Review of the year by Churchwarden and Lay Chair

PCC Meetings and Committees

The PCC has met seven times during the year; all meetings have been quorate. One Benefice meeting was held with the PCC of St Thomas’ Milnthorpe to meet with the Archdeacon to discuss matters relating to the appointment of a new Priest in Charge.

The Standing Committee has met regularly between PCC meetings and then reported to the following PCC meeting. It comprises the Priest in Charge, Warden(s), Secretary, Treasurer, Mr Tony Hesmondhalgh. For the period of the vacancy, ex Wardens, Mrs Sue Mellor and Miss Sylvia Read have been co-opted and Revd Colin Honour and Prof Annie Garden attend as a link to the Ministry Team.

The Agenda for each PCC meeting includes several standing items, along with specific items for discussion and decision or for information. The standing items are reports from the:

  • Treasurer (inc management accounts)                      
  • Secretary
  • Standing Committee
  • Churchwarden(s) 
  • Fabric Committee
  • Safeguarding Officer
  • Deanery Synod
  • Christians Together in Milnthorpe & Heversham
  • Kent Estuary Mission Community Steering Group
  • KEY (Kent Estuary Youth Project) Trustees

Items 1 to 6 deal with on-going business of St Peter’s. Items 7 to 10 relate to St Peter’s connections with the wider Christian Community in the area.

Copies of the agenda for each meeting are displayed in the Dallam Chapel ahead of the meeting. Meetings are open for members of the congregation to attend and observe. On the Sunday following each meeting, headline jottings from the meeting are included in the weekly notice sheet and the draft minutes are displayed in the Dallam Chapel (electronic copies are available to members of the congregation on request).

A Fabric Committee has been established to support the Warden(s) and advise the PCC on matters relating to the maintenance and care of the buildings and churchyard. A group has been formed under the Chairmanship of Mrs Celia Wilkinson to refurbish the Old School and to bring it back into use in order to explore potential community benefit.

The Window on the World Group (WoW) meets regularly to pray for, and keep informed about, the organisations that the church supports financially. It arranges for information to be shared with the wider congregation through occasional speakers at Sunday services. The WoW Group advises the PCC on the allocation of the annual tithe.

In 2016, the PCC has continued the recent practice of holding periodic open discussion evenings with members of the congregation. Two such sessions have been held during the year, in June and November. One particular outcome of the first was the coming together of a group to test out the use of the Old School as a community resource. Following discussion at the second, the PCC applied to the Diocesan Advisory Committee for preliminary advice on the options for improvements to access and facilities for people with disabilities.

During 2016, the PCC has reviewed and revised the Safeguarding and Health and Safety Policies and agreed a new Data Protection policy.

PCC responsibilities

The PCC is responsible for the fabric of St Peter’s. It is deeply conscious that it is the custodian of a beautiful building which carries within it evidence of the faithful witness of centuries of our Christian forebears. It is a living heritage to be preserved and enhanced as we too, pass it on to our successors. As such it presents a major challenge, because listed ancient buildings cost a great deal of money to maintain and to heat for use; they generate a seemingly endless list of practical tasks and their form may not be ideal for contemporary purposes.

The Churchwardens’ Report that follows, itemises the key actions and issues relating to the PCC’s responsibility for the fabric and furnishings during 2016.

The PCC is also responsible for the finances of St Peter’s. The generous giving of the congregation has made it possible to meet essential expenditure and to rebuild the reserves to a prudent level, whilst maintaining the policy of tithing one tenth of our income. St Peter’s has continued to contribute to diocesan costs through a Parish Offer that meets half the identified costs of ministry plus 10% of the previous full year’s income. However, the planned giving to St Peter’s is disproportionately dependent upon a small number of people and the church has been very fortunate in being able to benefit from the generous support of the Rhoda Thompson Trust. An appeal will be required to meet the costs of essential repairs to the roof, as well as improving access and facilities for people with disabilities as part of meeting our obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act.

