This year our staff team has been increased. In July Neil, together with Vickie and Joseph, joined us as a deacon. He has come to us with much experience and many proven skills and has fitted in very well. He has taken charge of the Lighthorne Heath team and has introduced Café Church with the effect of doubling the congregation. New people have come forward, two alpha courses have been run and childrens ministry continues. He has also prepared a team to introduce Messy Church to the benefice. We hope this successful initiative will continue to rotate around the parishes.
Peter Byrd has been admitted as a Reader and so we now have a team of 4 Readers. Gillian Jones is busy with her Reader training and another Reader, Gemma North from Harbury, often helps in the benefice. We are tremendously grateful for this team.
The Diocesan aims are Worshipping God; making new disciples; transforming communities. These are reflected in our own benefice as well.
We have enjoyed another year of worshipping God together. We offer a wide range of services which include BCP Holy Communion and Matins, CW Eucharist and Evening Prayer, Celtic worship, Prime Time, Café Church, Messy Church and much else! The range of worship we offer for a small benefice is impressive.
Through a number of initiatives we have reached new people. Alpha courses, Advent and Lent courses (The Big Questions? and What is the Church for?) have all played their part in helping people to grow in their faith.
Transforming communities is, perhaps more difficult to assess. But I think in many of the villages there is a growing sense of celebration of living in community and the identity of the benefice has continued to grow over the last few years thanks to the benefice magazine, joint services, joint PCC meetings, having a Parish Administrator (Sam Lloyd) and other initiatives. Certainly the relationship between Lighthorne Heath and Lighthorne has been transformed and much of that is the result of the Lighthorne Heath team reaching out to young people and the wider community.
Over the past year there have been 7 baptisms, 7 weddings and 11 funerals in the benefice.
I would like to thank all the churchwardens, PCC members and others involved in a variety of ministries (playing the organ, music group, reading and leading intercessions, serving refreshments, cleaning, bell ringing, flower arranging, etc). All your contributions are greatly appreciated and help to make us who we are.
Some highlights from the Parishes are:
- The Bishop of Coventry visited the benefice and took the service and preached at St Georges.
- Evening Prayer now starts at 4pm with tea served at 3.30pm. This is proving to be a much more popular time.
- Another very successful fete was held at the Church and almost £2,000 was raised.
- The new chairs are in place in the front of the nave.
- The organ has been repaired.
- Over 50 people attended a Thank you Celebration in Church for those who help with the cleaning, flower arranging, etc. It was a very enjoyable occasion.
- A Sacred and Secular Concert was held, with the organist Adrian Moore; the choir from Holy Trinity, Leamington sang Evensong; Wellesbourne Choral Society performed a Christmas Concert.
- Another Tree of Light service was well supported.
- About 150 people of all ages attended the Crib Service, despite extremely cold weather (-10C).
- Our thanks to John Tarver for looking after the churchyard for 57 Years!
- The Fair Trade and Local Produce shop has continued to meet monthly in the Ashorne Village Hall with Glebe Farm selling local meat and vegetables. Homemade cakes and greetings cards are also on sale.
- There is new path to the Church.
- The refurbished peel of 3 bells was dedicated by the Bishop of Warwick. The project was funded by local donors.
- Many bulbs and wild flowers have been planted in the churchyard.
- A very successful Chesterton Prom Concert was held with several hundred people attending. £1,000 was raised for Cancer Research and also for the Church.
- A decision has been made to repair the churchyard wall East of the main gate. This will begin later this month.
- There were full congregations for Harvest Festival (with a choir from Harbury) and the Christmas Carol Service (with soloist David Ryan) despite temperatures of -12C.
- A new treasurer and secretary have been appointed.
- A rustic toilet has been placed in the NE corner of the churchyard.
- An archaeological survey has been completed, thus clearing the way for the launch of the John Howard Davis Room project.
- The combined School and Church fete went very well.
- The Shout Gospel Choir gave another concert.
- There was a College Carol service in the Church with refreshments afterwards in the Student Union.
- The school children are having an assembly or a service in the church twice a term, as well as weekly assemblies in school. The Fish Club is now meeting again every half term, headed up by Marilyn Boardman. Seasonal art work is being displayed in church.
- There are regular flower arranging workshops.
- Prime Time has continued to be led by a strong lay team.
- A new childrens area has been designated at the West end of the church.
- A womens bible study group meets each fortnight.
- Another Songs of Praise service was organised by Libby Struthers. It was very well attended.
- The Harvest Festival project at the School and in the Parish resulted in twinning with 7 toilets in Burundi (through CORD).
- A rustic toilet has been placed at the back of the Church tower.
- The evening services every Sunday in the Village Hall have developed into Café Church. They are from 5.30pm 7pm and refreshments are served. We are very grateful to Neil and the leadership team for sharing the ministries of leading worship, speaking and catering. Average Sunday attendance is almost 30.
- A Home group meets weekly and the second Alpha course has just begun.
- Over 20 young people attended Venture and Falcon Camps over the summer. Several also attended Soul Survivor and New Wine.
- The Get Together Club meets weekly.
- The Midnight service and also Carols around the Village were very well supported.
- A combined fete for the Church and the Village Hall was held at Geoffrey and Sheila Barretts home.
- A new public address system is working well.
- A new boiler has been installed making the central heating system more efficient.
- The Good Friday walk through the parishes, lunch at the Lighthorne Village Hall and service was supported by about 50 people.
- A presentation of photographs from the benefices retreat on Holy Island raised £125 towards a Holy Land project.
- A Thank you Celebration and cream tea for those who clean the church, arrange flowers, ring bells, etc was attended by about 50 people.
- A pet service was held this year (17 dogs, a horse and a hamster) and all were invited to the Old Rectory garden for tea afterwards.
- Cream teas were served in the churchyard and there was a teddy bears picnic for the children.
- The harvest quiz was a great success.
- We are grateful for our local band of bell ringers.
My final service in the benefice will be on 15th May 2011. We arrived from Africa just over ten years ago, as aliens in a foreign land! You were very gracious and forgiving and over the years we have learnt from each other. In particular, we have been open to new ways of being Church: of blurring the edges between the worshipping community and the wider community, of making our well-loved parish Churches more comfortable and accessible, of nurturing a growing Church community in Lighthorne Heath, of finding a common identity not only in the MidFosse Parishes but in Christ whom we love and serve, and of releasing new ministries in many people who have had the courage to respond to the Lords call.
Thank you for all that you have meant to us. It has been a great privilege to accompany you along the way for these few years. May you be encouraged to continue to walk confidently in the way of Christ for the furtherance of his Kingdom.
My main regret is that I am leaving before Neil is ordained priest and ready to move on to new responsibilities. It has been a privilege to work with him and he has shown enormous grace in becoming a trainee again after the responsibilities he had in his previous post. But it is the Lord who has called him (and Vickie) into this new place and he is preparing them for great things in the years to come. I leave them in your capable hands, to love them, guide them, encourage them and pray for them until such time that they are ready to move on. You have already helped to form the ministry of Adrian and Judy Wilson, Rhona Floate, ourselves and others who remain with you. And we are grateful to you.
Remember that together you are the Church. Seek his new ways together. Be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ together. Beware of anything that may divide the fellowship. Take time to understand the other point of view. Proclaim the Gospel afresh for this generation. Without you there is no Church. With you and through you, Christ is present in this place.
Be of good courage, hold fast to that which is good, render to no man evil for evil, strengthen the faint hearted, support the weak, help the afflicted, honour all people, love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
With my gratitude and thanks,
The Revd John Burrell
Rector and Rural Dean of Fosse Deanery