Annual Report 2015

When planning activities for the year, the incumbent and PCC have considered the Commission’s guidance on public benefit and the specific guidance on charities for the advancement of religion.
We strive to enable parishioners to explore and develop their spiritual awareness and to live out their faith, by means of prayer and worship, Bible study and ethical discussion, and provision of pastoral care to all sections of the community.
The work of all three churches is summarised on the parish website, http://www.wiltonparish.co.uk..

The PCC aims to provide public worship appropriate to the varied needs of the inhabitants of the Ecclesiastical Parish.
Where practical this includes ecumenical cooperation with the local Baptist congregation and members of other Christian denominations living in Wilton.

The clergy seek to respond to all requests for the “Occasional offices” of the Church – Baptisms, Marriages and Funerals from those living in the Ecclesiastical parish, or with a legitimate connection with any of our churches and to provide appropriate preparation and pastoral care.

We seek to foster a sense of community within the town of Wilton through the provision of social activities and active involvement in other local organisations.

To facilitate this work, we strive to maintain the fabric of our church buildings and meeting room in good order – taking due note of the recommendations included in our Quinquennial Inspections.

In December 2009 it was agreed that the PCC would discontinue its policy of making annual grants to specific charities and would instead encourage individual Church-members to support such charities as far as they are able. In addition, the PCC nominates a monthly Charity – for which donations are invited at Coffee after the principal Eucharist each Sunday – with a balance of local, national and international charities. In addition Wilton’s congregations’ continue to sponsor the education of Richnaider Paul, in Haiti – through the Charity “SOS Children’s Villages”

The PCC makes provision for regular public worship in all three Parish Churches, as well as a Trust-owned Chapel in Wilton. Regular worship in St. Peter’s, Fugglestone, was suspended from the end of September 2013 due to lack of heating and lighting. A monthly Evensong was held during Summer months and an evening service was also introduced at St Catherine’s, Netherhampton.
Occasional services were also held in Old St. Mary’s and elsewhere in the town.

During 2015 “The Coffee Corner”, held in the Parish Church on Tuesday mornings, continued to attract a good number of young parents and children – the membership of which has constantly evolved – and also to provide a regular haven for some older parishioners.

The Ecumenical “Open the Book” team continued to flourish – meeting in the primary School, on alternate Mondays, to present dramatised Bible Stories and engaging the pupils and staff in various ways. Feedback from the school – including pupils’ consultations – is very positive!

In our aim of drawing parishioners, and others, to God through worship
we have again benefitted enormously from the commitment of our Parish Choir, Organists, Ringers, Verger and Altar servers, Lectors and Intercessors and have been very well supported by our Churchwardens, Sacristans, Flower Arrangers and team of sidesmen and women – all of whom show admirable dedication.
A number of new Ringers were recruited and, during the latter half of the year a team of seven “junior servers” was recruited and a set of children’s albs provided by private donations.
Two church-members, Valerie Jackson and Judith Kemsley completed the Diocesan “Aldhelm Certificate” Course in December.

Rosie Stiven, leader of the Mother’s Union evening group was also announced as the next Diocesan President of the Mothers’ Union.

In March the Rector, Revd Mark Wood, succeeded Revd Steve Morgan as Rural Dean of Chalke. With new responsibilities for the licensed clergy and their families, and general oversight of an additional twenty nine parishes, the Rector has relied heavily on both retired clergy and lay officers for the smooth running of this parish. The Revd. Janet Mugridge has played a more prominent role at St John’s Priory and Canon Chris Savage at Netherhampton.

Sadly the Parish’s team of Lay Pastoral Assistants was further depleted with only two remaining actively involved in pastoral care. Wilton’s congregation lost a number of members, who moved from the area, including former Churchwarden Peter Newall and his wife Tricia, who had contributed a great deal to the Church’s life for many years.

Sue and Steve Hart moved to Oxfordshire, where Sue began residential training for the ordained Ministry at Ripon College, Cuddesdon.

