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Annual Review of the life of St Peter’s for the 2012 AGM

What does a typical week at St Peter’s look like? Of course every week is different, but if you watched out for what was happening at church, you might see the following.

On Sunday morning someone would arrive to open up by 7.30am, and then a small but committed congregation would assemble for the 8.00am service of Morning Prayer with Holy Communion. Some extra people would arrive at about 8.45am for the Fellowship Breakfast, prepared in the newly refurbished church kitchen – usually about twelve to fifteen sit around the table to chat and sometimes to discuss the Christian faith or reflect on a passage from the Bible. Then by 9.30am a steady flow of people starts arriving at St Peter’s as the bell is rung for the main service of the week, the 10.00am Sung Eucharist. Normally around 70 to 80, the congregation is sometimes larger in number if there’s a baptism or some other special occasion. Anyone walking past would hear hymns and anthems being sung, as well as possibly the excited noises of Sunday School, which meets twice a month. The service ends by around 11.15am, and while some folk leave quickly, others enjoy a cup of coffee and chat until mid-day. The building is normally quiet again soon after, unless there is a confirmation class taking place in the prayer corner. While often there isn’t a service on a Sunday evening, once a month the members of the Standing Committee of the PCC meet at 3.00pm in church, and then at 4.00pm the members of the Ministry Team also gather. These meetings often give rise to new ideas for St Peter’s, and important decisions are made. On such a Sunday the choir comes back to lead Prayer Book Evensong at 6.00pm, attended by a small congregation. By soon after 7.00pm all is peaceful again and the church is locked for the night.

While Mondays at church are usually quiet, sometimes a community group will have booked to use the hall, often from about 10.00am. On a few occasions in the year there is a service for Willowcroft School, and from time to time the Youth Group leaders will also meet at the church on a Monday evening, to plan future activities or perhaps to interview a prospective leader.

A Tuesday, like most weekdays, sees a few of the ministers at St Peter’s arrive early, in time for Morning Prayer at 7.30am. Usually these ministers will head off later in the morning to a variety of places in the parish, including the local primary schools and the residential homes. Meanwhile the church is sometimes used by another community group. But by mid-day a number of mums, dads and other carers start arriving with their babies and toddlers for Little Fishes Tuesday Club. These are some of the youngest members of the church, and they enjoy a bring-and-share lunch together in the hall, then a special Communion Service in church, and then more play and other activities back in the hall. By 2.00pm they’re all heading off and the hall is swept clean. Once a month Tuesday Club ends earlier with an outing, and the members of the St John’s Guild for the Blind arrive for their 2.00pm church service followed by tea. This meeting also includes an interesting talk. The Guild has some 20 members, and several times in the year they go out on an excursion instead of meeting at St Peter’s. Later on a Tuesday afternoon there might be an organ lesson, using the fine instrument in church. And then soon after 7.00pm members of the Didcot Choral Society start arriving ready for their 7.30pm rehearsal. This ends before 10.00pm and the car-park empties again.

Wednesdays vary from week to week. On the first Wednesday of the month Wednesday Church, for people with learning difficulties, meets from soon after 10.00am. Starting with refreshments and craft activities, by 11.00am everyone is gathered in church for worship, and then there’s time for lunch afterwards. Up to 50 people attend Wednesday Church, and the team of leaders are the last to leave, usually before 3.00pm, having met to plan the next month’s programme. On the second Wednesday of the month, helpers for the monthly Lunchtime Fellowship and Worship arrive by 9.30am. By 11.00am up to 20 older and often house-bound members of St Peter’s have arrived, some by specially chartered minibus. After coffee there is a Communion Service in church, which is followed by a specially prepared sit-down lunch in the hall. On some Wednesdays a member of the Ministry Team will go from church to Didcot Hospital, to take Holy Communion to the wards and to lead a short service in the sitting room there. Less frequently there may be a gathering of the Deanery Chapter, Deanery Synod, or Churches Together ecumenical forum. Every other Wednesday the church fills up again at 7.30pm as the Didcot Community Gospel Choir meets, the rehearsal ending at 9.15pm.

Thursdays, after the daily 7.30am Morning Prayer, begin with the 9.30am Communion Service. Up to ten people gather for this quiet service, which includes particular prayers for those most in need. Once a month this service is followed by coffee and biscuits, attended, amongst others, by members of the Mothers’ Union. If need arises, quite often funerals are held at St Peter’s on a Thursday in the day, and occasionally the hall is also used afterwards for refreshments. After a brief lull in the afternoon, by 7.00pm the members of the Youth Group are arriving, up to 40 in number. The building echoes to a variety of exuberant noises during a mixture of fun activities and teaching about the Christian faith. By 9.00pm the leaders are locking up. Six times a year, instead of Youth Group the members of the Parochial Church Council meet in the hall between 7.30pm and around 10.00am on a Thursday. The PCC oversees the life of the church, approving all decisions and keeping an eye on the finances.

