Annual Report 2020-21

Giving thanks together

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3: 18 & 19)

Rector's Report

Growing together

It would be wrong to understate the difficulty and losses of this past year. But it would also be wrong not to affirm and give thanks for all the daily goodness and provision of God’s faithfulness throughout these painful months. The prayer of Compline calls on the mercy of God to be present, ‘so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this fleeting world, may repose upon Thy eternal changelessness’: amidst the chaos, God’s love remains steadfast. Similarly, the call for us to remain faithful to Christ – whether at home or in our church buildings – is unchanging. We have needed to learn more deeply how to love, serve and grow together in Spirit, not just in body; we have needed to set aside the habits and customs of our own worship comforts to make room for journeying with one another in new ways; we have needed to re-remember just how precious each person is and that we grieve and hope together. In particular, we have learnt again the vital importance of prayer.

This has not been a year in which everything has stopped. Quite the opposite, this has been a year in which we have come to understand the natural world, the technological world, the physical world, the relational world - the world of life and death – more freshly and sharply than ever before. It has been a year in which we have had to stop taking the gift of life for granted – and so, first and foremost, as we look back on 2020, we humbly thank God for His grace that has alone brought us safely thus far...

One outward sign of how we have grown together in new ways is marked by this, our first joint Bluebell Benefice Annual Report. Through it, we recognise that we belong together as the people of God and that together, we are stronger.

Worshipping and hoping together

Following the first lockdown in March 2020, we began the steep learning curve of moving our worship online. 42 live-streamed services, with a further 17 in ‘hybrid’ form and 6 on YouTube, saw an average of about 70 households ‘attending’ each Sunday, with nearer to 200 joining in special services like Pentecost, VE Day, Remembrance and the Crib Service on Christmas Eve, recorded and led in partnership with our local communities and Barnabas Oley Primary School. Many people, of all ages, have been involved in reading, recording and sharing music/artwork/photos in our services – i.e. 63 different people contributed to the material for our Pentecost service alone! We are thankful to Sean Blanchflower for the many, many hours he has put into facilitating our online worship and making it possible.

We are blessed that the pandemic has struck at a time when such technology has enabled meetings and groups to continue, although we recognise that not everybody has, uses or enjoys, such a medium. For others, especially those for whom physical access to church is hard even in non-pandemic times, the possibility of worshipping at home with others has been a gift, as has been the ability to use visual media in our liturgy. For example, keeping our patronal services online this year enabled the stories of their saints and the beauty of the buildings to be told and shared freshly with pictures and videos; many who no longer live in our villages but who continue to hold strong connections to our parishes, were also able to join in from afar. Lego Church has worked brilliantly over Zoom, as have new informal prayer and study discussion groups drawing on podcasts, music, paintings and internet course videos.

Ministering together

This past year saw Tony Bevens retire as our Licensed Lay Minister after many years of faithful service. In September, the Bishop of Huntingdon led a special presentation to Tony and Avril, and our prayers of grateful thanks for Tony and his ministry, at our first Sunday service back in Great Gransden after the lockdown. At this service of thanksgiving for ‘all that has been’ and hope for ‘all that will be’, three of our young people were also confirmed and I was licensed as Rector. In December, we were delighted to welcome Jane Connell as our new Licensed Lay Minister in the Bluebell Benefice.

Weeping and rejoicing together

Sadly, this year has been one of many bereavements within our Benefice and the pandemic restrictions placed upon funeral arrangements have of course impacted upon all those grieving. I have been deeply moved by the grace and generosity of families and friends who have shown such courage and adaptability midst their grief. Funerals have been intimate and precious: seeing villagers line the streets as hearses have passed has been a poignant mark of one another’s ongoing care and support for one another, despite distancing.

Blessedly, three weddings were also able to slip in between the lockdowns – in Great Gransden, Waresley and Abbotsley – and we give thanks with the happy couples for the joy of those celebrations, again, intimate in number, but infinite in love.

Partnering together

We have all had to be creative, flexible and do the best we can, not least with fund-raising, and we are very grateful to kind villagers who have so generously supported or hosted virtual or distanced, fetes, raffles and Benefice calendar-buying. It has also been a privilege for the Benefice to help serve across our parishes by hosting and providing the infrastructure for Bluebell-19, our mutual aid support group, teaching us new things about the generous connections between our communities and the potential for working together into the future. Our partnership with Barnabas Oley School also continues to grow, with wonderful opportunities this year for the children to lead our worship and share their work more widely than ever before.

Towards the end of 2020 we began to turn our hearts and imaginations to what the next chapter in our Benefice might look like, recognising not just the many challenges of recovering from Covid, but also the great goodness and potential that we have glimpsed in new ways over this past year. How do we better discern how God is at work in our Benefice, and how do we join in His love and purposes together? We are grateful for the strategic work that Julian Badcock and his project team have been exploring and consulting on with our communities.

I hope you will glimpse the fullness of Love as you read the story of this extraordinary past year through the many different voices of those in our communities. And I do warmly invite you to be a part of writing our new story together this next year...whatever else happens, it will be better done together.

So, it is together, and together in Christ, that we journey on in faith, love and prayer.

