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Prestbury Parish Magazine

December 2000 / January 2001


"Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened,
which the Lord has told us about."

Luke 2:15


Happy New Year!

The Duke of Wellington and a lady's dress...

Enjoying things together

Making Music

Yuletide Players

Snippets from the tower

St Mary's Flower Arrangers

You don't always need to give money!

A Letter to Fr Stephen from the Bishop of Masasi, Tanzania

Harvest Offering

Papal Audience

Happy New Year!

This edition of the Parish Magazine comes as a double edition, not because there is nothing going on round here, but because it covers a great transformation in our lives as we follow the beginning of a new liturgical year from Advent Sunday, a metamorphosis which needs to be seen and understood as a single process.

Advent, Christmas, Epiphany - the ACE in our hand with which we lead to this year of our renewal, not just physically with our church buildings, but also spiritually as we seek to renew our life as the Church, the people of God. A strong start, a time to take stock, to clear out our accumulated baggage, and open our lives afresh to the Gospel message, the good news about God's relationship with mankind as proclaimed in the stories that surround the birth of Jesus.

Angels, Shepherds, Kings - a time at the beginning of this year to ASK those questions in our hearts which we have never before dared frame with our lips. Perhaps we have been happy with our faith for a long time, perhaps we have never thought about it, but now is the time to be born again, to begin to let our lives follow the rhythm of the Christian year, the year that tells the story of the whole of human history in the life and teaching of the Son of God.

Anticipation, Incarnation, Manifestation - let it become our AIM to reflect upon what God is calling us to be, to take a small spiritual step forward. In this initial time of Advent contemplation let us set ourselves a small goal, celebrate its birth at Christmas, then let it be seen in the way we live from Epiphany onwards as we seek to renew and refresh our living faith in the months ahead.

May God bless you at this Holy time, and may your lives be filled with the Peace of the Christ-child as you seek the way forward in Love for the excitement of a new beginning.

Fr. Paul


The Duke of Wellington and a lady's dress...

What do these have in common? Well, as far as this article is concerned they're both to do with sermons. Let's start with the Duke of Wellington (we'll get to the lady's dress later). One Sunday morning a vicar asked his honoured parishioner the Duke of Wellington whether there was anything he would like the sermon to be about. The Iron Duke is said to have answered, "Yes, about ten minutes."   We in the Ministry Leadership Team would like to know what you want from a sermon.

We have recently been thinking about how the "sermon slot" might be made even more effective than it is now, as many of you will know if you were listening to one of Fr Stephen's recent sermons! This article gives some of our thoughts. We'd like to know what you think of them, and whether you have any different ideas. We'll be chatting to a sample of folk from our congregations about this over the next few weeks. But you don't have to wait for us to ask you - come and talk to any of us (we are listed at the end of this article), or write to us c/o The Vicarage.

What's the sermon slot for?

  • giving a lead to the congregation, through teaching
  • interpretation of the Ministry of the Word:
    • to provide historical/theological context
    • to make connections between the readings and the "real world" of today
  • members of the congregation want to:
    • be instructed - feel they have learned something/received new insights
    • be lifted/inspired/encouraged/strengthened in their faith
    • be entertained
  • does the sermon have to be based on the Ministry of the Word? is there scope for more basic teaching?

Some characteristics of effective sermons

  • clearly spoken, audible
  • well-structured, in clear, everyday language
  • delivered with passion, sincerity, conviction
  • spell-binding
  • unpredictable
  • three or four key points which the congregation can still remember by Sunday teatime...
  • but sometimes one really strong point would do

Some characteristics of less effective sermons

  • reading word for word from a script
  • too long (but acceptable length depends on how interesting the sermon is!)

Possible alternative formats

  • some variety is desirable (as long as it's not over-done)
  • not always delivered by the clergy - it's important to hear "ordinary" people expressing their faith
  • semi-scripted conversations with representative sections of the congregation
  • drama
  • dance
  • visual aids - symbolism and imagery help effective communication
    • objects (secular or sacred)
    • overhead projector slides - for words (e.g. key points) and pictures
    • conjuring tricks...
    • puppets...
  • music
  • conversation/discussion between members of the congregation
  • an opportunity to re-read the Ministry of the Word within the service - time for quiet reflection is often lacking in busy lives
  • combinations of the above, e.g. the congregation re-reads one of the lessons to themselves, with background music, then discuss with neighbours the questions/thought starters displayed on the slides
  • we should not lose sight of the aim of publishing sermons, in written or recorded form, or both.

