This year, “Church” is going to look and feel very different!
We want to keep everyone safe, and also help as many people as possible to celebrate the Christmas message of hope and love. Sadly we will not be able to welcome the number of people that we normally see in church and so there be a mix of online Services and Services in church with restricted numbers.
Both choirs, and some of our readers, will be recording a Carol Service – which will be available to view online from Christmas Eve, and there will also be a pre-recorded “Crib Service” online that afternoon from c. 4pm.
We are not able to celebrate Midnight Mass this year, and the only service in church will be at 10.45am on Christmas Morning.Places must be pre-booked for this service as we will not be able to accommodate all who would like to come. To request a place, please email firstname.lastname@example.org – specifying exact names and numbers of your group (and whether adult/child). Successful applicants will be notified the week before. Please do not attend unless you have received this confirmation – we cannot exceed our safe maximum. (St Catherine’s Church will make separate arrangements for Netherhampton residents)
This service will not be a Eucharist this year. Holy Communion will continue to be celebrated each Wednesday at 10am in the Parish Church (except Weds. 30th December) and there will also be Sung Eucharist on Sunday 27th Decemberat 10.45am.
Today I want to speak about Consequences, Kings and Caprinae – and I appreciate that that isn’t quite alliteration, but it does give you a short introduction as to where I’m going!
As we come to the end of the church’s year, on this last Sunday before Advent, we come to the end of our focus on St Matthew for our Gospel readings. I remember standing here this time last year and advising those in church that we would be in for a bumpy ride: St Matthew’s Gospel contains within it some of the most comforting sayings in scripture – “Come to me, all you who are weary – and I will give you rest”; or “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, blessed are the merciful..”; and some inspiring words “Go and make disciples of all nations – behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.” But it also includes some of the most difficult and challenging teachings of Jesus. And Chapter 25, from which we’ve just heard, is no exception: last week we heard the fate of the slave who failed to use the talent – the coin – entrusted to him by his master; and today’s parable of the sheep and goats seems equally unforgiving. And there’s a very clear message that there will be consequences in the next life for the way that we live today. In this particular parable, the judgement is unequivocal and final – some are destined for eternal life, and others for eternal judgement, there is no middle ground. That vision does fit with Matthew’s liking for hard edges – for a clear dividing line between the faithful, as he seems them, and everyone else. And yet, even so, the core of this parable is actually quite the opposite – emphasising the need to show kindness to those that most need it, whoever and wherever they may be The kindness or the indifference with which we treat “the least” of our brothers and sisters is the way that Christ deems us to have treated him – and in turn, determines the way that he will treat us.
So what should we make of Christ the King – who, in this church, is depicted in the apse behind me, looking down from the judgement throne? Clearly our own society, even with a reigning monarch, is very different from that of the 1st Century, where kings ruled in a more direct sense. And, for me, the harsh judge of today’s parable brings to mind a rather troubling image of a celestial Donald Trump – issuing executive orders at whim, and sending away into the outer darkness anyone whose opinions don’t fit with the version of the truth he wants to present. Fortunately, St Paul rides to the rescue today – in his letter to the Ephesians. Here the Son of Man, seated on the throne of glory, is identified clearly as the one who was raised from the dead, having first lived among us. For Paul, then, “Christ the King” is not some distant, despotic figure – he is the Crucified Saviour, immersed in the sorrows of the word – and whose own human face we can still recognise, in the features of downtrodden and suffering humanity today. It is because God does understand what it is to be human that he is such a powerful judge – there is no wriggle room, no excuse of frailty in front of one who’s seen and lived it all before us. Come judgement day, it seems, there is nothing more to be said – our actions will speak for themselves. At this time of year, as Christmas approaches, we inevitably face a whole raft of appeals from charities at home and abroad. And this year, in particular, with so much financial uncertainty, we may be left with the overwhelming feeling that we just can’t do everything we’d like to. But can we, in watchful Advent, take the time to notice and to seek those who seem to be in greatest need, whoever and wherever they turn out to be? Can we make Advent a season of preparation and of kindness, in which to work out what we can do for the least of these – whether or not that involves giving money, or spending time with someone, or perhaps making a change of lifestyle to correct the negative impact we have on others? And now to Caprinae – the sub-family to which both sheep and goats belong. Sheep and goats may not always appear as different as our Gospel reading suggests. I still remember the disgust in my household, when one well-meaning tourist referred to our Jacob’s sheep as “spotty goats”! And if woolly, western sheep can be so easily confused, then I suspect the skinny sheep of Palestine are even more similar to the goats there – proving what we already know, that appearances can be deceptive.
Scientifically, there is a difference between the two: sheep have 54 chromosomes – and are referred to as the Ovis genus; whereas Goats – the Capra genus – have 60 chromosomes. And they behave differently. Sheep tend to graze, munching away wherever they are put (although if you ask my neighbour about our sheep and her vegetable garden, she may question that theory!) Goats, on the other hand, are professional foragers – wandering at will: which is why we often see them tethered here, as they can be quite destructive when left to it.