In gratitude and blessing,

Rachel

Listening together

Bluebell Connect

Julian Badcock, leading our post-Covid strategy project group:

As we learnt to live with the Coronavirus during the year and got to grips with the "new normal", it occurred to me it was important not to lose sight of the blessing of the learning the pandemic provided and the great potential it offered us as a community.  Like many of us, I had seen all that is good and life-giving within our villages, our congregations and the ongoing desire for worship and growth.

In discussion with Revd. Rachel and with the support of the PCCs, I volunteered to lead a small working group to define the “new better” for our Benefice and was blessed that Emily Brown, Jo Richardson, Ed Badcock, Craig Santus and Andy Greaves agreed to join me.

As we came together and thought about the task in hand, we agreed a critical element would be to obtain an “outside in” view of our churches; in the process giving voice to those who do not normally attend services, our village children, youth, young families and community organisations.

So, as we end the year, we have a clear plan for our work, culminating in a presentation of our recommendations to the PCCs in the Summer of 2021.

Community Reports

Supporting together

Bluebell-19

This year the Benefice has helped host and organise our local mutual-aid community support group, Bluebell-19, across our four parishes.

Shelley Frost (Village Lead for Waresley and Tetworth):

Bluebell 19 was formed in response to the pandemic, creating a structured cross-community support programme for all of our villages across the Benefice. Whilst delivering the support programme has remained central to its purpose, its value to the communities has been far richer. It has brought our communities together, embracing a single cause and connected people in new ways forming fresh friendships and support bubbles many of which continue to this day. It has been a catalyst of care and compassion – a golden thread running through our community groups, organisations and support networks all connecting and committing in new ways to achieve a common goal.

Every member of the Bluebell 19 team, past and present, and the volunteer network are so proud of what the project has achieved and fully appreciate the difference it has made to those who were vulnerable, shielding, concerned or lonely through these difficult times. Our volunteers shopped, collected prescriptions, offered a listening ear and friendly chat and helped with chores following COVID rules.

As we emerge from the lockdown, there is a sense of excitement about what next. Bluebell 19 is the perfect platform from which new ventures can build and has, most of all, showed us that we have the most caring and ‘can do’ community full of incredibly generous people ready to offer help, support and advice to those who need it.

Bluebell-19 team members during 2020: Sue Burgess, Julie Crabb, Gill Elwood, Shelley Frost, Andy Greaves, Christine Kenrick, Revd Rachel, Sarah Thurbin, Marie Wimlett.

Calendar Project

Another joint Benefice project this year involved looking together to see hope and beauty in our communities.

Lynn Norris, ‘Calendar Girl’ for Abbotsley:

"Let’s have a Benefice Calendar for 2021", suggested Jenny Wilkinson, inspiring four friends to get together to make this happen. The theme was to capture all that was good and inspirational during 2020. To show that, despite Covid and lockdown, there was beauty and kindness all around.

Residents from the four villages sent in photographs in plenty, it was hard to choose between them, whilst giving a flavour of the villages and reflecting their inhabitants amidst the changing seasons and events. It was important to include some of the key characters of the villages, and vital groups such as the school and the Brownies. These images gave so many people the inspiration they needed for 2021.

With the help of Sean in formatting the calendar, it went on sale in November, and we were delighted to sell over 220 copies, helping raise funds for all four of our churches.

The ‘Calendar Girls’ have now moved on to their next project – a ‘Welcome Pack’ for new residents to the Benefice villages.

‘Calendar Girls:’ Sue Burgess, Lynn Norris, Revd Rachel, Jenny Wilkinson.

Advent Calendar Windows

Vivien Corrie-Wing, School Governor and Lego Church parent:

There was so much excitement in our house as December 1st 2020 brought a whole new type of Advent Calendar. My two boys, of five and seven, didn’t even notice that there was no chocolate behind the windows!

Households and classes at Barnabas Oley School were invited to create a real Advent Window in their homes, take a photo and send it in to be posted on the churches’ website. It was fun opening our computer each day to see the creativity, art and a chance to remember the story of God’s rescue plan. We loved reading the passages in the Bible which related to some of the window displays and we were glad of the inspiration for crafts.

I know many of you had the same idea which we had, to take a walk or drive around some of the villages and try to spot as many Advent Windows as we could. We also enjoyed sharing the calendar with distant grandparents who loved it and could connect with some of our Christmas celebrations. It made us feel a bit more connected with each other and our community. Shall we do it again next year?

Sharing together

The Benefice and Barnabas Oley School

The blessing of technology this year has meant that our children have been able to lead and encourage us in our Benefice worship in new and creative ways, with even family members spread out across the country being able to join together for special services.

Ms Claire Jarvis, Deputy Head and Foundation Governor:

The school has always had a good link with the church, but during the past year the relationship has taken on a new special aspect. Last year, during the Lockdown period, when only very few children were able to be in school, an online newspaper, The Barnabas Bugle, was set up in order to share the achievements of the school community. Reverend Rachel provided positive contributions and prayers to give us all support and encouragement. This support then developed: when the autumn term began it was agreed that the children would take part in online services and share their learning with the rest of the church community. The first example of this was the Remembrance Day service, during which each class shared readings or a song. Reverend Rachel provided the children with a boost by producing other assemblies to keep them focused on particular events such as Christmas Jumper Day.

