Archives November 2007

Church Hall


I want to talk about the Church Hall. At the last PCC meeting in November we began to discuss the church hall and its long term future for the first time. At that it was mentioned that some people believe that it’s already happened. Don’t listen to rumours, especially those put about by others who want to stir up trouble, but now, as soon as I can and before any decisions are made, I want to have a serious discussion with you about it.

The situation is this: the Hall is just over 100 years old, and in all honesty, it is in a very poor condition. When we did the deanery-wide asset audit, we had to rate it (on a scale of A-D) at C-.

It has intractable damp, an appalling flat roof, poor storage facilities and flaking walls. It costs quite a lot to maintain yet because of its condition, rents and therefore income is quite low. Yet, it provides a most necessary community role in this area – as well as a focus for our community outreach in the form of our hugely successful youth work and other mission work which are the primary reason why we have these rooms.

Twenty Years ago, we put a door in the South Wall of the Church to link to a hall provision in the churchyard. The churchyard of course has been closed for more than 100 years, we had the gravestones removed over 40 years ago and the corner of it removed 30 years ago to make the junction wider. We didn’t follow the new Church Hall plans through then, apparently because of cost (readers of Mike & Mary Talbot’s book will easily identify this pattern).

Ten years ago, we began to look at the value of the hall site. Even then it was significant, and the PCC looked into obtaining planning permission for the Hall site to turn into flats or houses. So plans for the Church Hall have been a long time in the formation.

In the meantime, we have the challenge of a half-reordered church, a new vigor for mission and outreach and a church which is “all front room and no parlour” – woefully lacking in storage space, decent heating or fellowship space which does not require a significant logistical challenge to move from Church to Hall, and are still not paying our way, and so the increasing costs of the hall are weighing upon our finances.

A number of things appear clear: we must do something, as in the future, our church cannot sustain the current situation. We therefore need to think about our options. No decision has been made as yet and no explorations have been entered into, despite what you may hear! The PCC want to hear your opinions on our options:

Option One: Do Nothing
The easiest solution will continue to drain our finances. Major repair works to the back rooms, the roof and the outside paving will mean that far from hall rents subsidizing the parish quota, the parish will be called on to underwrite these works.

Option Two: Rebuild a new hall on the existing site.
We would need to raise several hundred thousand pounds in order to achieve this. As we have difficulty paying our £23,000 quota, it becomes only possible with the aid of a lottery win.

Option Three: Sell and Rebuild in the Church Grounds with a major rebuild
We have as yet no idea how much the existing Church Hall site is worth, and we won’t ask until we feel this is the right way forward. How we do this is also the subject of debate: whether we get planning permission prior to sale (which will raise significantly more money), sell it directly or enter into an arrangement with a Housing Association (a sort of PFI – Private Finance Initiative type deal) are all possibilities, your opinion on which we would welcome. The sale of the hall could raise a significant amount, but a major permanent rebuild on the south side of the Church (joined by the South Door) might take all of that amount and maybe a little more, realizing nothing for the needs of the Church – to finish the reordering (leveling the floor, heating and lighting, internal painting and a permanent font) as suggested in our vision document.

Option Four: Sell and Rebuild in the Church Grounds with a modular building
The process of selling is the same as Option Three – aim to get as much money as we possibly can for the Hall site. I initially was quite skeptical about a modular building: I originally thought of Portakabins. I was then involved with the implementation of the Elson, Forton & Hardway Children’s Centre which will be a modular building. This is a building which costs a fraction of a permanent building and has a life of fifty to sixty years! I was astounded that a building of such quality and durability can actually be so permanent.

The advantage of this solution is that it can be built considerably cheaper, thus realizing money to complete the reordering of the church. This also means that we can provide a better community provision within Elson, within walking distance of the centre of the community and a focus for church and community life. It had been thought or rumoured that previous attempts to do this were prevented over parking issues, but the documentary evidence suggests this is not the case. If we place the hall by the church then we can fully integrate the church and community – moving seamlessly from one to the other after Mass, in Sunday School and Youth Work, Mother’s Union and many other kinds of mission and outreach as well as providing a better home for all the other groups which hire our hall.

The future is always a difficult thing to consider, and the decisions we make now will be our legacy for future generations. We have achieved so much with the reordering of the Church and it would seem logical to complete this work with the available resources we have.

Across the Diocese, the second phase of the Kairos process is encouraging churches to ask serious questions about their buildings, and are providing a great deal of resources and advice on just the kind of thing we need to be thinking about. We are the owners of that whole site, and the Uniformed Organisations are our tenants. We have finally found the documents which confirm the agreement between the Scouts and the Rev. Drake in the 1960s.

We need to be praying about all this: Seek the Lord’s guidance and then share it with us. There should be no excuse for the people of this parish not having a contribution to this debate and no-one, either inside the church or in the wider community.

Are there any other options? If you can think of one, then please let me know. We face challenging times, and we in the parish need to find creative solutions for our problems. We cannot hide away from them, but in a spirit of openness, I want your advice on this one.

