What does the phrase ‘sacred space’ conjure up for you? Last year I joined a
large group of regular churchgoers from across Gloucestershire who were asked
‘where do you find God?’ Only a few said church buildings; the vast majority
chose the outdoors. I suspect this is a British thing. Our varied climate drives
us inside most of the time. We even travel around in enclosed metal boxes! Yet
only a few generations ago we were almost all outdoors people. How else do you
think we became world famous for talking about the weather?
Although Christians do set apart certain places for worship (the word ‘holy’
means ‘set apart’), it is not because the rest of the world is unclean. Far from
it: ‘The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it’; ‘God loved the world so
much that he sent his only Son...’ and Jesus was seen on mountains, in fields,
by rivers and lakes, with people and alone. His most famous visit to a religious
building involved turning the place over! All space is God’s space. It is not in
church alone that we encounter him.
We can learn a lot about space from monasteries. Visit one and you will find
seven distinct spaces, each with an associated activity. Some are more obviously
‘spiritual’ than others, but don’t be deceived. Each one is important and can
help us consider how we divide up our lives and perhaps show us a healthier,
more balanced way to live.
The cell (room) is where we meet privately with God and ourselves, the
only totally private space. It can be lonely or a place of refuge. To be here
takes courage and honesty.
The chapel is public, shared space dedicated to worship, prayer and
learning with, and for, others. There is structure here but also spontaneity. To
be here requires discipline and patience.
The chapter (meeting room) is where we gather to consider issues,
where leaders and members hold each other accountable, where we can disagree. To
be here requires humility and listening.
The library is for gaining knowledge to benefit us and others. It is
about transformation of mind and heart and requires openness and wisdom.
The garden is not, as we might think, a place of leisure but of work.
Here we connect with the world and our bodies and remember our limits. It takes
willingness and energy.
The refectory (dining room), where we enjoy the garden’s produce, is
for sustenance (social, mental and physical). Here we meet to share, to practise
hospitality, to serve and to be served. It requires generosity and self-control.
The cloister (corridor) connects all these places and is itself a
place of transition, where we change activity in an intentional way. It is also
the place of chance encounter, with those we want to see or wish to avoid! Here
we need self-awareness and trust.
All the above places are sacred and therefore all are places of prayer, in
which we learn to be loved and to give love.
Where are these places in your life and that of our community? Are some
missing or too small? Are some over-emphasized? Where do we need to do more
work? What can we celebrate and wisely preserve?
Course running again this
This will be our third year running the popular Alpha Course in North
Cheltenham. Last year saw two groups – a total of seventeen people, including
leaders – meeting to consider the meaning of life in a relaxed and informal way
which included a meal, a DVD and a chance to chat.
The Alpha Course first started 27 years ago at Holy Trinity, Brompton
(central London). At first offered only to Church-goers, the course was adapted
in the early 1990s by the then curate, former barrister Nicky Gumbel, who saw
its potential for sharing Christian beliefs with those who did not go to Church.
From this time on the popularity of the course grew and it quickly began to be
used not only in parishes but also in prisons, hospitals, work places and the
armed forces. Today there are over 33,500 courses worldwide in 163 countries and
it is supported by all the major denominations.
You can find out about the course by coming to the ‘Launch Supper’. The date
for this has yet to be finalized but will probably be in the week beginning 19th
September (watch out for details in the pew sheets and on our website
to the supper doesn’t oblige anyone to attend the course, but it does provide an
opportunity to hear about what is involved and to think about whether to give it
a try. No-one is pressurized to make a decision there and then, as the course
usually begins a week or two later on, it is free to attend, it is ok to miss a
session if you need to and anyone can drop out any time.
Here are some comments from last year’s group members:
‘I have met some lovely people on
‘It opened my eyes to faith’
‘Above all thank you for the
If you would like to know more about Alpha please do get in touch as
we are always keen to hear from people and are happy to answer any questions.
We hope to have the tower open during the weekend of the parish fête in
September (more details in the September magazine). This is to show you an
interesting and historic part of the church that is unfamiliar to most and to
encourage you to start ringing bells: we are short of bell ringers and often do
not have enough to ring all the bells for services.
There are four storeys in the tower. The ground floor is the choir vestry.
Stone steps from the outside of the church lead to the first floor, where you
can chime the bells. A ladder leads up to the clock chamber, and another one up
to the bell chamber, where you can see the bells: the heaviest six bells are a
complete set cast in 1748. (The tower roof is not available for access.) If you
want to see the bells, come dressed to climb ladders.
