AS WE TURN from autumn towards winter, we could be forgiven for dwelling on
thoughts of darkening days, of falling leaves, and a general diminution of life.
Strangely though, in popular culture, as in our own faith, this is a time when
we give thanks, an attitude that has been called ‘the default posture of the
I was in Canada last month, where autumn was more advanced than it was here,
and while there we celebrated Thanksgiving. It is a festival celebrated in both
Canada and the United States, but while it occurs towards the end of November in
the US, it takes place in October in Canada. It is related to the Harvest
festivals we celebrate ourselves, but while our Harvest festivals are fairly
small affairs, Thanksgiving across the Atlantic is the major family festival of
the year. And while Christmas has become increasingly commercialised,
Thanksgiving is the time when the family gathers around the table to share a
meal, to spend time together, and to give thanks for all that is good.
The Bible reading for the Thanksgiving service I attended was the story of
the ten lepers healed by Jesus. The story makes an intriguing distinction
between, on one hand, the cleansing of the ten lepers, a healing of their
physical illness, and on the other, the wellbeing of the one who came back to
give thanks to God. The point of the story is not to deny bodily healing to
those who came to Jesus: they have been healed and shown to be clean. The point
is that in not coming back to Jesus to give thanks to God they deny themselves
the full wellness of being that the one who came back is granted.
The lone leper who returned to give thanks and our friends from across the
pond have something in common to teach us this November. While the days may be
getting shorter and the natural world’s life seems to be failing, there is
nonetheless much to be thankful for. Not necessarily just giving thanks for the
gift of the autumnal beauty of turning leaves or for a generous harvest, but
perhaps for something deeper.
The deeper gift is the one whose coming we celebrate next month, and whose
act of self-giving love we celebrate at Easter: the gift of Jesus Christ, and
through him, the gift to us all of eternal life. That is one of the reasons we
give thanks at a time when the natural world seems to be drawing to a close in
its life. In winter, the dead of the year, we give thanks for the birth of Jesus
Christ. In spring, when life is bursting from the dead ground once again, we
remember Christ’s death and the new life he brings to our lives.
So let us face this autumn and winter with hearts filled with joy and lift our
hands to praise God for the great gifts he continually gives us.
Where’s Fr David?
Fr David is now in the third year of his curacy and as part of his training
he is required to undertake a placement. From 31st October until 4th December he
will be attached to the parish of Holy Apostles, Charlton Kings, and so will not
be at any services in our Team Ministry. The purpose of the placement is for the
curate to experience ministry in a different setting and then to reflect on that
experience. Holy Apostles is a single parish with only one church and is also of
a different tradition from any of the parishes in North Cheltenham. This will
allow Fr David to reflect on some of the differences which he experiences,
particularly the difference between working in a Team Ministry and in a single
parish benefice. During the period of the placement we have to release Fr David
from all his responsibilities in North Cheltenham, which is why you might start
wondering where he has gone! He will return, but in the meantime please regard
him as unavailable until 5th December.
Placement in Prestbury
We welcome Amy Smith to St Mary’s. Amy is with us on placement for a few
months, exploring ordination and getting to know the Church of England better.
Please find out who she is and say hello.
It is fourteen years since Fr Michael was first licensed to minister in
Prestbury. Looking back, moving to a completely new area, with two very young
children in tow and having no immediate family in the area, seemed quite a
daunting experience. However, the welcome we were shown and the love and care
that immediately surrounded us very quickly made me realise how lucky we all
were to have joined this community.
My recent time in hospital and the past few weeks slowly regaining use of my
new knee has shown me once again how blessed we are to have the support of a now
even bigger ‘family’ across the North Cheltenham Team. I am deeply grateful for
the many good wishes, prayers, offers of practical help, visits and wise words
of advice that I have received and certainly they have all played a big part in
my recovery. Although it might still be a little while before I will be ‘dancing
in the aisles’ Mrs C is definitely back in business!
Thank you, everyone.