Christmas Fayre

Well, the Christmas Fayre took a lot out of me: it’s Wednesday and I am still exhausted after it. During the event, I can keep going for ages (although I did I am sorry to say, let it get the better of me when it came to the raffle draw), but recovery takes much much longer. I think I am getting old.

We held it in Church, for two reasons, firstly because the condition of the hall continues to embarass me: it is a cold, fairly unwelcoming space, away from the focus of parish life: the Church and secondly, because we thought the Church was somewhere special to share in this fellowship and activity.


The Church was busy, buzzing and lively, and yet people could still come up the sanctuary for a prayer and a candle. It was about embedding the Church in the Community and vice-versa. The result was over £900 raised.


Set-up took from Friday Mass onwards, with little sleep that night, from 8am on Saturday and didn’t finish until long past 5pm. Some people stayed right to the bitter end for the clear-up and their hard work made all the difference, as the Church was turned back into a proper worship space for the following day. Father Christmas was great (and we thank him for taking time from his busy work schedule to come to be with us), the cakes were fab and the fellowship was wonderful.

It was, however, a long and stressful day for me, laden down with cold. I have to be honest and admit that with a failing voice and two (don’t ask) raffles to draw, I wanted to draw the tickets as quickly as possible to keep the momentum going. Slow down! about twenty people seemed to have a go at once and I regrettably snapped back at them. I was tired. My voice was failing. Sorry. We are all human.

The following day we celebrated the feast of Christ the King and admitted into our community a group of young people who had been preparing for it through special course called Welcome to the Lord’s Table by Margaret Withers.

As part of that that preparation, we shared a Jewish Seder meal:


and saw how much like the Eucharistic Prayer it was. It was so good that I think I will offer it during Holy Week for the whole congregation, both Adults and Children in this form. We had planned this a couple of years ago, but the person who had learning and insight into this left the Church, so it didn’t happen.

Rather than patronising the kids, I wanted them to be a key part of the ministry to us, so they led the Ministry of the Word and the Intercessions and the littlest were acolytes. It all worked lovely.

We used the following changes to the liturgy:


Come, let us return to the Lord and say:

Dear God,
you made me,
you love me,
I’m sorry when I’m angry
or I hurt other people.
Thank you for taking care of me.

May the God of love and power
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by his Spirit,
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord.

Baptismal Creed

Brothers and sisters, I ask you to profess our common faith in Jesus Christ.

Do you believe and trust in God the Father,
source of all being and life,
the one for whom we exist?
I believe and trust in him.

Do you believe and trust in God the Son,
who took our human nature,
died for us and rose again?
I believe and trust in him.

Do you believe and trust in God the Holy Spirit,
who gives life to the people of God
and makes Christ known in the world?
I believe and trust in him.

This is the faith of the Church.
This is our faith.
We believe and trust in one God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Admission to Holy Communion

The Priest says:

In baptism we are made members of Christ’s family. As members of that family, we gather together to share in this meal which he gave us as a continuing sign of his living presence among us. We do this in obedience to Jesus’ command which he gave at this last supper with his friends on the night before he died.

To the candidates the priest says

Today is an important stage in your Christian journey, which began at your baptism. We welcome you as you come to receive Holy Communion for this first time.

The priest addresses the children by name:

Do you wish to be admitted to Holy Communion and to share regularly in this meal?

The children reply together:

The priest addresses the parents, godparents and sponsors:

Will you help these children to grow in faith and come to confirmation?

The parents reply together:
We will.

The priest addresses the congregation

Will you welcome these children as communicant members of Christ’s family and support them with your friendship and your prayers?

The congregation replies:
We will.

The priest prays for the children (taking them by the hand and standing in a circle with them):

Lord Jesus Christ, we pray for these children
who today receive bread and wine for the first time in your name.
Give them such a sense of the mystery
of your body and blood,
that day by day
they may grow to be more like you.

and says:

In the name of Kenneth, Bishop of Portsmouth, I welcome you to the sacrament of Holy Communion. May God +bless you as you continue with us on your journey of faith.

It was lovely!

I like the Creed especially. There is a place for that Creed in the main liturgy, perhaps in the penitential seasons… like Advent. Hmmmm.

Unsubscribe Me

Amnesty International have made this really really scary short film about torture techniques and are inviting us all to view them and then perhaps choose to ‘unsubscribe’ from them – to let Governments (ie the UK and US ones – better we put our own houses in order before we turn to Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia and Burma eh?) that we the people don’t approve of this.

It’s totally outrageous that this technique is authorised, used, and taught by us. This comes hot on the heals of reading some terrible stuff about Waterboarding here which we also seem to consider to be okay.

Gaze on this image: The Tortured Christ

It was painted by an artist who was himself a victim of torture. See – he understands.

Unsubscribe me.