Ringing bells is a service to the church: we particularly need those in their
twenties, thirties and forties likely to stay in the parish. It is a sociable,
team activity. It is gentle healthy exercise for the body and mind: all the
bells at Prestbury can be rung by men and women from teenage years to old age
and there is always something new to learn. You will be sustaining a 400 year
old English tradition, and you will be welcome at thousands of other churches
and cathedrals, with amazing architecture and views. Tuition is free and there
is no equipment to buy. You will get paid for ringing at weddings. If you join
us you will need to attend practice on Tuesdays from 7.30 until 9.00pm and
ringing for service on Sundays from 10.15 to 11.00am. If you want to try to
learn to ring, at first you will be given lessons with a few other learners;
these will be separate from the main practice and arranged at a time to suit
you. If you want to continue, you will have learnt enough to join the main
practice on Tuesdays after a few weeks. A few months after that, you will be
ready to join us for ringing on Sunday. Children aged twelve or over are
welcome, but we prefer to teach them with a parent or parents.
David Lynch, Tower Captain
This year we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the dedication of the ‘new’
church at St Nicolas’. The Dedication Service took place on 21st September 1970.
We will be marking this anniversary on Sunday 19th September with a
Thanksgiving Eucharist at 3pm in St Nicolas’ Church. We hope that some of the
former clergy who have served at St Nicolas’ will be able to attend the service
as well as former members of the congregation. You are all very welcome to join
us. If you are still in touch with former members, please do invite them to
attend. The service will be followed by a tea party in the Church Hall.
A small group has been preparing a book to mark the 40th anniversary. The
book will be a collection of memories of the early years of St Nicolas’,
covering the period 1930 to 1970. More details of this will be available when
the book has been published.
There are four roles which PPY would like to fill with volunteers. If you are
interested, or know anyone who might be, do get in touch with Jill Bradley,
contact details below.
A. Website and Digital Media Coordinator
Includes updating the website www.ppy.org.uk and extending on-line activities
of PPY as relevant. Familiarity with website development and software packages
is desirable, as is an ability to engage with young people.
B. Awareness Raising Coordinator
Includes maintaining notice boards in all the North Cheltenham Team Ministry
Churches and researching ways to increase awareness of PPY and its work in the
local area. Also issuing news releases when events are planned and building
relationships with representatives of the local media. Good communication skills
and experience of promotional activities are desirable.
C. Local Events Organiser
Includes researching activities and events to raise funds for PPY and
promoting ideas to increase giving in the Church communities and amongst the
parents of young youth group members. Experience of motivating and organising
teams of people is desirable.
D. Admin Support Worker
Includes maintaining the membership register and other databases and
producing relevant paperwork for funding bodies. Also assisting with the
circulation of information as required and providing administrative support to
other volunteers. Desirable attributes are computer literacy and familiarity
with office/paperwork routines.
If you would like more information about PPY or any of the above Volunteer
Roles please contact
The five-yearly election of diocesan representatives for the General Synod is
now due and the first motion at the most recent Diocesan Synod was:
‘This Synod encourages people from parishes to stand and all eligible members
to participate in the election for diocesan representatives to the General
In recent elections parishioners country-wide have mostly ignored them so the
views of the mainstream of the church have not been fully represented. We only
have ourselves to blame. Would anybody reading this like to be there at Lambeth
to listen or comment and definitely vote on the things you really care about?
Gloucester Diocese has produced a little guide explaining this system.
Contact me for a copy and find out all about it.
Visiting bishop Mary Gray Reeves of our Californian link diocese was invited
to speak and told of the benefits of fellowship with us and West Tanzania, three
very different forms of Anglican faith but now a rich and established spiritual
link. Her greatest practical joy? Solar powered cooking pots! Dreamt up on a car
journey, Silicon Valley know-how, Tanzanian manufacture, hard-pressed African
woman’s joy. Put in the beans and rice in the morning, come home at night and
supper’s ready! No fire lighting, no hassle, no burnt children. A life a little
easier, and a real team project.
The Rev Tim Mayfield of Christchurch spoke movingly about ‘The Kairos
Document’, a plea from the Christians of Palestine. More of this to follow
Lynda Hodges, Diocesan Synod Representative
The Oxford May Festival saw the addition of a new
role to the list of Diaconal duties: Balloon Bearer!
What if the Holy Spirit had come down on Deaf Club instead of on the
disciples in Jerusalem? That little scenario was presented to us by the Drama
workshop at the South West Deaf Christians Together Pentecost Celebration in
Wells in May. We had spent the morning in the Old Deanery, where I attended the
Prayer workshop. We leafed through a selection of newspapers, ignoring the many
pages of bad news, seeking out and then cutting out little snippets of good
news. In pairs one of us signed ‘The Good News is …’ and then the other worked
out a short prayer broadly based on it. Mine was that a particular famous couple
were expecting a new baby. My partner then prayed for families, for children in
difficult situations, and for couples who had no children.
