Welcome to the March edition of 'From the Vicar'. To begin, I would like to say some public thank yous. Many of you will know that Gillian and I have just returned from a once in a life time four week holiday in New Zealand. We were visiting Gillian's sister Kate and family in Auckland. They emigrated seven years ago, so it was absolutely wonderful to share in the new life that they have made on the other side of the world. We were particularly thrilled that Gillian's nephew who now lives in London, also flew back to New Zealand for part of our visit. It was a very special time indeed. An unexpected bonus was meeting up with Nick and Ruth Totterdell who were in New Zealand at the same time visiting their daughter Anna and her husband James. We had a lovely lunch and afternoon together.
So I am hugely grateful to the wardens, staff and volunteers who made our time away possible. It was wonderful to come home to find All Saints in such good heart. We had missed you very much. At the same time, I was delighted by conversations with members of the church family who wanted to tell me 'everything went really well while you were away' and 'the staff team were brilliant, everything ran so smoothly'. So my especial thanks go to Dan Christian and Rachel McLafferty and the team for the extra responsibilities shouldered in my absence. They are undoubtedly 'brilliant' and we are all hugely in their debt.
It has been very exciting to return to see the upgrading work in progress at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at Whirlow. The work is going really well and the chapel will be very ready for the 60th anniversary rededication service in September. The upgrade includes double-glazing to all windows, an improved kitchen, toilets, data projector/TV screen and lots more storage space. Once it is complete, the whole facility will be very much more useable for us, Whirlow Grange Ltd and the wider community. Huge thanks go to John Stride and Whirlow Grange Ltd for leading the project. In the meantime we have been able to welcome a number of ‘Whirlow’ activities to the All Saints church building and I am grateful to the operations team for all that they have done to accommodate the extra meetings and services. Watch this space for more news.
Coming closer to home, I have come home to an important update from the Church Architect. In preparation for discussion about a possible extension to the church, the PCC commissioned a survey of the crypt and the areas to the south and the north of the church building. A little bit like the TV programme Time Team, we had a laser survey to map what we cannot see under the ground around the church. In particular we are keen to detect graves and any other structures that might stop the idea of an extension from the outset. As the PCC has prepared to talk with the wider church family about a possible extension, we realised that many would quite rightly want to explore the potential of the crypt. PCC members are now thinking through our response to the surveys. Please have a chat with them for an update.
This year our Easter celebrations will begin with a Messy Church event on Palm Sunday where we will be joined by a donkey for the first time. While on Maundy Thursday we will be holding the Big Bring and Share Agape meal at 7pm in Church.
Following Jesus’s teaching at the Last Supper the theme for the evening will be servanthood. In response to this the staff team have offered to serve the church family that evening.
It will be a very special Maundy evening meal for all ages. Everyone is invited and asked to bring some savoury food to share as well as wine/soft drinks. A sign up sheet is now in the Welcome Area.
Looking further ahead, I am eager to encourage everyone to save the date for the BIG CHURCH WEEKEND AWAY – Friday 25 January to Sunday 27 January 2019. We have booked the whole of the Palace Hotel in Buxton for this. Our speaker for the weekend will be Daniel McGuinness who teaches the New Testament at St Hild College. He is a lot of fun and very engaging. His teaching is always applied to everyday life. I am also really pleased that Bishop David and Helen Williams have agreed to act as chaplains for the weekend, and that Joy Adams from Whirlow has accepted my invitation to lead optional early morning and late night prayers. The hotel has great food and facilities including an indoor pool and multi-gym. It is very suitable for a multi-generation church family of all ages. Booking will open after Easter.
Yours in the service of Christ Jesus