Thanks to John White
for the superb new notice boards in the porch at St Mary’s. Not only do they
look very smart and provide a little more room than the old ones but they are
also made from recycled materials so have a reduced environmental impact.
Thanks also to the Friends of St Mary's
who provided the funds for the excellent new handrails that lead into the
free space where we have refreshments after services, making our church safer
for everyone whilst preserving its character.
Christian Aid Challenge
The Cheltenham branch of Christian Aid has been set a challenge at this
year’s AGM to raise an additional £5000 before July 2013 for relief in
Matabeleland in the south of Zimbabwe. It has been found that European Funding
designated for Third World Relief is best channelled by using known relief
agencies that are already working on the ground in designated areas. One of the
accepted relief agencies is Christian Aid and we are already working with poor
farmers in Matabeleland where the aid is given directly through Christian Aid
partners and not through the Zimbabwean Government.
For every £5000 raised the European Commission will add a nine-fold funding
ie £45000, to bring the total up to £50000. The money we raise has to be new
funding, not Christian Aid week, disaster responses or carol singing, but that
raised from NEW ideas. The money raised at the Autumn Fair on 6th November and
the same event next year can be used and it is estimated that there will be in
the region of £3000 still to find. We in the Parishes are being asked to
organise events, remembering that every £1 we raise becomes £10 thanks to the
European Commission. We need to start thinking of fundraising events but firstly
support the Autumn Fair on Saturday 6th November (details elsewhere in this
magazine) either by attending or by leaving contributions for the stalls in the
box in the church.
Nicolas’ 40th Anniversary Celebration
THE sun was shining and the church was sparkling. Molly Campbell, Lindsey
McGowan and Janet White had done a wonderful job at decorating it with displays
of ruby red flowers. Our Celebrant for the Celebratory Service was Fr Michael
Cozens, assisted by Fr
Michael Vooght (pictured) who had been curate when the new
church was dedicated, Deacon Jennifer and our reader Linda Biggs. It was good to
have Fr Stephen Gregory back with us preaching in his own unmistakeable way. All
former curates had been invited and we were so pleased that Fr Grant Bayliss and
family and the Venerable John Lewis and Hazel could be with us. Many of the
other former curates who could not attend had sent messages of good will and
Invited guests who were able to join us included Dr David Lyle, present
Patron of Prestbury, and original members of St Nicolas’: Margaret Milan, Derek
Henman and Kath Dymock, who had all played an essential part in the building of
the existing church. The congregation of 165 also included 25 members of the,
now disbanded, St Nicolas Ranger Guides, who had come from far and wide to be
with us. We were also joined by Brown Owl and Colour Party of the 36th St
Nicolas Brownies, who presented their colours at the beginning of the service.
Early arrivals were entertained with worship songs and music by the some of
the youth from Synergy: Kathryn, Martin and Anna. The choir was in good voice
with Cameron Luke as organist and during the distribution of communion sang the
anthem O Come Ye Servants of the Lord by Christopher Tye. After communion
the congregation, also in good voice, joined the choir in singing the hymn In
our day of thanksgiving one psalm let us offer in memory of all past
worshippers at St Nicolas’.
Bolton & Margaret Compton
St Nicolas’ 40th Anniversary Entertainment
assembled company of friends from the past and present moved into the hall for
tea and light entertainment. On their way, they could catch sight of Brian
Wood’s Powerpoint presentation of the history of our church. Paddy Spurgeon and
Joan Bell (compilers of the book marking the first forty years of life in the
wooden mission church) were ready to sign and sell.
Meanwhile the noise level in the hall grew and grew. Tea cups chinked, people
munched and scrunched through the wonderful feast set before them. They
chattered, exchanging memories distant and recent. Then fell a respectful
silence as our veteran couple Jack and Edna Sims cut the ceremonial cake.
Then came the scraping of chairs and the repositioning of bodies ready for
the entertainment. Now what was the connection between a virtual hot air
balloon, rockets, barking dogs, irate neighbours, effusive welcoming of
newcomers, a zany baptism and the mystery of the missing reader? Well, it’s
quite simple: the sketches were based on real events here at St Nicolas’. In a
fun way, they drew attention to what we feel we are and what we feel we do well.
