay 50p. We
started this function on 18th February 1999 and we first of all raised £500
for Let the Children Live!, and then in November 2000 started raising money
for St Mary’s Heating Fund.
Thank you to everybody who has supported us, whether by
donation or by helping in any way. A great achievement and a much warmer
church. It would be nice to see some new people joining with us for this
lovely half-hour service on Thursdays, after all, only half an hour out of
your week. Do join us, you are sure of a warm welcome.
Thank you to all who contributed to the collections at the
Christmas services. £600 (half the proceeds) has been sent to the Alice
The Children’s Society at St Nicolas’
Very many thanks to all box holders, who helped to collect
a total of £442 during 2007. Thanks also to Enid Cowley, who patiently helps
me to count all those pennies. I’ll be glad to open your boxes again: please
give them to me or Enid on a Sunday morning or telephone and I will be glad