So, what do you think? Should a sermon, to misquote Rab Butler, simply be like a lady's dress - long enough to cover the subject but short enough to be interesting? Or is there more to it than that? Please let us know.

The members of the MLT are:

Linda Biggs Peter Brown Fr Michael Cozens Margaret Compton
Beryl Elliott John Elliott Fr Stephen Gregory Margaret Holman
Fr Paul Kish Sylvia McKenzie Jerry Porter Sue Read


Enjoying things together

Do you remember the Harvest Barn Dance? Probably not, as not enough tickets were sold and it was cancelled. That was disappointing for those who did have tickets, and for the Pastoral Care & Common Life Committee and its organisers. Two other events that didn't happen were the evening visit to Gloucester Cathedral, and the day trip to Llandaff for the festival of Our Lady of Walsingham; these were victims of the petrol crisis in September, but in fact bookings for both were low.

Getting together for a barn dance, or a special cathedral visit, is meant to be a pleasure, not a duty. At the moment, we seem to hear a message that for many people there is just too much going on, and there is a danger of overloading the parish social calendar.

Over the next twelve months the St Nicolas' Renewal Appeal team will be putting on a number of special events and their plans look varied and exciting. While this is happening we shan't overload your diaries with yet more "regular" parish socials. So please fill the building for the fund-raising events, have a good time, and help to give this parish a modern church to be proud of.

Beryl Elliott, for the Ministry Leadership Team.


Making Music

This month's musician is David.

The Organ

I have been learning the piano for six years, and now my legs are long enough for me to reach the pedals on the organ. I have only been playing the organ for about six weeks but have already found out that it feels very different from playing the piano.

The organ has from three to six separate keyboards - a pedal section and two to five manuals. The church organ at Prestbury has only two manuals, a Swell (the upper one) and a Great (on some organs there is a third at the bottom, called the Choir Organ). When a note is played on the piano, a string is struck by a hammer. After this, the sound dies away. The organ, however, can sustain a sound for as long as the note is held down - one piece calls for a top note to be wedged down with a pencil so it is heard for the whole length of the piece! To play loudly on the piano you strike the keys harder, but doing this on the organ makes no difference - you control the volume by pulling out more stops or using a foot pedal. There is also a very slight, rather disconcerting, time lag between hitting the key and hearing the sound.

The organ may be the most powerful - in volume - instrument on the planet. When every stop is pulled, even the most modest organ can pump out a fair amount of sound. There are a lot more pipes than the ones visible at the back of the church. Only the front few, the largest pipes with the deepest 'voices' are painted - the others are behind. So, when the low pipes and the high ones are in use simultaneously, the low notes tend to drown out the high ones because they are at the front of the group.

I usually go to church to practise once a week (armed with a change of shoes - wet shoes would damage the pedals!). I may not become a brilliant organist, but it would be nice to be good enough to play for Sunday services or weddings.

David Smith age 13

Making Music - a Holiday Project

A different way of "making" music... most of us can play or sing music, but have you ever tried writing it? Have a go this Christmas! Write a piece of music for one or more of the instruments which have featured in the Making Music series in the magazine this year. The instruments are:

strings: violin, 'cello, double bass;

wind/brass: recorder, military flute, clarinet, French horn, trombone;

percussion: military side-drum;

keyboard: organ.

Make your composition a minimum of eight bars long, maximum three minutes total playing time, and send it to me by 31st January 2001 with your name, age (if under 15) and address/phone no. I might even find some prizes for you! Last month's prize (for listing the instruments correctly) goes to Sue Read.



Yuletide Players

For our warm-up entertainment preceding the Service of Lessons and Carols on Sunday 17th December we will be playing arrangements of seasonal and easy listening music from 5.50 until 6.25pm.

Our group emerged a number of years ago as the St Nicolas Brass when we played before and during the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Of the original six players three were from our own Parish. Only two of that group remain.

At different times we have had a Clarinet and a Saxophone but are now settled with the traditional line up of a Brass Quintet for which printed Music is available:-

BILL (Tuba) ALAN (Trombone) MIKE (French Horn) DEREK (Trumpet and Cornet) EDGAR (Trumpet and Cornet)

We are booked to play at Jardinerie Garden Centre on two evenings in early December.