They illustrated the richness, the warmth, the willingness to try new
things, and at times a certain quirkiness, which characterises us. It pointed to
our ability to look at ourselves and at times to laugh at ourselves.
We need to hold on to the energy and vibrancy of that special celebratory
afternoon to take us effectively into the next forty years. May we continue to
seek and follow the vision of the founders of that little mission church eighty
years ago to serve God and the members of our community.
History of St Nicolas’ – The Early Years
Copies of the book about St Nicolas’ church from 1930-1970 are still
available, price £3.70, at St Nicolas’ after coffee on Sunday mornings, or
please ring Paddy Spurgeon or Joan Bell. Profits will go to the St Nicolas’
St Nicolas – yes, we have adopted him! We have taken him as Patron of one of
our Prestbury churches. We know that he is very popular, with many other
churches named after him.
But who was he? He was Bishop of Myra, a city and port in what we now know as
Turkey. He lived in the 4th century AD when Constantine became the first
Christian Emperor, ruling from Constantinople.
What did Nicolas do? There are so many stories and legends we can only sample
a few. Nicolas was at sea on a journey to the Holy Land. The sailors mocked him
because he said his prayers on deck each day. Then came a vicious storm. The
ship was in danger and the sailors quickly asked Nicolas to start praying, which
he did. The storm abated and they all praised God.
Three girls were due to be sold into prostitution. Nicolas heard of it and
produced three bags of gold to save the children. Then there is the rather
unsavoury tale of the three boys stolen from their mothers and pickled for human
consumption. Nicolas intervenes and Timothy, Mark and John suddenly come to life
and sing Alleluias. There are many other legends, especially about helping in
time of famine.
Another is the story of Nicolas sitting with the bishops at the Council of
Nicaea. Enraged at the heresy of Arius he went over and boxed his ears. What
Did all this really happen? It is tempting to say ‘Don’t ask’. Most of us
don’t want small children to ask whether Santa Claus is real. Legends are passed
on by word of mouth from generation to generation. Stories of saints are told
over and over again sometimes with suitable embellishment. What they do is give
a picture of the person.
St Nicolas is the friend of children, the original Santa Claus. He is patron
saint of sailors, and of pawnbrokers, the pastoral bishop and the fearless
leader of the Church. No wonder he is Patron of one great nation, the people of
Russia. He has inspired many hundreds of churches to take his name and one of
the latest of these is our own St Nicolas’ in Prestbury, this year celebrating
the 40th anniversary of its present church building.
The dramatic nature of the saint’s life inspired Benjamin Britten to write a
cantata called Saint Nicolas which brings out the vitality of his life:
the amazement at his miracles, his greatness as a bishop. Everyone in the
audience is asked to join in, singing a hymn at the end of each part.
Saint Nicolas is being performed on Saturday 27th November at 7.30pm
in Tewkesbury Abbey. Details are given below. Do come if you can!
Britten’s Saint Nicolas
Charlton Kings and Cirencester Choral Societies, with boys from Tewkesbury
Abbey Schola Cantorum, the Girls’ Choir of Chosen Hill School and the Regency
Sinfonia, will perform Saint Nicolas by Benjamin Britten and Awake,
Awake, the World is Young by Ian Venables in Tewkesbury Abbey on Saturday
27th November at 7.30pm. Soloists are James Gilchrist (tenor) and Louise Booker
(mezzo soprano) and the conductors Carleton Etherington and John Wright. The
programme also features Music for Brass by Gordon Jacob. Tickets are £15
(£5 children 5-16) and are available from John and Hilary Gann at St Nicolas’,
from Jill and David Smith and Vivien Kinnear at St Mary’s, and at the door.
