Annual Review of the life of St Peter’s for the 2011 AGM
What’s a church for? St Peter’s, like every church, asks this question of itself all the time. At heart, a church exists to give praise and glory to God, and to pray. Any church also exists to be a presence in its local community, serving the people. Beyond this, a church also has the task of bringing more and more people closer to God, passing on the Christian faith to others and nurturing them in that journey of faith.
The regular services at St Peter’s give a framework for worship and prayer. Every Sunday there are two morning services, the main one being the 10.00am Sung Eucharist. On several Sundays over the past year there were over 100 people in church, especially when baptisms were taking place, and although attendance varies considerably, there was nearly always a strong feeling that Sunday morning at St Peter’s is a time when ‘something special happens’ – an encounter with the living God.
During the week other worship takes place. Little Fishes Tuesday Club includes food and play, but is rooted in the weekly service of Holy Communion. The Thursday morning Said Eucharist allows for a weekly time of prayer. The monthly meetings of the Lunchtime Fellowship, St John’s Guild, and most recently Wednesday Church, all add to the ongoing pattern of worship. Whatever the setting, these are still always times when ‘something special happens’ – an encounter with the living God.
This relationship with God forms the foundations for a lively and outward looking church, which serves the local community. This happens whenever someone from St Peter’s brings spiritual or practical help to a parishioner, whenever the building can be offered for use by a community group, and whenever the people of St Peter’s involve themselves in sustaining the community life of the local area, perhaps by serving as a Trustee or volunteer with a local organisation.
And then – a more challenging task – this relationship with God and this presence in the community must lead on to the making of new disciples. To be a faithful church, St Peter’s must proclaim the Christian message and persuade more people to follow Jesus.
What’s a church for? First, praise and prayer; secondly, presence and service; thirdly, proclamation and persuasion. The past twelve months at St Peter’s have seen all sorts of things happening in each of these areas.
The superb music and choir at St Peter’s has now been co-led by Marilyn Mitcham and Mark Stanley for the past fifteen years. This was recognised one Sunday morning in Advent, when they were both presented with gifts and warmly thanked by the church fellowship. This was also acknowledged in a different way on Sunday 13 th February, when both Marilyn and Mark started a three-month sabbatical, giving them a chance to find some rest and refreshment. In their absence the choir is being led by Benedict Collins-Rice, an accomplished organist who will start a music degree at Cambridge this autumn, and who has sung in the choir for many years. The commitment of the choir members has continued in its usual strong way, with the beauty of our music contributing to worship in a very distinctive and uplifting way.
A poignant moment came on Pentecost Sunday, 23 rd May. Fr James Baker, the curate at St Peter’s, said farewell with Encarni, Jake and Jessica, his wife and family. After the morning service they were presented with gifts, before moving to Somerset. James had been at St Peter’s for almost three years, and a good contingent of folk from St Peter’s made the journey down to St Michael’s Yeovil for his installation as Vicar there on 22 nd June.
In early July St Peter’s was blessed by a visit from Revd Santhosh, who is the parish priest in Kalasapadu, in Nandyal Diocese, South India. Santhosh was visiting as part of an exchange organised by the Diocese, and with some colleagues from India he was able to experience our summer fete, and join us for Sunday worship.
Paul Shaughnessy took on the role of Headteacher at Northbourne School in September. He had been working jointly with Mary Burr, but with her retirement the post became his alone. He’s been working with others within the school community to shape the future direction of the school, and visitors always comment on the happy and purposeful atmosphere there. A number of St Peter’s folk serve as governors, and the links to the church continue to be strong.
In the autumn the old St Peter’s Vicarage was demolished, the new one having been completed in May 2009. At one point it seemed that the old Vicarage would be sold as a family home, but after more than a year with it on the market, the Diocese took the decision that selling it to a developer was the right thing to do. By the spring of 2011 five new dwellings were nearing completion, forming a pleasing row on Glebe Road next to the church.
On Saturday 21 st August St Peter’s was full for the wedding of Joe Jones-Jennings and Kirsty Makin, both regular members of the church. The choir sang three anthems, and the final hymn, to the tune of ‘Morning has Broken’, used words especially written for the service by Fr Edward.
St Peter’s this year hosted James Stephenson for his summer four-week placement, part of his ordination training through Ripon College Cuddesdon. James even joined Fr Edward on his annual cycle around the Deanery, no particular challenge, being formerly a GB level sportsman. Gill Nobes, also a Cuddesdon ordinand, has spent her Sunday morning placement at St Peter’s this past year. Both James and Gill preached at the 10.00am service, and shared fully in the life of the church while in Didcot.
The church Youth Group has made a growing number of trips out, including a residential visit to the Phasels Wood activity centre. There have also been sleep-overs at church on Saturday nights, followed by worship on Sunday morning. The numbers attending Youth Group have grown significantly this past year.
Within the past year members of St Peter’s have been confirmed on two separate occasions. On 16 th May Ruth Hall, Joshua Crolla, Amanda Pratt, Chloe Pratt and Kelly-Marie Rance were confirmed at Harwell, and on 5 th December Curtis Emery, Kate Megson and Doug Reeves were confirmed at Brightwell.
Looking ahead, a recent appeal for funds to renovate the kitchen means that work should be got underway later in 2011, completing the various works done on the building over the past five years or so.
A huge number of ‘thank-yous’ are due to all the many people who give life to St Peter’s in so many different ways. Some of them have a high profile, others not. But every single person is important, for without just one member our fellowship is incomplete. Beyond this, a good number of new people have joined St Peter’s over the past twelve months, expanding our fellowship and magnifying our worship of God in this place.
It’s always a sadness when someone dies, and this past year has seen St Peter’s say farewell to Audrey Nash, Barbara Ball, ‘Joe’ Goodall, Jean Eustace, Margaret Morgan, Freda Pattinson, Floss Clarke, Dot Sharp, Alan Marshall, and Jim Griffiths, all of whom have had strong links to the church as worshippers. Each funeral is different and special, but particularly for the funerals of Margaret Morgan and Jim Griffiths the church welcomed back former clergy and other members, and remembered with thanksgiving decades of faithful and committed service. And although in one sense the fellowship at St Peter’s is diminished whenever someone dies, in another sense, through faith and the power of God’s love, that fellowship continues.
Even if there is a slight feeling that an era is ending, with so many older members passing on this winter, it’s just as true that another era is beginning. St Peter’s is alive, and the future will always hold new things. We can celebrate the fact that the past twelve months at St Peter’s have contained a whole variety of events. And we can celebrate the fact that all of them have helped answer the question, ‘What’s a church for?’
St Peter's Church, Newlands Avenue, Didcot, Oxfordshire. OX11 8PY
|© 2013 Keith Mintern|