Parish News August 2018

Not the Rector’s Notes

by John Musty

I very much doubt that the Jackson Sisters’ song ‘I Believe in Miracles’ has featured in many Parish Magazine editorials but I think in this case it has some relevance; however before I go into that in more detail let’s have a look at what’s happened since I last wrote this piece.

We have maintained a full record of services, which without a full-time incumbent is a remarkable feat and is due in no small part to the help and hard work of our  retired clergy and readers, together with the strong guidance of Ian Morter and significant input from the Reverend Helen. In all of this I pay homage to an extensive commitment of their time, which may have put to waste much of the glorious weather we have enjoyed over the last couple of months.

While we have followed a well tried format and adopted a policy of not changing things, some little new features have come into our activities; perhaps my favourite was the lovely Easter children’s display put on by Eileen Brassington to marry the Stations of the Cross Service which in its new style for the second year is a vital element of Holy Week. Our Lent courses were well attended and for this we must thank Claire Shelley and those who opened their homes (and supplied tea and biscuits!), and I for one came away with two new ideas for life which are proving quite difficult to stick to: but then I suppose that’s how it’s meant to be. First Sunday Service music has been taken up by James Turner, using a huge array of instruments, with musical arrangement assistance by Simon Crawford Leighton and we thank them not least for the considerable amount of their time it involves.

GDPR has come and gone! What appeared to be one of the most potentially formidable challenges to any of us was met head on, guided by Anne Jerman, and again it is time to stress just how much this redoubtable lady does on our behalf. To lose a Rector may be careless; to lose the services of Anne would be close to cataclysmic!

At PCC and so many formal and informal meetings throughout the Parish the ‘Elephant in the room’ is the average age of our membership, and, Choir, Messy Church, and Young People’s groups apart, it shows little sign of reducing. While we obviously hope that working in this area will be high on the agenda of our next incumbent, it would not be right for him or her to meet us, and, faced with this issue, to stand silent when asked “Well, what are you doing about it?” This is a pretty difficult one, especially as Nigel, who was a genuine leader, admitted that perhaps the one thing he had hoped for but failed to have success with was this particular issue. I recently attended a service at St Michael’s in Heavitree (Exeter) which lasts only 30 minutess and includes a Eucharist, and is specifically designed to encourage parents and grandparents to attend with their children, and which seems to enjoy an acceptable level of success. While I am most certainly not about to suggest that we do such a thing at Holy Cross, I can see no harm in looking at, and noting things which are different, and which work because of this reason. I am going to attend one of these services on Sunday 9th September this year: it starts at 9.30am and it would be good from my point of view if some of our number came as well so that we could form a group to have discussion around the subject. There is space for four in my car, and I think I know of another car that will also be going.

On a completely different topic, I learnt this morning that our ‘prayer box’ in the South Aisle contained an obscene message. Well, at least someone had taken the trouble to write it; even more, they had also taken the trouble to come to the Church (either with this in mind, or simply carrying out the act after chancing on the box). In any event, as Meatloaf sang “Two out of three ain’t bad”. But what causes such hatred – most surely aimed at us? Are we so isolationist; ‘Holier than thou’ even? Such people may be lonely, perhaps disturbed, but certainly worthy of prayer. Perhaps this was in its way a prayer, a cry for help. Anyway, they have mine as do the others whose pleas, often desperate, are recorded there.

Some months ago I was doing something in the Church, and three lads came in and were ‘larking about’, until they saw me. The castigation they feared as they prepared to flee was denied them as I bade them welcome, explaining that the Church belonged to the town and as such was their building in which they were welcome. We talked a bit and I suggested that they had a good look round with the proviso that they caused no damage. This they did and eventually left, saying goodbye as they did so. So in this case, unlike the prayer box incident we had the advantage of dialogue which is so important. It made me reflect how Altars and candles and pulpits and general Church furniture must seem slightly weird to those not brought up to them, and how simple explanations are so difficult in such circumstances. Another gulf we have to bridge, but at least one of which we must be aware.

I have to thank all for their forbearance with the teething issues experienced with our new sound system. The old one was becoming temperamental in all of its parts, and more frequently people were diving into the control box and altering the settings making it awkward for those using it next time. The new system has a range of default settings which are simple to restore, although after fine tuning of these, there should be no need for changes. We can however, during a service, compensate for soft or strong voiced users if it seems necessary; thus far I find the results really good, and final adjustments to be made over the next few months should settle it. The system can provide, if the organ fails, up to 500 hymns and incidentals, it can also record services, weddings and funerals onto a USB pen if required; and it can be remotely controlled (e.g. during the Flower Festival). It was funded to 90% by the generosity of the Friends, and the balance came from the PCC.

PCC funds of course do need topping up and as seen in the ‘Churchwardens’ Chapter and Verse’ this is generally the case throughout the benefice. The ‘Men in Pinafores’ luncheon did not happen this Spring, but fear not; an improved version led by Simon Crawford Leighton will happen in the autumn. Simon is a proper chef, so this time it should be really good, and will join with the Book Fair and St Nicholas Fair in adding to the coffers.

Back to Miracles. They don’t seem to happen without a great deal of prayer, and in the midst of everything else, as we hope for a new incumbent able to match the work of Nigel and Tina, and an influx (no matter how small) of younger people to the benefice, I ask that you will add yours to mine, in equal measure to giving thanks for all that we already have.

May your Harvest reflect the glory of this Summer,

Photos © Bill Jerman