After one of our performances on Christmas Eve at St Nicolas' my elder daughter, who had been in the congregation, helped to carry the musical instruments to the cars and was warmly congratulated on her playing by one of the clergy at the door!

Edgar Davison


Snippets from the tower

Our ringers have once again been busy. October 22nd to 29th was a special week set aside by the Gloucester and Bristol Diocesan Association of Church Bellringers for the ringing of peals and quarter peals. We rang a quarter peal of spliced Grandsire and Plain Bob Doubles for evensong on the 22nd and another of Grandsire on the 29th, despite the awful wind and weather! Some of our ringers also took part in quarter peals at Elkstone, Childswickham and Woolstone.

We usually try to ring at least one quarter peal a month although some of the ambitious ones are not always successful. We hope to ring at least one over the Christmas period, so keep your ears "pealed" for us!

Jenni Scruton

St Mary's Flower Arrangers

On November 18th a pedestal of lilies and carnations was observed by some being walked up to the church - this on the morning after 27 flower arrangers had gathered for their AGM helped on with wine and cheese.

Ron Middleton had skilfully demonstrated the art of arranging and the finished result was generously given to the church by the winner of the raffle, Brigitte Ward.

The business of the meeting included:

a. A healthy statement of the accounts

b. A resolution to increase the allotment given from these funds to arrangers at festival times: £15 for larger pedestals; £12 for smaller ones; and £12 a year for those who undertake windowsills.

c. Maintenance of the present charges made for wedding flowers.

d. Gratitude to all members for the time and skill they give. However, it was stressed that anyone changing their fortnightly duty should not only alter the list in the porch but also alert the previous person on the list so that keys are handed on correctly.

e. News from Marion Godden of a three-day event proposed for the parish for May 2001. Enthusiasm was spontaneously given for using our funds to decorate the church for what was to be called "A Celebration of Marriage". Muriel Meredith, Ron Middleton and Angela Schofield agreed to form a small planning group with Molly Campbell and the St Nicolas' team, and everyone present was willing to be involved, feeling that this should reflect our own local skills. We are all aware that we are not professionals, but trust our flowers reflect our love in all we do.

Barbara Lyle


You don't always need to give money!

Save the Children is the UK's leading international children's charity, working to create a better future for children. We champion the right of all children to a happy healthy and secure childhood and, together with children, we are helping to build a better world for present and future generations.

It's heartbreaking to watch pictures of children who have lost everything like those in Mozambique earlier this year, or to watch the news of children in Ethiopia suffering malnutrition. It can make one feel very helpless, but there is something positive which you can do to help, and it doesn't mean opening your wallet or purse!

We are desperate for more volunteers to help in our shop in Cheltenham. The existing team are working really hard to maximise sales and raise extra money for our work with children worldwide. New volunteers don't need experience as we can provide training for the variety of jobs which need to be done to keep the shop running smoothly. In return we can reimburse travelling expenses, provide tea and coffee, and all new volunteers are bound to make new friends and learn new skills. If you think you can give us just 3 hours a week to help make a difference to the lives of children worldwide, please call in to the shop at 2 Regent Street for a chat and pick up a application form.

Nora Dennison,

Shops Manager (Wales & Midlands)

How many churches?

I don't know whether you counted the number of churches mentioned in last month's magazine. Of course your answer would depend on which version you read. I counted about 50 in the paper edition, roughly half of which were in the bike ride articles. The bellringers mentioned quite a few, and the rest were dotted around as venues for the activity day, lectures, outings and a concert. If you were reading the magazine on the website, then you would not have seen the URC pages, nor the Diocesan News, though the latter can be viewed via the link to the Gloucester Diocese website. By the way, what do you think of the Diocesan News? Apparently it is only a temporary publication while they decide what to do now that the Together newspaper has stopped.



A Letter to Fr Stephen from the Bishop of Masasi, Tanzania

23rd October, 2000

My dear Canon,

Greetings in the Name of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

I am writing to you to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of 17th September, 2000, in which you enclosed a cheque for £1736 and 12p, which as indicated earlier, is intended to establish a fund to cover the costs of medical treatment for the families of our priests.