St Mary’s Christmas Choir
Want to sing your favourite Christmas carols with a friendly group of
singers? Why not join St Mary’s Choir for the Christmas season? Choir practice
is from 7pm to 8pm on Friday evenings, usually followed by a well-earned visit
to the Plough. The ability to read music is not absolutely necessary; more
important is a willingness to give it a go and enjoy singing!
If this sounds appealing, please contact the Director of Music, David Smith,
Healed, Restored, Forgiven
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to
Zion with singing; Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads. Isaiah
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God
and man, the man Jesus Christ, Who gave himself as a ransom for all.
1 Timothy 2:5&6
And great multitudes gathered to hear and be healed
of their infirmities. Luke 5:15 I will heal their
faithlessness. Hosea 14:4
Restore to me the joy of thy salvation.
Psalm 51:12 He restores my
soul. Psalm 23:3
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will
forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John
And Jesus said, Father, forgive them; for they know
not what they do Luke 23:34 (all RSV)
The above verses from scripture give us a reason why we sing praises to our
God. The hymn, ‘Praise my Soul the King of Heaven’ (which I was pleased
to see on the service sheet for Back to Church Sunday) has four words which I
felt needed further attention. They are: ‘ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven’.
Jesus is still caring in this way for all those who believe in him.
All too often we hear of innocent people being kidnapped and a ransom either
in money or by some one’s life being demanded for their release. In this world
the devil holds us to ransom so that we find it difficult to do right and follow
Christ. Who is going to pay our ransom? No one pays their own ransom. Two
thousand years ago an innocent man went voluntarily to his death on a cross to
pay the ransom for all mankind. That man was Jesus Christ. He died because God
cannot look on sin, and although Jesus was sinless we are not, and Jesus died in
our place so that he can bring us into a right relationship with God.
Jesus is our healer, and he knows what part of us needs healing more than we
do ourselves. He not only heals our body but also our mind and spirit. Read Luke
5:18-26. He doesn’t always answer our prayers in the way we wish, but we can be
certain that he answers them with our well-being in mind.
The dictionary definition for restore is: reinstate, bring back to dignity,
give back to the former owner. God made us in his own image but sin spoilt that
image and God wants to restore us to what he intended us to be. To restore
something can be a lengthy process; for instance if some one is restoring an old
painting, it may have been painted over, or just covered in dirt; the craftsman
is skilled at his work but has to work very slowly and carefully so as not to
damage the masterpiece underneath. He loves his work and reckons the time he
spends is all worth it. So it is with Christ, when he restores our lives he does
it because he loves us and wants the best for us. Restoration starts when we
first receive Jesus as our Lord and Master and continues for our life time.
Jesus died once and for all, for the sins of all mankind. He laid down his
life for us that we may be forgiven and be free.
If Jesus has done all this for us and continues to care for us, is it any
wonder that we should want to sing:
‘Praise my soul the King of heaven
To his feet thy tribute bring:
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Who like me his praise should sing
Praise the everlasting King.’
November – Season of Remembrance
Tuesday 2nd November – All Souls’ Day
There will be a Said Eucharist with commemoration of the
departed at 10am in St Nicolas’ and a Sung Requiem with commemoration of the
departed at 7.30pm in St Mary’s. Lists are available in both churches for you to
record the names of people you would like to be mentioned.
Sunday 14th November – Remembrance Sunday
There will be an Act of Remembrance at St Nicolas’ during the
9.30am Sung Eucharist. In Prestbury village the Act of Remembrance will take
place at the War Memorial at 10.45am followed by the Sung Eucharist in St
At 3.30pm in St Mary’s there will be a Memorial Service. All
are welcome to attend and invitations will be sent to all those who have been
bereaved during the past year and whose relative’s funeral was taken by one of
the parish clergy.