The Treasurer’s Report that follows, identifies the details of income and expenditure in 2016 and a statement of accounts, together with a budget for 2017.

Stewardship of the fabric and finance is a core part of the function of the PCC, and both present significant challenges. However, the PCC must endeavour to ensure that these issues do not obscure the PCC’s wider responsibility to support and sustain the whole mission of the church.

At the heart of this is the continuing cycle of collective worship. As in previous years the PCC has been keen to see a range of service formats used, in order that different styles of worship are available to reflect differing approaches amongst the congregation. Following Revd Sue Wilson’s retirement, the same pattern of worship has been maintained and for that the congregation owe a debt of gratitude to the members of the Ministry Team who give so unstintingly of their time. We are also grateful to Canon Ruth Crossley and Rev Annette Miller, from Levens, whose help in sustaining the 8.00am communion service has been much valued.

The holding of joint main Sunday morning services with St Thomas's has continued, both on a scheduled rotation and to meet particular circumstances, for example during August. On some fifth Sundays, there has been a United Service in which St Peter’s and St Thomas’ join with St John’s, Levens, and this is something that may well be developed further in 2017.

The PCC has considered the provision that is made for Public Worship through Communion by Extension – whereby designated lay people may lead a service in which bread and wine previously consecrated by a priest can be administered. We have expressed a willingness for this to be adopted and await further details from the Diocese about the training and preparation.

Trevor Thomas, Brian Paynes, John Scott, Alan Macpherson and Arthur Dewhurst all play the organ/piano for services. Simon, Emily and Olivia Budd and Celia and Bob Wilkinson also bring their musical talents to support particular services. Music is an important part of our worship and we are grateful to them all. At Christmas, we were delighted to welcome back the hand bell ringers. A loyal team ring the church bells for the main Sunday service.

Collective worship is complemented by prayer. A prayer session has continued on Saturdays and Tuesdays. Prayer Ministry is offered at the main Sunday morning services and an active Prayer Chain is in place, praying for individuals or situations brought to its attention.

Study and Learning is supported through four home groups which meet regularly. The latest of these is an ecumenical group from St Peter's, St Thomas and Storth Church, which started in May in Storth, with the blessing of Revd Sue Wilson and Revd David Cooper. A very successful Parish Weekend at Home, led by Bishop Cyril Ashton, was attended by 30+ people. Twenty-six travelled to a session at the Keswick Convention.

A small Pastoral Care team have, with the Priest-in-Charge, met with people at home, in residential care or in hospital. St Peter’s shares in the rota to provide a Communion Service in the chapel at Westmorland General and on the hospital Radio.

The relationship with the schools has been further developed during the year. Children from Heversham St Peter’s Church of England Primary School have attended particular services in Church but an especially valuable contact has been the dedicated work of a team from St Peter’s and St Thomas who take Open the Book into the school (and also to Milnthorpe Primary School). The simple dramatization of bible stories is valued by staff and pupils. Dallam School have again used St Peter’s for particular events and, unlike last year, the church bonfire for the young people from the Boarding House was not cancelled because of the weather.

Simon Budd retired as a Foundation Governor of the Primary School and Rev Colin Honour was nominated by the PCC to replace him. The Foundation Governors play a key role, on behalf of St Peter’s, in supporting the church school and its management.

As a result of an ad hoc collection, St Peter’s congregation gave the Primary School a donation of £150 to mark the school being placed first equal in the County as a result of their outstanding SATs results.

Following comments made at an open Discussion evening with the PCC, a small informal group came together to explore the idea of bringing the Old School back into commission and using it as a social action project to provide some community benefit. In the light of an enthusiastic response, the PCC invited Celia Wilkinson to lead a small group to develop the idea and to take it forward in conjunction with the PCC. Generous donations and some real enthusiasm mean that this project is likely to materialise in the early part of 2017, testing out the role that the building and volunteers may be able to play.

The PCC is also aware of St Peter’s in its wider context.