Sheep are willing to be led – “my sheep hear my voice.. they know me, and follow me” – and they tend to flock together. Goats tend to be more independent – of us and of each other. They are arguably more intelligent than sheep – and like to do their own thing. So is that what the parable is getting at – that we are going to be judged on the degree to which we take account of others, rather than just ourselves? As with the animals, so with people – we can’t possibly judge good from bad simply from appearances: and, in any case, it’s not our place to judge. It’s not even that simple with ourselves, either: none of us is entirely good or bad – like the “spotty goats” that are in fact sheep – we almost certainly display confusing elements of both.
All of us, I suggest possess noble, selfless instincts – that drive us to do good things, to think good of others, to put others first; but there are always those selfish doubts niggling away – am I being taken for a ride here; do I really want to do this; what about me for a change?
And so we will need to work at resisting our goat-like tendencies, and cultivating our sheep-like awareness of others – if we are to be clearly recognised by Christ on the right side of the divide.
And so, to risk another bout of alliteration, Advent calls for an attitude of attentiveness. We are invited to be attentive to ourselves, and the way we live our lives; attentive to others, and the things that might transform their lives for good; attentive to God – who gave us life and, in Christ, has redeemed us all.
Record of the Annual Meeting of Parishioners – May 2019
1. Attendance. 63 Parishioners were present, 15 written and many verbal apologies had been received.
2. Electionof Church Wardens. The following were unanimously elected:
Mr Peter Gulliver for his third year.
Mr Andy Tyrer for his second year.
The Chairman expressed his thanks to the Church wardens for their diligent work on behalf of the Parish over the past year, this was greeted with applause.
3. Confirmation of Deputy Church Wardens. The Rector announced that Katie Ray had been nominated by St Catherine’s DCC and Bill Hewlett and Sylvia Holloway at St Peter’s. The Churchwardens confirmed that they were content to delegate responsibilities accordingly.
There being no other business the meeting was closed.
Minutes of the Annual Parochial Church Meeting
held in the Parish Church
on Sunday 12 May 2019
Chairman: Revd Mark Wood. Present: 63 Parishioners
1. Apologies. See above.
2. Inventories. The Church inventories were circulated around the meeting.
3. Minutes. The minutes of the 2018 Annual Church Meeting had been made available and the Secretary stated that they had been scrutinised in detail; the Chairman asked that they be agreed.
Proposed: Christine Stott Seconded: Lynn Morley
All in favour
4. Annual Report 2018. The Rector quoted from the Annual Report 2018 (Annex A – published prior to the meeting) referring to changes in personnel, church groups, community involvement and matters relating to the three church buildings.
5. Treasurer’s Report. (An extract of the accounts was made available at the meeting, the full accounts having been previously displayed in church.)
The Treasurer drew attention to the key points as follows;
a. General St Mary & St Nicholas Church recorded a small surplus
of income over expenditure in its General Fund over the year, amounting to £643, on a turnover of some £101,000. This included the final two months payment of our Diocesan Share for 2017, which had to be carried forward to this year and was paid in full. A grant of £9,760 from the Wallace Bequest allowed the final two months’ worth of our Diocesan Share demands for 2018 to be paid in full and thus no liabilities have had to be carried forward to 2019.
b. Expenditure Expenditure in 2018 was broadly similar to 2017, with the principal expenses being our Diocesan Share, Insurance, Gas and Electricity charges, maintenance and repairs to the boiler system. The major upgrade to our electrical systems throughout the Church, which was started in 2017, continued in 2018. Payment for this work amounted to some £45,500 and was met principally from the Appeal Fund, pending a further bid to the Preservation Trust, whose income is designed for just this purpose.
c. Diocesan Share The Parish Diocesan Share contribution was set at £58,545 in 2018 – or £4,880 monthly, with St Catherine’s and St Peter’s contributing 6.5% and 6% of this sum respectively. Once again this represented over 50% of our annual expenditure. Our Share contribution from the Parish for 2019 has been marginally reduced and will now amount to £58,182 or £4,850 monthly, with St Catherine’s and St Peter’s continuing to bear their 6.5% and 6% burden respectively.
d Charitable Giving Donations made in 2018 were split between selected ‘Charities of the Quarter and amounted to some £2,050.
e. Stewardship Collections at weekly Services and regular monthly donations continued to form the bulk of our income. Together with donations to the Church and support to our chosen monthly charities, this amounted to £61,300, a figure broadly similar to 2016. Some 76% of these donations were Gift Aided.
f. Other Income Fund raising events, Parish Fees for weddings and funerals, concert fees and a grant from the Wilton Educational Trust all contributed to the remainder of the overall income for the year. This amounted to a total of £101,620 for the Parish.