Current Churchwarden Julian Lyne-Pirkis embarked on a year-long posting with the E.U. Mission in Somalia and George Barsby spent six months working with Tearfund in Tanzania. Heidi Scott made a sponsored climbed of Mount Kilimanjaro, raising funds for the Laurence Homan School, in India, and Ben Kinsey “Trekked the Grand Canyon” to raise funds for the “Stars Appeal” (Salisbury District Hospital).

Andrew Rickett, the parish’s newly appointed Parish Safeguarding Representative, undertook a thorough review of the Parish’s Safeguarding policy. This was adopted unanimously by the PCC and it was agreed to revisit this policy at or immediately after each Annual Meeting to ensure best practice.

In February and March, a thorough review of “Lent, Holy Week and Easter” was undertaken – with some forty seven church-members completing a questionnaire – and a number of adjustments were made to the pattern of services, attempting to balance the diverse of the Parish as a whole:
The planned Palm Sunday procession of Anglicans and Baptists had to be abandoned due to rain – but members of both congregations joined together on Good Friday for the procession of witness from the Parish Church to St. Peter’s Church.
On Tuesday of Holy week, the large “Experience Easter” stations were put in place in the Parish Church at a families’ “workshop” and a service specifically for these families was introduced on Good Friday. On Good Friday afternoon, the Parish Choir with guest soloists, led a liturgical performance of John Stainer’s “Crucifixion”.
The Easter liturgy moved to midnight, at the beginning of Easter Day – with a brief “Watch” beforehand.
On Easter morning we welcomed a number of families and visitors to both the Holy Communion at St Catherine’s and the Parish Eucharist at Wilton.

Two successful Parish Lunches were organised – for St David’s day, at the Pembroke Inn and Harvest at the Greyhound Inn. In addition a “Christmas Dinner” for the Altar Servers was arranged at the Greyhound Inn.

In early September all 3 of our Churches welcomed riders in the Wiltshire Historic Churches Ride and Stride, while four of our parishioners took part as sponsored cyclists, with one of them achieving the accolade of Runner Up in the most money raised category.”

Following a successful appeal, a new set of hymn books was purchased for the Parish Church – with appropriate dedications where requested – and dedicated at the Harvest Festival at the beginning of October.

A Stewardship campaign was launched in Wilton which resulted in increased regular giving of around £6000. The parish was able, just, to meet the increased Parish Share – although the final quarterly instalment had to be rescheduled as monthly payments. A further increase was advised for 2016. An appeal for clemency was rejected, but the outgoing Diocesan Treasurer advised that a request should be made in 2016 for “alleviation” based on a reduced membership. The Deanery “Mission and Pastoral Committee” gave unanimous support to such a request at their meeting in October. The financial challenge remains a significant one.

Pastoral Offices

In 2015, parish clergy officiated at 18 baptisms, 10 weddings and 19 funerals.
(In 2014 13 baptisms, 6 weddings, and 36 funerals.)

Community

Members of all three churches are involved in other community groups and organisations – including the Community Centre, Public Library, Burnbake Trust, Alabaré, Riding for the Disabled and also assist with events such as the Christmas Day lunch for the elderly. A number of church-members are Trustees for almshouses at St John’s Priory and St Giles’ Hospital and for three separate Educational Trusts. In addition to the Rector, the Parish Church provides two Foundation Governors at Wilton and Barford School, one of whom is currently Chair of Governors. Educational visits to and services in both the parish Church and St Catherine’s church have been arranged – with the local Primary schools and nursery schools and with the local “uniformed youth organisations”

As Trustees of the Wilton Middle School Educational Trust, the Rector and Churchwardens contributed further significant grants to local schools and to the Youth Centre in Wilton. Further commitments were agreed to the First Wilton Scout Group, for the purchase of a new minibus, and to the Wilton Surestart Centre.

The Rector continued to attend monthly meetings of the Wilton “Town Team”.
and to represent Wilton at Area Board “Youth Network” meetings.