After a bring-and-share lunch (my contribution was two punnets of
strawberries purchased in the previous day’s street market) we walked across to
the Bishop’s private chapel, where we put it all together in a service. It is a
lovely little chapel, and the fifty or so of us filled it. The different regions
introduced themselves: Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Bristol and Gloucestershire.
There were four of us from Gloucestershire – two deaf members, me and the
chaplain, the Revd Steve Morris. There were larger groups from most of the other
Why come together at Pentecost? Because it was when the disciples were
together that the Holy Spirit came. We ‘sang’ signed songs; the Bible Study
workshop signed a verse each from Acts chapter 1. My friend asked if she did her
verse OK and I replied that what I saw her sign and what I heard the interpreter
say were the same, so yes it was OK.
The Craft workshop displayed their colourful banners, while the Drama
workshop gave a lovely rendering of Acts chapter 2, with little flames, a
rushing wind, everybody signing avidly in different ‘languages’, others suddenly
understanding, someone signing ‘they’re drunk’, and the earnest response to
that. And our workshop signed our good news prayers. The Rt Revd Peter Maurice,
Bishop of Taunton, was the guest preacher, and there were two interpreters, one
signing to each side of the chapel.
It is nearly seven years since I first learnt British Sign Language (BSL)
and, like any language, it quickly goes when you stop practising it. But being
dropped back into the midst of a group of people with no other means of
communicating really did me good. I was surprised how much came back, and I did
more signing that day, and understood more, than I have in the last three or
As a Christian journalist working with cynical colleagues at the offices of a
local newspaper I had a lively time! On the whole they were understanding about
my beliefs. But there was one glaring exception: Joe (not his real name) made a
daily point of trying to upset me. He worked some yards away from me at another
table. Usually during the morning, a very busy time, he would call out with a
provocative remark such as – this is true! – ‘Surely no-one believes in the
Resurrection of Christ any more?’. With no time to debate such a vital question,
my reaction – suppressed – would be ‘Shut up, Joe!’. Stifling this, I would
ignore him, but hope to grab his attention later in the day. But, of course, the
occasion never arose: he had usually gone home while I was too busy, or I was
far too tired to engage in theological debate. I felt sorry for him in a way
because he was sent away to a boarding school at an early age where he had to
‘suffer’ (he would say) attending chapel every morning early. So he had absorbed
quite the wrong attitude to worship. His barbs at my expense did not harm my
faith, of course, and actually at that time I was responsible, in addition to my
daily stint as sub-editor, for a weekly ecumenical feature, ‘Christian News and
Views’! No doubt Joe was jealous…
The fields are alive with the sound of hymn singing!
On one of the recent warm sunny days in June, Michael and I went on a cycle
ride. Just a short distance along quiet lanes from Hailes to Didbrook, Stanway,
Stanton, Laverton and Buckland. Cycling through Stanton we heard an unexpected
and pleasing sound of ‘Be thou my vision’ being sung. We paused and
listened to a walking group gathered together in a field after their picnic
lunch sing this hymn together. The fields were alive with the sound of hymn
singing. We then continued on our way humming the tune.
The plug had just been pulled out of the font in St Mary’s church and as the
water was draining away it created this vortex. The flash on the camera
highlighted the patterns.
photograph by Stephen Murton
‘But I will sing of your might; I will
sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been a fortress
for me and a refuge on the day of my distress. O my strength, I will sing
praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me
Psalm 59, v.16-17 (NRSV)
Everyone must still remember the terrible disaster suffered by the people of
Haiti in January of this year, although it has since been overtaken by other
disasters, such as that taking place in the Gulf of Mexico, where not only is
the wild life being jeopardised for generations to come, but people’s whole
existence is being wiped out. And of course, now the tragic events which took
place in West Cumbria are proving hard to make sense of, to understand.
I am sure that each one of us carries in our hearts one vivid recollection
from each harrowing event that we see or hear about, which will remain with us
long after the particular story is no longer newsworthy, and which will somehow
change our perceptions, almost like a wake-up call to our souls. One small
instance for me was seeing a group of women singing in amongst the chaos which
had once been their homes in Haiti, their numbers increasing each day, and the
commentator saying, ‘They all sing… it’s a happy song which they sing when they
are in desperate times.’
How many of us when faced with disaster in our own lives will actually praise
And yet sometimes it takes something major, even life-changing, to make us
focus on what is genuinely important in our lives, and to be able to see God’s
hand pointing us towards the right direction whilst giving us the strength to
This doesn’t happen over night, and for a while, sometimes quite a long
while, most of us seem to get caught up in the vortex of the disaster and not
see past it. The world becomes full of anger, violence and recriminations, and
our loving God appears to be forgotten and to have forgotten us. It is difficult
to understand that God is in that vortex with us, watching, caring and still
loving us, waiting for us to love him back.