Cheltenham Christian Aid Autumn Fair
Saturday 6th November, St Andrew’s Church, Montpellier,
Stalls and refreshments. Ploughmans lunches £4.00 (available
from 11.30) Do support! Free entry
Friends of St Mary’s
To celebrate our first anniversary we are holding a ‘Roast
Pork and Apple Pie’ party on Saturday 6th November at 7pm in the Prestbury Hall
in Bouncer’s Lane. We hope as many church members as possible will be able to
join us. This will be an opportunity to meet members of the wider Prestbury
community who are not regular churchgoers but who have responded nobly to the
call to provide financial support for the upkeep of the church and churchyard.
To date the Friends have contributed a total of £17,200.
Tickets for the ‘Roast Pork and Apple Pie’ party, which
includes entertainment by the Gloucestershire Morris Men, who will be performing
a Mummers Play followed by folk singing, cost £7.50 and are available from Phil
Dodd, Jim Mackie and Gill Wood. Everyone is welcome to attend.
‘Thank you, God, for Rockers!’
A party to celebrate the fantastic contribution Rockers has
made to the life of Prestbury over the past 35 years will be held on Sunday 7th
November at 3.00pm in St Mary’s Church. Prayers will be also said for Vicky, as
the date is close to the anniversary of her accident. We hope to see lots of
former Rockers there to give thanks and ask God to continue to guide us.
‘Jesus may I walk your way in all I do and all I say. Amen’
Autumn Churchyard Tidy
I am sure many of you will have noticed how well the
churchyard has been kept this summer. Thanks must go to the regular band of
mowers who work hard keeping the churchyard so well kept. To assist the regular
team we would like as many additional helpers as possible to help tidy the
churchyard before winter. It is planned to have a churchyard tidy up on Saturday
13th November. Help will be needed to gather up all the fallen leaves, clear
gulleys and generally tidy up. Any time anyone can give to these activities will
be greatly appreciated.
St Mary’s Bakestall
It will be the turn of the G-M team to bake for the stall on
Sunday 21st November.
We sent £20 each to Viva and Lepra from the
September stall and the proceeds from October to Christian Aid, which
will benefit from the EEC initiative to match every pound donated with another
£9. This means that the generous £70 which we raised in October will become £700
for Christian Aid. Too good to miss this!
Margaret Waker & Linda Matthews
This month’s Mothers’ Union meeting is on Tuesday 23rd
November at 7.30pm at St Nicolas’ Church, when the speaker will be Dee Graham,
who will give us some Christmas Craft ideas. Everyone most welcome.
Sylvia Mckenzie, Branch Leader
Advent Quiet Afternoon
On Saturday 11th December Father Paul will be leading an
Advent Reflection in All Saints’, beginning at midday with a light lunch. Space
is not limited but if you wish to have lunch, we do need to know in advance.
Please give your name to Margaret Compton, Karen Winder or Deacon Jennifer.
Please continue to remember in your prayers all those leading
and taking part in the Alpha course on Tuesday mornings.
Confirmation in 2011
Please speak to one of the clergy if you would like to
consider joining a confirmation preparation group. This group will begin meeting
in January in preparation for a confirmation service in Gloucester Cathedral on
7th May 2011.
The St Nicolas’ Hall committee are looking for some new
members to join the team. All you need to give is a couple of hours of your time
to attend the meetings which are held every three months. For more information,
please speak to Peter Attwood (chairman of the committee) at church or via the
team office (tel 244373).
We have booked another Team weekend at Sidholme in Sidmouth,
Devon, from 23rd to 25th September 2011, providing opportunities to relax, enjoy
one another’s company and take advantage of the fantastic facilities, including
good accommodation, excellent food, beautiful grounds and an indoor heated
There will be times of worship, activities and sharing in
small groups, as well as an evening of ‘home-grown’ entertainment. Suitable for
all ages – from 0 upwards – and if you have not been before, why not ask someone
who has to tell you all about it? You can view
years on this parish website or
go to the website
www.christianguild.co.uk/sidholme for details of Sidholme hotel.
Prices range from £95 to £140 per person (reduced rates for children) with the
cost of a coach extra. We have booked the whole hotel (120 places). Please
complete an application form and return it as soon as possible to the Team
Office or a Churchwarden with your deposit. Please make cheques payable to