At the beginning of May, the Wiltshire Cycling Grand prix returned to Wilton. Church services were rearranged to accommodate the necessary road closures and a viewing area and barbecue provided within the Parish Church grounds. The Archdeacon of Sarum, Ven. Alan Jeans, was the celebrant at the principal Eucharist.

The Parish Church’s Summer Festival, held in June, again attracted a number of local visitors to the church. And a steady flow of tourists and pilgrims visited throughout all but the coldest months of the year. A small, but dedicated group of “church guides” were on hand during the summer months to greet visitors and enrich their experience.

During the Autumn term the Rector rehearsed the newly-formed School Choir, 19 of whom gave their first performance at a concert in December, given jointly with the Wilton and District Band, at the Michael Herbert Hall.

In October, a “Friends’” event was introduced – to coincide with the Parish Church’s Dedication Festival, providing an opportunity to recognise the generosity of the Friends and to inform them on current achievements and future aims.

As a further innovation, in December, the Parish Church hosted a Business Breakfast – for members of the Wilton Chamber of Commerce – in order to consolidate relations with local businesses.

The South Wiltshire Credit Union merged to become Wiltshire Savings and Loans.
A team of local volunteers continued to operate the Wilton branch on Thursday mornings, in the Church Room, and in November a folding wheelchair ramp was purchased to improve disabled access.

Remembrance services were well attended. The service at St. Catherine’s was led by the Bishop of Ramsbury, Rt. Revd. Edward Condry.

On Armistice Day a sizeable congregation, including pupils from the Primary School, gathered for a short Act or Remembrance and two minutes’ silence.

Wilton’s annual “lighting of the Christmas Tree and children’s Nativity” provided further opportunities for ecumenical cooperation and for partnership with other Town Team organisations. The event was enlarged – beginning earlier and, helped by the mild weather, attracting a significantly larger number of participants.

The Rector officiated at the annual Carol Service for the Pembroke Centre (Riding for the Disabled). A welcome development was a revision, by volunteers at the centre, aimed at involving young riders more actively in the preparation and in the service itself.

The Christmas Fayre was again held in the Community Centre. Additional stall holders and a “Christmas Grotto” added to the vibrant feel, attracting a good number of visitors.

Several musical organisations have made use of Wilton Parish Church for concerts and we have hosted events for the Salisbury Festival of Arts and a number of distinguished professional musicians.

The “Wilton Windows” giant Advent Calendar, introduced in 2012 was again repeated involving 24 households and businesses in providing window displays in the countdown to Christmas. In 2015 an element of competition was introduced – with a prize donated by the Reclamation Centre.

During the year, the developments at Wilton Hill and Erskine Park began to emerge and new residents moved in. In December, the Rector delivered a “welcome” leaflet to the 56 houses then occupied and also led an ecumenical group of Carol Singers to serenade Wilton’s newest residents!

Buildings

St. Mary and St. Nicholas’ Church:
Repairs to the church roof and tower, previously highlighted in the architect’s Quinquennial inspection, were carried out in March.

Approval was finally obtained from the Diocesan Advisory Committee for the installation of a new “Sound System”, just before Easter.

The churchyard continued to be maintained to a high standard, largely to due to the efforts of Nick Barsby and Neill O’Connor.
St. Catherine’s Church
The new architect, Helen Martin, conducted a Quinquennial inspection in September. Immediate repairs to guttering and adjacent masonry were recommended and carried out by Mouldings. Additional electrical work was recommended and repairs to the Chancel roof recommended.

St. Peter’s Church
The situation remained unchanged, as negotiations about the possible sale of the Hawes Cup (in order to fund repairs) proved somewhat protracted and frustrating.
A quinquennial inspection, in October, suggested that there had been little further deterioration.

The churchyard continues to be maintained – with the assistance of Andy Hogan – and remains open for burials.

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Annual Address 2016

For the second time in 8 years it feels, to me, that we are undergoing something of a sea-change in personnel. Some of those who, 18 months ago, were pretty key in getting things done are either no longer here OR are needing now to step back.
At the same time, within the past few months, we’ve seen a number of new faces here – some frequently, some trying us out more gently.