So in spite of everything, God is here and it is up to us to find him! Not in
the noise and business of our daily life, with all its demands on us, but in
quietness and in prayer. There are lots of places in the Gospels where we are
told that Jesus went away to a quiet place and prayed; isn’t this one way that
we can try and become closer to him? I know it is not easy, there are so many
things crowding our minds, niggling doubts that we should be doing a million
other things rather than just sitting, but how can we find God’s strength or
consider him ‘a refuge in the day of our distress’ if we do not spend time with
We all know that a good sing-along cheers everyone up, and when we are
feeling overwhelmed by problems, singing praises to our God is uplifting and
fulfilling, especially when surrounded by other people who are also worshipping
and showing us they care. God’s love is there too.
As St Paul says, ‘Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds
everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your
hearts…’. Colossians 3: v.14-15
St Lawrence’s Fête
St Lawrence’s Fête is on Saturday 3rd July starting at
1.00pm at Swindon Village Hall and Playing Fields. Many attractions and displays
throughout the afternoon. Admission 50p (children free) by programme or on the
Elmstone Pig Roast
All are welcome to the Pig Roast in Elmstone Hardwicke on
Saturday 3rd July at 6pm. If you can offer to help serve food or ‘man’ a
stall for a period of time, please contact the Team Office (244373) or email
St Mary’s Bakestall
From the proceeds of the June bakestall we sent £25 to SOS
Children’s Villages, a charity with which we have had a long-standing
connection, and £15 to The Smile Train.
The July bakestall falls on the G-M team on Sunday
18th July. We all have a break in August when there is no bakestall.
Thank you everyone for all your support for our charities.
Margaret Waker & Linda Matthews
An Evening of Wine Tasting
The Friends of St Mary’s next event is an Evening of Wine
Tasting presented by ‘Talking Wines’ on Thursday 22nd July starting at
6.30pm. The gardens will be open from 6pm. Tickets £12, to include light
refreshments and tastings, are available from:
There is a Deanery MU coffee morning on Saturday 24th July
at the Parish Centre, Charlton Kings. Cake and Bring and Buy stalls. 10.30am –
12 noon. Money raised will go towards the MU ‘wheels appeal’, providing vital
transport where needed.
The Prestbury MU outing is to Lichfield Cathedral on
Tuesday 27th July. The coach is fully booked and Marion Beagley has all the
There is a Garden Party (by invitation of St Matthew’s MU) on
Wednesday 28th July 10.30am – 12 noon. Cake stall.
Help is needed at Greenbelt on Bank Holiday Monday for the MU
McKenzie (Branch Leader)
A visit to Cheltenham Synagogue has been arranged for members
of the North Cheltenham Team Ministry.
The visit will take place on Tuesday 27th July at
7.00pm. Everyone is welcome to join the group but please telephone or email me
by Thursday 22nd July to let me know that you intend to come. This will enable
me to give the synagogue some idea of numbers. If there are too many takers I
will arrange a second visit!
A minimum donation of £2.00 will be requested from all adults,
so that we can make an appropriate donation to the synagogue which has recently
had to spend a lot of money on roof repairs.
The Synagogue is in St James’ Square and there is good parking
Children’s Society Boxes at St Mary’s
I shall be opening the Children’s Society boxes during July
and August. If you have a box, please give it to me after Celebrate! or before
the 11 o’clock service. Alternatively contact me to arrange for me to collect
I have also had a letter from the Children’s Society asking
for more donations for their Cheltenham shop. Details are on a poster in the
Songs of Praise
On Sunday 29th August at 6.30pm we are holding a North
Cheltenham Team ‘Songs of Praise’ in St Mary Magdalene’s church, Elmstone
Hardwicke. All are very welcome at this service. There will be no
other evening services in the Team that day.
GHCT ‘Ride and Stride’ Sponsored Event
On Saturday 11th September, the Gloucestershire
Historic Churches Trust (Reg. Charity No. 1120266) is holding its annual
sponsored Ride and Stride.
If you would like to take part in this event, either riding
your bike (or horse) or on foot, please ask for a sponsorship form from Nigel
Woodcock at St Nicolas’ or Phil Dodd at St Mary’s. Riders are encouraged to seek
sponsorship and support from both the church and wider community.
Money raised goes into the coffers to help pay the costs of
maintaining the fabric of our churches within the county. Half the money goes
direct to the GHCT and the other half to the church or chapel nominated by the
participant – in our case usually to either St Nicolas’ or St Mary’s. If you,
for whatever reason, cannot take part this year, do please sponsor someone who
Sponsorship forms and more information are available from:
Woodcock at St Nicolas’
Dodd at St Mary’s
Our Parish Autumn Fête will be on Saturday 11th September
on the Scout Field, The Burgage, Prestbury. If you can help with any of
the stalls or games, please put your name on the lists in the churches.