May I once again avail myself of this opportunity to thank you personally and your parish in general for this timely assistance to us. We still continue to pray for you while at the same time ask you to similarly pray for us as well.

Sincerely in the love of Christ,

+ Patrick Mwachiko

Harvest Offering

This year our harvest offering of tins, dry goods and toiletries once again went to Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers. We recently received the following letter from Adrian Slade:

'Thank you very much for giving your Harvest Gifts to GARAS. This has been greatly appreciated and helped the asylum seekers living in Gloucester a great deal. We are all extremely grateful for your support.'


The Millennium Resolution

Let there be:
respect for the earth;
peace for its people;
love in our lives;
delight in the good;
forgiveness for past wrongs;
and from now on a new start.



In November Fr Paul went to Rome with a group of pilgrims led by Fr Martin Warner, administrator of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Papal Audience

... our tickets have arrived with the guides at long last and we set off in a long crocodile to be admitted to the centre of the square through the airport-like security measures. I am frisked by a security officer and he confiscates my little penknife, for fear, presumably, that I shall attempt to assassinate the Holy Father with a one inch blade. We set forth towards the front of the assembly where places are reserved for pilgrim groups and take our places in the free-for-all that ensues. Swiss Guards look resplendent in their harlequin costumes, like jokers in the pack.

We chat to pass the time while the speakers all around fill the air with announcements. "Cento cinque FM, Giubileo dell'anno 2000". The weather is lovely and warm - I feel the morning sunshine on the back of my neck. People standing and snapping, a collection of international pilgrims and their photographic equipment. A quick look around reveals security cameras and men on the rooftops with radios. I think of Jesus and his band of twelve security guards in big Galilean overcoats to hide their guns. I think also about worldly status, and Jesus saying that the first shall be last. Clouds drift behind the basilica and the big statue of Pius IX looks on over crowds of pilgrims chattering in anticipation. I think about the nature of incarnation and how important it is for us that God became man in Jesus, how we need our spiritual leaders to reflect this as icons of Christ, a tangible representation of God's love. I think about how the crowds flocked to Jesus without tickets or plastic chairs, how they were drawn by his straight-talking. I wonder if the Pope will say anything controversial.

He arrives, travelling around the perimeter in his popemobile, cameras following his progress to show it on big screens for those who cannot see over the top of the heads of others. He seems really frail, hardly lifting his hand to acknowledge the applause and the cheering. On completion of the lap, the little car takes him to the front where he sits under a canopy. Nobody is sitting any more, some even standing on their chairs now to catch sight of the Pope, this chair mountaineering too much for some as the odd clatter demonstrates. The applause dies down only to be renewed after an initial greeting from Pope John Paul II. People start to sit again. Lots of dignitaries line up on either side in their pink cinctures and there is a reading from I Corinthians in several languages: "we who are many are one body because we all share in one bread." (I Cor 10:17)

The Pope speaks as pilgrims stand to photograph as if summoned in their own languages. The Babel of anticipation is transformed into the Pentecost of proclamation. I begin to think about how the power of God is displayed in the image of a helpless baby at Christmas, and how this demonstration of human weakness is also to be seen in the frailty of a very old man greeting the faithful. I finger my glow-in-the-dark rosary beads as the clouds leave us entirely to reveal stunning blue skies.

The old man rests a little from his exertions and we hear all the pilgrim groups mentioned by name in their own languages before the Pope greets them again at the end of each section. He's pretty good at it, as well, and I begin to realise just how long these audiences take. We've been here for well over an hour already. I'm impressed at just how dedicated he is to his office and his calling to serve his people.

Flags wave, cheers abound, and there are even whoops and screams from the Americans. The Pope reads to us from a text about the Eucharist. I think about the communion that we share as Christians through God if not through our separate ministries. I reflect upon the options of úcumenism contrasted with the Dominical prayer for unity: "Father, I pray that they may all be one, as you are in me and I am in you" (John 17:21). Perhaps our future together depends not so much on mere understanding of each other's traditions and history, but primarily on having the courage and the humility to seize the opportunities that arise in our lives together without tyranny or prejudice.

The Pilgrims from Walsingham get a pontifical mention, but it sounds a bit like Washington. I feel welcomed and appreciated, even if he didn't get the name quite right. I appreciate this ministry to us and reflect upon how important it is to remember people's names to let them know how much we really do care. The other languages take their turns, the Pope struggles a bit towards the end. I have a little snooze in the sunshine - early start to get here in time. I think it's strange how people are waving little flags when nationality is so irrelevant to Christianity and so divisive in the cause of unity. Such is the irony that we live.