That sense of change is often unsettling and sometimes alarming – not least if we don’t really feel that we understand the way things are going or why. But while change may be inevitable, that unease about is not: things DO sometimes change for the better!
It’s against that shifting backdrop that I asked many of you, a few weeks ago, to prepare for this meeting by asking yourself, “what would help you to feel confident about who YOU are as a Christian, and what you are about?” – and to consider “how we can encourage and support each other throughout the year – so that we all feel that we know what is going on, what we’re trying to achieve, and so that we can communicate that to other people”.

With that thought in mind, a small group from the PCC met recently to review the various means we have of communicating information – the Weekly Sheet, Parish News, our Parish Website (and others), our Facebook page and various email contacts – as well as the “Valley News”. Each of those strands reaches a subtly different target group – and we are learning to shape the content appropriately.
The group’s major concern was the Parish News. Firstly, we need it to stop losing money – our advertising revenue needs at least to cover the cost of printing. More fundamentally we have currently no editor.
There IS a willing support group – able to help with anything from advertising to proof-reading – but no one has come forward with the time and computer skills to put it all together. As it stands, then, there will be no magazine next month.
If any of you sitting here is thinking that you might be able to take this on, or that you know just the person, please do act on that impulse sooner rather than later!
Of course it IS possible that we won’t find anyone to take this on – in which case, we can adapt to life without a magazine, and go on to find another way to reach those who would miss it. There is always more than one possible solution!

In any case feeling that we know what’s going on is about far more than just passing on information. It’s also about confidence in our own place within the congregation, and it’s about developing ways to encourage and to challenge each other.
It’s in that exchange of ideas and mutual support that we can begin to assess the way in which things are changing, to grow through that change and not to fear it, and to shape our future direction with a greater clarity and sense of purpose.
And, of course that takes time – and it really needs us deliberately to MAKE time to meet – beyond the controlled environment of our Sunday worship.
So what I hope we might explore, now, is whether we can reinvigorate some of the smaller groups we have – or have had – and whether there are other groups we might form. Ideally these need to be “low maintenance” – in terms of planning and running them – and inexpensive for those taking part. Ideally we need a richer menu of activities that will enable groups of us to spend time together – and that will “feed” us – will energise us to deal with the other things we do.
So, hold onto your seats, and I’ll rattle through my list for starters!

Those of you who like to feed your faith through study – or reflection, might like to spend some time simply reading the Bible together – without any particular theme or expectation – just for the experience of hearing Scripture read aloud and having time to really take it in and perhaps to share your reactions to it.
We might develop further some form of “Reading Group” – picking up on the Life Stories group that met in Lent – reflecting on particular authors or books.
Or how about a “Prayer school” – meeting perhaps once a month to explore different traditions of prayer – allowing individuals to discover what “works” well for them, and conversely allowing the group to hold others in prayer.
I’m already planning to find time for a 10 week course – designed for those who lead worship, – involving a little history, a look at how other people do things, and what are we ALL trying to in our worship. That could easily be turned into a Study course for anyone else interested, without creating much extra work.
We’ve been through a couple of cycles of the Aldhelm Course now – and perhaps that has now reached the end of its shelf-life – but we could look again at short modules from the Emmaus Course or something similar.
There is certainly room for a more informal discussion group – where we can simply grapple with live issues in relation to our Faith – what I’d call “Life Matters”. We could do that over supper, as Salon used to – or perhaps in the pub as the Harnham churches do!

For those who already have enough of “words” in their ordinary lives, but might enjoy something more physical – we might spend time Walking together – somethings we have tried, and enjoyed – whether as formal pilgrimage or just enjoying God’s creation and each other’s company.
Something we haven’t tried, but which has been mentioned by a few of you, is the idea of a Men’s Breakfast Club – whether self-catered or not! Again, that could be the trigger for more discussion, something more active, or just “time out”!
(And if the women here are feeling left out, you could have one too!)