Fridays are also good days for funerals at the church, and the dedicated cleaners of both church and hall are also often in action. Fitting around other things are also the flower arrangers, who create fresh displays every week except during Advent and Lent. Any work that needs doing in the grounds is also usually done on a Friday, including tending the flower-beds and mowing the grass. If there’s to be a big fete at the weekend this is usually set up on a Friday, and a regular sight will be the people who print off the weekly news-sheet and the monthly magazine, all done on Fridays. From time to time the children of Northbourne School all walk down for a big service in church, nearly always on a Friday. Later in the afternoon the organ will be heard, and by 6.00pm the trebles and sopranos of the Church Choir will arrive for their weekly practice, followed at 6.45pm by the other members. There can be up to 25 people, and the hymns and anthems for the coming Sunday are all reviewed. The practice ends by around 8.00pm. If it’s a wedding weekend then the rehearsal is often held on the Friday evening as well.

Saturdays sometimes see the church busy with a social or fund-raising occasion. Examples would be the spring plant sale, the summer fete, a harvest barn-dance, or one of the regular quiz nights which attract well over 100 people. On other Saturdays the church hall might be let out for a community group. Several times a year there are weddings at St Peter’s, usually on a Saturday afternoon. If that’s the case, the morning will see flowers and other decorations arrive, with the guests gradually gathering to encourage the groom. At the appointed hour the bride arrives, and the service itself often sees the church packed. Afterwards everyone pours outside for the photos, with the beautifully tended grounds as a back-drop. Just occasionally the church is then re-configured for a reception event. By late on Saturday night everything falls quiet again, and things have been prepared for the worship on the following day. Another busy week has passed.

Every week is different, and at some times of year, for example at Christmas or Easter, or if there’s a Holiday Club running, extra or different services and activities will take place. Over the past twelve months the following particularly noteworthy things have happened in the life of St Peter’s:

● Two new Churchwardens, Hugh Collins-Rice and Julie Mintern, were elected at the AGM in April 2011. Margaret Meardon and Mary Boyle, who were stepping down, were warmly thanked and given bouquets of flowers.

● On 1st November Fran Childs, Licensed Lay Minister at St Peter's, was officially installed as Chaplain for the 2410 (Didcot) Squadron Air Training Corps, although she had already been functioning as Chaplain for over a year by then.

● Marilyn Mitcham stepped down as co-leader of music at St Peter’s after some fifteen years in the role. She was thanked on 22 nd May at the 10.00am service and presented with flowers from a grateful congregation.

● Other farewells for members of St Peter’s moving on included a goodbye to Mary Frederiksen early in 2012 as she prepared to move to Yorkshire after over 50 years in Didcot, and prayers for Benedict Collins-Rice in the autumn of 2011 as he headed up to Cambridge to read for a music degree – Ben had shared significantly in the running of the music at St Peter’s during the previous year.

● After many years in the planning, the church hall kitchen was completely re-fitted during the summer of 2011. The project was overseen by Margaret Meardon and Mary Boyle, and the work was carried out by Mark Werrell and his team.

● For the first time a ‘Holiday at Home’ week was held in the parish, in August 2011. This included activities and outings for older parishioners, and a children’s holiday club, as well as a trip to Weston-super-Mare by train.

● On placement this past year at St Peter’s have been Susikaran James and John Overton from Cuddesdon, training for the ordained ministry, and Stewart Morgan, training to become a Licensed Lay Minister.

● Amongst the weddings at St Peter’s have been those for Hannah Pitman and Steven Geering, and Paula Rolstone and Richard Shurmer, all regular worshippers at the church.

● The summer fete on 2 nd July featured a ‘Jazz and Beer Tent’ for the first time, as well as the choir of Northbourne School.

● On Sunday 5 th February 2012 Revd Joy Carter formally marked the end of her three year curacy at St Peter’s, and she was presented with a card and gift at the 10.00am service that day. She will stay here as an Associate Priest.

● Amongst the funerals held at St Peter’s over the past year have been those for John Butler, Nic Harris, Mavis Burren, Maureen Howell and Bill Clarke, all with links to or members of the regular congregation at the church. Our thoughts and prayers have been with their families and with all those mourning the loss of loved ones.

Revd Edward Carter February 2012

Postscript

One of the biggest events of the year has been saying goodbye to Father Edward and his family as he moved on to become Canon Theologian at Chelmsford Cathedral. Fr Edward had been parish priest at St Peter's for almost eight years. A special Evensong, preceded by a splendid tea, was held on February 4th, at which the parish, members of the local community and the Deanery were able to say farewell to Fr Edward. February 12th was Fr Edward's final Sunday and after presiding and preaching there was a special blessing for Edward, Sarah, John and Matthew and a presentation of gifts, which included a specially commissioned painting by Linda Benton to remind them of their time in Didcot. Many members of the congregation subsequently went to see Fr Edward installed at Chelmsford Cathedral on March 4th.

The period of interregnum has begun. We are fortunate that with Revd Joy and our LLM's Fran Childs and Jenny Loder and the willing assistance of Revd Ernest Adley and Revd Josie Midwinter we will be able to maintain continuity and a full range of services. We are very grateful to them for their leadership of our services. There will also be a number of visiting clergy and the first of which was Revd Michael Beasley who came and presided, preached and breakfasted on February 19th.

While it is impossible to thank everyone by name, the life of the St Peter's is sustained by many people giving of their time and talent. Thank you to everyone who helps to keep the church functioning, it all helps to sustain our life as a worshipping community.

Julie Mintern and Hugh Collins Rice March 2012

 

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St Peter's Church, Newlands Avenue, Didcot, Oxfordshire. OX11 8PY
Tel:01235 812114

© 2013 Keith Mintern