The full summary that the Treasurer provided is at …………………………………Annex B
Liz Pike drew attention to the large bank charges and suggested that it should be possible to find an account with a bank that didn’t charge. The treasurer agreed to look at it.
The Rector thanked the Treasurer for his enormous contribution to the Parish. This was greeted with much applause.
6. Stewardship – Parish Giving Scheme. The Rector reported that the parish is now registered with the scheme and gave a short reminder of the mechanics of the scheme. Those currently giving by Standing Order would shortly be invited to transfer into the scheme, which could then be extended to others if they wish to take part.
Nick Barsby raised the issue whether collections would be continued to be taken during services, and whether “tokens” might be used for those who donate purely through the Giving Scheme. The general consensus was that collections would remain, and that tokens might be made available to those who wished to sue them.
7. Appointment of Examiner. The Rector thanked Ray Stedman for his diligent examination of the accounts and said that he was willing to serve again. He was appointed examiner for a further year.
8. Electoral Roll. The Rector announced that Lucy Dalrymple was to remain as Electoral Roll Officer but in future the administration of the Roll was to be through the Parish office.
The numbers on the Roll were 184 (with one addition since the date of publication) – a significant fall from previous years but a more accurate reflection of those actively involved in the church.
9. Rector’s Address. (Annex C)
Peter Gulliver, as senior Churchwarden, addressed the meeting and thanked the Rector for all that he had done over the past year. This was greeted by enthusiastic applause.
10. Election of the Parochial Church Council for the Year 2019/2020. The following had been nominated and seconded. The Rector asked that they be accepted.
St. Catherine’s DCC
Deanery Synod Member
Deanery Synod Member
Deanery Synod Member
Rector Mark WoodCurate Caroline Titley2 Churchwardens Peter Gulliver Andy Tyrer
Proposed: Liz Pike Seconded: Peter Lawson
All in favour
10a. PCC Officials. Following a proposal by the Rector, N O’Connor and T Robertson were duly elected as Treasurer and Secretary respectively.
11. Appointment of Sidespersons. The following had volunteered for Sidesperson duties for the forthcoming year. The Rector asked that they be approved.
All in favour
12. Safeguarding – “Past Cases Review”. The Rector reported that the Diocese was undertaking a review of safeguarding matters, asking each Parish to investigate records since 1950 and to ensure that any allegations of abuse, by clergy or Church officeholders, be reported to the Diocesan Safeguarding Officer by the end of May.
Written records had been checked and contact made with two former incumbents and former churchwardens/church officers. Parishioners with any knowledge of allegations were also asked to contact the Rector before the end of May.
13. Future Events. The Rector drew attention to the following:
a. 30 June “St Peter’s day”. There would be a public meeting at St Peter’s, to try to reignite interest in a development plan for the building. The Rector has been advised that the cost of the church to mains electricity would be c.£2000 and that there might be sources of funding available for this.
b. St Edith’s Fayre on 15 September. This will mark the beginning of Wilton History Festival. Building on the previous year’s pattern, with Civic Service in the afternoon, it was to make this our main social and fundraising event for the year – with stalls and a Grand Draw during the time between the two services.
Helpers would be needed to manage this.
c. Lighting of the Town Christmas tree. There was uncertainty over the timing of this event – with a possibility that it would be moved to Friday 6th December.
d. There were also new possibilities at the parish Church, as the Salisbury Community Choir would no longer be holding their annual Carol Concert in Wilton. Possibilities included a joint concert with the District Band, to be held in either the Michael Herbert Hall or church and Community Centre and a Carol Service, requested by Francesca Wilson. Peter Redpath was keen that the latter should follow the nine lessons and carols format. The Rector stated that careful balance was needed – since St Catherine’s already hosts an Advent Carol service in this format and a similar Christmas Carol service on one of the two services before Christmas.
14. Distribution of Holy Communion. The Rector summarised the revised system for distribution of Communion at the 10.45 Eucharist – designed to avoid the need for the congregation to negotiate the Chancel steps. He noted that this revision was not universally welcomed, but that it has seemed to work extremely well, both “aesthetically” and practically, and that he proposed we should continue.
This was met with general approval, with some contrary opinion acknowledged.
15. Items by Consent.
a. Christine Lawson raised the subject of the promised crossing of the A36 from Wilton Hill. Ivan Seviour, on behalf of the Town Council, confirmed that the crossing was still planned and part of the agreement needed before the developer could “sign off”, but that there had been difficulty finding a suitable contractor.
b. The Rector drew attention to Morning Prayer, which is held at 0930 each morning, as a useful spiritual and refreshing ten minutes to start the day.
16. Signing of the Inventories. The inventories, having passed scrutiny by the meeting, were signed by the Senior Church Warden and a lay member of the congregation. Ann Hindley thanked Peter Gulliver for his excellent re-writing of the inventory. This was greeted by generous applause.
There being no further business the meeting closed at 12.55 PM