We already have Coffee Corner that serves well in nurturing young mums and tots, but perhaps we might explore a tea time slot – quite possibly for a different age range. Several of the Chalke churches do just that – with Tea at 3, Tea in the church and even “Knit and natter” – all good ways of getting to know each other better AND of gently encouraging in newcomers.
I’ve been toying with the idea of a Film Club – either for our young people or more generally. That’s a bit more complicated, but certainly not impossible.
I’m now running the School Choir as an after-school club – and we previosuly had an after school singing group which successfully brought together a mix of young people and adults for a time – perhaps you might like to help or get involved in something like that?

We’re gradually getting to know a bit more about what our Deanery projects in Sudan are achieving – is there any mileage in a Cueibet group – who might keep up with those things and pray for them?

Or, if your heart is really in just bringing people together, could you plot occasionally as part of a Social group – nudging us into arranging the odd quiz evening or invited tea, or whatever seems fruitful?

Of course we already have other groups – and a whole list of roles – by which you can contribute to the life of our churches and hopefully feel affirmed by them. None of what I’ve just said is meant to detract from those things.
But I’m very much aware that our congregations include artists and musicians, scientists and health professionals, keen gardeners and sporty people – people from a variety of backgrounds and with a wealth of experience – some of which remains hidden from the rest of us.
And the reason I’m dwelling on this subject is NOT because I want to heap yet more expectations on any of you – but that I want to be sure that our churches provide each of us with something in which we WANT to be involved – something that inspires us, which makes us feel that we belong – and that we are recognised and appreciated for the things that matter to us, AND for the gifts we bring into the mix.
There are almost certainly many other and better ideas than those that I’ve just come up with – let’s think about the possibilities and see what we can develop in the coming months.

We are going to need both the vision, to see what we COULD do, in ideal circumstances, and also the realism to know what we actually CAN do, now, with the resources we have.

On that note, I need to bounce on to our Summer Festival and to reflect that it has become something of a chore over the past few years – and positively stressful at times for those pulling it all together. Clearly that’s not quite the fulfilling involvement that I just described!
What was intended as a chance to engage the community and to showcase the life of our church – can easily backfire – if those running it are demoralised and our visitors on the day see only a pale shadow of what actually goes on here normally!
As a general rule, our aim should be to do things really well – or not at all. And I think we have reached another point of decision.
Do we still think that a major summer event on the second Saturday of June IS something we want to do – and so pull together and make it a success – OR we find other ways of engaging our neighbours and raising money. It may in fact be easier to arrange a few smaller events across the year, perhaps with the Christmas Market as the major event. Something for honest reflection and discussion.
We are committed this year to Royal weekend on 11th and 12th June – which provides a significant opportunity for our parish Church to figure prominently in more general community celebrations.
The organisers do still need help – we need volunteers for the refreshment stalls, we need muscle power to set up on the Friday evening and to tidy away on the Sunday evening – and various other tasks along the way. Please do check what’s needed and do whatever you can manage to help. Again, I’m certainly not trying to bounce the pressure onto a different set of people – just to spread the load a bit!
We have another planning meeting on Thursday 28th – if you are able to be there, or can let us know before then something of any way in which you can help with – that would ease the burden considerably on the current organisers.
On my right, then, against the wall are two boards – one with details of St. Peter’s and also the Summer Festival, the other with the various small groups I’ve outlined.
Please do have a look at all of them TODAY – before you leave – and if there IS something there that you think might help you to feel confident about who YOU are as a Christian, and what you are about – sign up. That won’t commit you to anything – it’s just to give an indication of what light be viable and to get things started.
And if there are other things that you know you’d like, but which aren’t there – or if you can think of other ways we COULD encourage and support each other throughout the year – please do add them to the suggestions sheet.

By this time next year, things will have changed again – in our churches and in the communities we serve. If we are ready to accept that fact, and to work together to embrace it, we can make that change a positive experience for us all.

Easter 2016

Sermon preached at the Parish Eucharist on Easter Day.

For much of Holy Week, and certainly during the sun-blessed Procession of Witness on Good Friday morning, it seemed that Spring has been springing with a little more urgency!