All greeting over, we all stand and say the Lord's prayer together in Latin (of course) and receive a blessing before filing out as a succession of bishops line up to kiss the pope's hand and then many people file by to be blessed individually as we leave. I cast an eye at the screens which show the process in close-up and think that he looks so old and frail that I see more and more the office and less and less the man. I take the time to think about my own calling to be a priest in God's Church as I reclaim my penknife. Half an hour later as I stand nearby waiting for the other groups to join us, the Pope is still going with his duties in the square.

May God bless him and support him in his ministry until his life's end.

Fr Paul


[Editor's note: while other pilgrims used their cameras Fr Paul preferred pencil and notebook. We may be able to include more of his 'verbal snapshots' in future issues of the magazine.]


St Nicolas' Patronal Festival

Wednesday 6th December

Festival Eucharist at 7.30pm

Followed by a glass of wine
and some 'light entertainment'
courtesy of SNADS

Come and celebrate our life together
All are very welcome



Christingle Services

Celebrate Christingle with The Children's Society

"Christingle Services are an attractive and simple way of spreading the message of Christ and supporting the important work of The Children's Society."
Dr George Carey
Archbishop of Canterbury

Join us in celebrating the Christingle Service and experience the joy in children's faces lit up in the candlelit glow of this popular and powerful symbol of the light of Christ.  We invite you to celebrate with us.

All proceeds go towards the work of The Children's Society.

Light up a child's life

Sunday 10th December
St. Maryís church
Sunday 17th December
St. Nicolasí church

Fr Michael Mason's Diamond Jubilee

We all wish Fr Michael Mason congratulations on 60 years ministry as a priest! Trained at Kelham Theological College, he served curacies in Swindon New Town, St Paul's Oxford and All Saints, Hereford. Fr Michael then became parish priest of St Francis, North Radford in Coventry for 30 years before retirement.

Fr Michael invites everyone to join in a sung Mass of Thanksgiving in St Mary's on Saturday 16 December at 11.30am, followed by refreshments.


The Launch of the Appeal will be at the
Christmas Fayre

in St Nicolas' Church, Swindon Lane, at 2pm on
Saturday 9th December

in the presence of
the Bishop of Gloucester and
Mayor of Cheltenham

Stalls        Activities        Refreshments         Entertainment

All proceeds will go to the St Nicolas' Renewal Appeal

Carol Concert

Friday 22nd December 7pm at All Saints' Church, Pittville

featuring Cheltenham Youth Brass and Airthrie School "6's & 7's" Choir

Tickets £3 (adults), £1 (children), to include mulled wine and mince pie,
are available from Marion Godden and Janet Ford
or on Sunday mornings from St Nicolas', St Mary's and All Saints'


Auction of Promises

Saturday January 13th 2001, 7pm at St Nicolas' Hall

Offer your promise at either church or to Julie Lane by 3rd December.

The list of Promises will be available from December 10th.

Entry by Free Ticket available from our churches on Sundays.

Free refreshments will be available.

For those unable to attend, Reserve Bids may be made to Julie Lane
 or in the reply boxes in both churches by 31st December please.


Grow-a-Fiver Events

Produce Sale Sunday 3rd December at St Nicolas' after 9.30am Eucharist.

Homemade marmalade, pickles and dried flowers produced by
Kath Dymock and Cath Thorne.

Coffee evening Saturday 10th February at Marion Godden's.


Tea towels, Christmas cards/Notelets
 and mounted pictures

Featuring St Nicolas' and St Mary's as well as "The Three Vicars".
Ideal for Christmas presents/stocking fillers for all the family and friends.
Available from both churches on Sunday mornings or from Simon Cooper.


Quiz Sheets

Children's Santa's Number Quiz Sheet   - Prizes for all entries.

First prize - sweet hamper. Winner to be drawn on 7 January.
Sheets available at 50p each from 19 November. Contact Janet Ford

Top of the Pops Quiz Sheet - All Ages   £20 first prize.
Sheets £1.00 available 19 November. Draw 28 January. Contact Jackie Smith



Prestbury Parish Magazine - December 2000 / January 2001

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