One of the greatest regrets is that there is no bell at St Thomas the Apostle. There is a bellcote but it has been inactive since the 1960’s. I suspect the same iconoclasm which covered up the balcony removed the bell. The original is missing and there is a bell from the St Matthew’s Mission Hut (now an aggregates yard on the A32). My desire ere I leave is to get that bell up and working and an audible statement of the mission of the church.

What I dearly miss is the ringing of the Angelus, which has a long tradition here at St Thomas’ – when Jane and I started to pray the Hail Mary openly in intercessions, one of the ladies asked “Why don’t we use that long version of the Hail Mary that Mrs Grace used to use?”

We looked puzzled for a moment. “Long version?”

“Yes, the long version… The Angel of the Lord brought tidings to Mary…

Blessed Josie, backbone of this parish for so many years kept the Angelus at the beginning of the Daily Office each day, faithfully, even when others had turned their back on this essential prayer.

So, today at the Deanery Midday Office, for the Presentation of the BVM, we will use an Angelus, even if it is a recorded one. So, for anyone else who hasn’t got a bell, please feel free to use this one…

Quiz Night Victory

I have to report (with some degree of the sin of pride) that the St Thomas’ teams did really well. Not only did we raise two whole teams, but one of them won the best team name – Hayzamazers, led by Mother Margaret (the other team, the one I was in was called Father’s Failures – I think we would have won if we’d had gone for my suggestion – “Father knows —- All”)

Final Result:

Hayzamazers – Third

Father’s Failures – First!!!! So my congratulations to my team mates: Lou, Fee, Tony, Alison and Andi

A good time was had by all – laughs, wine, good bangers and mash. Well done to St. Johns for organising it. Where to now team?

Christmas Services

Come to St. Thomas the Apostle this Christmas
(on the corner of Elson Road and Elson Lane)

Friday Dec 14th
7.30pm Spirit of Christmas, Church Hall

Sunday Dec 16th
4pm Nine Lessons and Carols

Friday Dec 21st
6.30pm Carols on Palmyra Broadway
7.30pm Carols in the Three Tuns

Sunday Dec 23rd
10am Parish Mass & Nativity Service

Christmas Eve
4pm Children’s Christingle Service
7pm Vigil Mass (a simple, said, 30 min mass for those who can’t make any other time)
11.30pm Midnight Mass with incense

Christmas Day
8am Mass of the Dawn
10am Parish Mass with incense

Boxing Day (26th), St John (27th), Holy Innocents (28th) – Simple, Said Mass Daily at 10am – an oasis of calm in a frantic week

More information: or call/text Fr. Simon on 07976 802123


St Thomas the Apostle Quiz Teams

I am pleased to be able to field at least two teams at the neighbouring parish’s Quiz Night tonight. We have, I believe, 12 people coming – a good turn out.

Last year, we came second. We will have to better that tonight, although that might be limited by the amount of wine consumed!

We have a week to go before the Christmas Fayre. Not a lot organised, and I fear that it will be Lou and I left holding the rather substantial baby. Pray for people to come forward and support the day, support the church and hence the mission of the parish. Otherwise, it just feels like an alone struggle.

Advent Confession

I think the challenge of the Deanery Midday Office has been a source of inspiration for me.

Our Deanery Clergy meet weekly to pray, share a coffee and sort out the deanery. It is the most functional deanery I have ever encountered and we come up with ideas, solutions and support each other in radical and creative ways. If only all Deanery Chapters were like this.

We take turns to host the meetings for a month at a time and this month it is my turn. One key decision of last year was to replace the slightly monastic Midday Office (based around the recitation of Psalm 119 and heavily dependent on all of us being able to sing Plainchant!) with something of our own each time: variety was the key. It was a lovely office, and as a Mirfield boy, I loved the chant.

My solution for this month has been to engage in alt.midday – Blesséd comes to the chapter. We have had two engaging acts of midday worship which have included ritual, lectio divina, and various meditations drawn from the blogosphere.

This Advent Confession comes from Cheryl, a hugely creative URC minister running alt.worship in the prisons of Australia. I love the raw honesty of some of the stuff she writes, so please feel free to use this as you wish:

The images come from a sunrise over the Himalayas and the music is by the Cocteau Twins (remember them ? Ahhh, sweet memory)

Meditation / Ritual: Love & Self Control

Taken from The Stations of the Spirit, you will need a small pile of palm-sized stones, a few sponges (natural or bath, it does not matter) and a bucket of water. Not a visually exciting video, but you should be focused on Nicola’s words and the ritual. Use freely.

Eucharistic Theology Test

Are you surprised? Equal scores for Catholic and Orthodox. Make of that what you will.
Eucharistic theology
created with
You scored as CatholicYou are a Catholic. You believe that the bread and wine are transformed by the priest and become the Body and Blood of Christ. Though the accidents, or appearance, of bread and wine remain, the substance has been changed. The Eucharist remains the Body and Blood of Christ after the celebration, and is reserved in the Tabernacle; Eucharistic devotions are proper. As the whole Christ is present under either species, you partake fully of the Eucharist even if you receive only one.