The new life that we celebrate at Easter has been visible in fresh green shoots and blossoms of various kinds.

But, just for a moment, I want to drag your mind’s eye away from the beauties of nature – and to contemplate instead the twin delights of Redrow Homes and Mary Berry!

Because it seems to me that, here in Wilton, one of the most significant signs of new life, over the last couple of years, has been the transformation from the decaying MOD site to the new and housing at Wilton Hill and Erskine Park.

We felt that at Christmas, when we took our carol singers up there – and were amazed to discover quite how many houses there are tucked away off the main road.

And, a couple of Saturdays ago, as I delivered Easter leaflets to each of the 66 “occupied dwellings”, I was amazed again at how quickly things had changed since December: the rows of sparkling new houses, all looking pretty similar, have now clearly evolved into homes.

Individual name plates, garden ornaments and shrubs are already giving those houses their own individual flavour.

And, (dare I say this?) – some of those houses which, at Christmas, looked SO sparkling and new that we hardly dared press the doorbell, now look – well, like they’ve been lived in for a while!

And if I’ve just mortally offended anyone from Wilton Hill or Erskine Park – let me assure you that they still look wonderful – just not brand new.

And that’s the first blindingly obvious point I want to focus on now – that, by definition, nothing is brand new for ever.

New-ness is NOT a lasting quality: by the time you’ve driven your new car home from the showroom it already has miles on the clock, and quite possibly mud on the tyres and underbody. By the time you’ve had your first house-warming party – the carpets may no longer be quite so pristine.

Nothing is “new” for ever. So how, then, do we make sense, today, of the Easter promise of new life?

What is “new”, or meaningful, about an event that happened a couple of millennia ago?

Can we really believe that Jesus going to his solitary death and rising again, all those years ago, has somehow changed the world for ever?

If we needed reminding that the world is still broken – still imperfect – or that religious bigotry and racial strife are still with us just as powerfully as when Jesus walked the earth – then the terrorists who attacked Belgium on  – right in the middle of Holy Week – have provided that reminder.

If Jesus did in fact restore God’s creation to its original perfection – then certainly the world as we know it seems to have lost its sheen – the newness seems tarnished.

Cue Mary Berry – and her two part series on Easter food!

Along with a variety of Easter traditions, we learned that Mary Berry herself had lost a son – in an accident – when he was 29 years old – not so very far from the age at which Jesus died.

And she said that, for her family, Easter has become an important time for remembering him and learning to live with that loss.

During the second programme, the archbishop of York, John Sentamu, reflected with her that, for most of us, there are times in our lives when situations and circumstances beyond our control may seem unbearable and inescapable – times, as he put it, when we’ve reached the end of the road, when it seems there is no way forward for us.

And it’s then, he said, that God can surprise us – and lead us in a new direction, to find happiness and depth of meaning in our lives that we just couldn’t see for ourselves.

And that is the promise of Easter – that pain and despair can lead on to joy beyond comprehension. The disciples are first plunged into the darkness and then out again into the light – they learn to SEE things in a new way.

Just as our townscape, here, is always evolving – as it did in the 1840s, with the arrival of this “new” church, as it did in the 60s and 70s, as “new” houses erupted from the green fields of Bulbridge, as it is today with the emerging Redrow development and the prospect of more at the Felt Mill site – so the life of the world around us is always evolving.

And, if we find it hard to see the events of Good Friday or Easter morning as single events in history that have for ever changed everything – then perhaps we can look at them a different day.

Perhaps what we are meant to see through Christ’s death and rising again – is not what Jesus DID on a particular day or days – but rather the WAY in which God works.

Perhaps what the events of Easter tell us is not so much that Jesus “made everything new” – but that, then as now, God in Christ is always making things new.

Perhaps we are meant to realise that God is always transforming things – always bringing new possibilities – leading us to new surroundings and experiences – always offering new hope in place of doubt and despair.

Nothing is new for ever – but it is God’s nature to “make new” – to go on renewing the creation that he loves – continually seeking to transform us, until the day when we are made perfect in him.