It has three representatives who are members of the Kendal Deanery Synod. The Synod has three business meetings a year. It receives regular reports on issues being considered at Diocesan and General Synods and this year began to develop a programme for its meetings which gives some time for updates and information sharing, but which focusses in particular on a specific theme. In July, it was work with young people and in October it was about buildings and insurance. In recognition of the God for All strategy it is seeking increasingly to align its agenda to relevant themes and to reflect what Mission Communities may need. In line with the ecumenical commitment of the Diocese, it now has representation from other denominations.

St Peter’s is part of Christians Together in Milnthorpe and Heversham, with representatives on the Committee. Reports now come routinely to the PCC and we look for increasing engagement in their activities.

The Kent Estuary Youth (KEY) Project was an outcome of the former Kent Estuary Group, of which St Peter’s was a part. A commissioning Service was held in March, attended by people from St Peter’s. KEY has a growing range of activity and engagement with young people in the area and periodic updates are shared with the congregation. The PCC now receives regular reports from the Trustees.

As part of the God for All strategy, it is intended that Mission Communities should be formed across the Diocese. These will be ecumenical groupings of the Christian congregations in an area, formed in order to reach out to everyone in the county and also to maximise the growth of disciples within existing congregations.

Heversham will be part of a new Kent Estuary Mission Community. A Steering Group has been formed to consider how this should be established and the form it will take. It is under the independent chairmanship of Annie Garden and each congregation has a representative on it. The St Peter’s representative reports back to the PCC after each meeting and has sought comment from the PCC members so that his contribution to the discussion reflects the views of the PCC as a whole. It is hoped that there will be some firm proposals to share with the wider congregation by Easter 2017.

Looking ahead

As we move from 2016 into 2017, we face major challenges.

During the year, we expect that a new Priest in Charge will be appointed, but that they will not live in the parish and will have direct responsibility for a third parish, as well as for input into the Mission Community. We expect that the Mission Community will begin to establish a plan of action and outreach with which we need to engage. We need to launch an appeal for the capital works and of course we need to sustain the continuing activity of the kind outlined above.  

It had been intended to develop a new Mission Action Plan for 2016–19, drawing on the input of the congregation back in late 2015. For various reasons this was not possible. In December 2016, the PCC approved a one year, interim Plan to ensure that a momentum is maintained through the vacancy. As part of that approval they recognised the need for effective communication about the contents of the plan and the action arising from it, which will begin early in 2017.

St Peter’s is fortunate to have many dedicated and skilled lay people who give of their time and talents and without whom none of these things would happen. However, it does have to be a concern that, notwithstanding this, in 2016 there have been two unfilled churchwarden posts and two vacant PCC seats. The one current warden, Jill Shaw, will stand down at the APCM because she is moving away. The wardens in particular, and the PCC in general, have key leadership roles in the life of the church; their importance will increase, rather than decrease, as Lay Leadership becomes increasingly central to the way that the Anglican church operates. We will need to consider how best the members of the congregation can support the Wardens.

In 2016 we bade farewell to Revd Sue Wilson, who retired after ten years with us. Seventy-plus people gathered in the Athenaeum to wish her well at an open party and Jacob's Join. As the year ends, we do not know when a new Priest-in-Charge will be appointed. Inevitably, the burden of leading services falls more heavily upon members of the Ministry Team and there is additional responsibility on the one Warden. However, a vacancy can be a period of refreshment and growth and there are signs that this is the case on this occasion.

Conclusion

The life of St Peter’s is of course very much more than the sum of the PCC’s activity. The worship and witness; prayer and care; learning and journeying are all sustained by the faith, commitment and involvement of all who attend St Peter’s.

As a PCC, we aim to find ways to rise constructively to the challenges of our time and place, and to discharge our responsibilities in His name, with and for our colleagues in the community of St Peter’s.  We seek to ensure that we can pass on to our successors a strong and sustainable presence of the body of Christ in Heversham.

Jill Shaw,
Lay Chair.