Other joint participation services have also been a success with the children encouraging their families to watch online for Christmas and Mothering Sunday. All of these events have been coordinated by the Head and Reverend Rachel with the technical expertise of her husband. Having spoken to members of both the school and church communities it is evident that people have felt uplifted, supported and needed throughout a time which has otherwise been a testing time. Children’s comments include, "It was lovely to read Rev Rachel’s thoughts in the newsletter" and "My whole family watched the video of the service – in fact we told my Grandparents to watch it too!"

Iain Strath, Foundation Governor and Chair of Curriculum Committee:

In extraordinary times you look to remarkable people. Whilst rightly most attention was given to the NHS, school staff also adopted new learning methods and technologies to ensure that children lost as little education as possible. However, during lockdown most children were at home, learning remotely along with their peers in the classroom.

The school’s main aim was to deliver the curriculum, as had always been planned, and, although this often meant extra work preparing and physically delivering materials, this was largely achieved. So, Science Week involving remote experiments and themed days of dressing as pirates or Anglo Saxons, for example, went ahead as usual.

The school continued to strengthen its links with the church through its participation In online services, in particular leading those on Remembrance Day, Christmas Eve and Mothering Sunday.

Governors’ meetings, Parents’ evenings, curriculum evenings for parents and PTA meetings have all been held virtually. Obviously, children, parents and governors have all missed being in school and children were delighted when they all returned to classes.

It is to the enormous credit to the headteacher and her staff that the school has maintained its high standards of teaching and learning. Over the lockdown the school began to publish children’s work in the Barnabas Oley Bugle allowing parents to see some of the amazing creativity and wide range of activities children experience every week. The school website has an archived news section and a visit to look at the Bugle illustrates just how remarkable the school is.

Ringing together

Bell-ringers

David Prest, Deputy Tower Captain:

The year started in normal manner, but, as for all, our usual routine changed markedly. We were privileged to ring half muffled for the funeral of Mrs Jennifer Craze and we completed three quarter peals.

Lockdown ended all ringing for services and regular practices but thanks to the commitment of Phillip and Sheila G, we have continued to meet and ring virtually throughout lockdown with twice weekly ringing sessions plus a group social chat call every fortnight. This introduced new technical problems in addition to the usual challenges of ringing, with a whole new range of IT excuses when things go wrong. Nevertheless, good progress has been made, including two virtual quarter peals and learning new methods.

Ringing 2020 style

During the relaxation in lockdown over the summer we rang for three services and one wedding, and tolled the tenor for Barry Sherman's funeral in July.

The break allowed us to enjoy two social events, with Covid restrictions. The traditional Ringers and Singers safari supper was in June, and an evening of pizza and beer at The Chequers. Both great fun!

Planned Christmas ringing in the tower had to be cancelled, but instead we rang handbells in the churchyard for the two carol services.

The tower, bells and clock have been well maintained throughout so we are ready and enthusiastic to get back to the tower and start ringing again.

Congregation Reports

Exploring together

Lego Church

Luke and Jake, what is Lego Church?

You build Lego about the stories in the Bible. We then explain to everyone what our models show. We do it on Zoom with Reverend Rachel and some friends.

What do you both like about it?

I like it because you get to know about all the Jesus stories. I like it because it is fun to build with Lego. It is also fun because you get to meet your friends and make new friends. If you come along to Lego church you might like it too. If you feel shy you can try it and find out that it is really good. It is fun and you learn stuff.

Coffee, Chat and Compline

Anne Constantine:

Many innovations have been made in all walks of life in response to the pandemic and the isolation it has brought. Churches and other places of normal worship have explored and developed online communication to enable congregations to continue with weekly worship but also to connect members up for conversation, discussion and human togetherness. Last summer in Bluebell Benefice we began what later became our Coffee, Chat and Compline sessions on Sunday afternoons.

Journeying through June and July was a series of four different podcasts featuring Peter Grieg, Mark Goodacre, Tom Wright and Rachel Mann. Tom and Rachel rooted their reflections in the experience of the pandemic – sustaining spiritual health and sources of comfort in isolation. Peter talked about prayer and Mark reflected on Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. We listened to the podcasts in advance and then met over Zoom to discuss them.

We reprised this format in our third series during Lent this year when we listened to Peter Grieg’s 8-episode course on prayer. Peter is a consummate and charismatic communicator, providing us in his first podcast and then in this series with many insights into prayer and how to pray. He often uses the traffic light image of answered (green) and unanswered prayer (red), where amber is the sense of ‘God on Mute’, apparently not listening but not saying ‘no’ either. An amber light is not the time to turn off the engine and abandon the vehicle but to keep alert and keep praying–faith and faithfulness.

He uses the rule of three again to illustrate moving beyond asking and petitioning God to finding God in prayer:

  1. Meditation (me and God, I am waiting)

  2. Contemplation (God and me, I am seeing)

  3. Communion (God, I am one with Him).

These discussions were led by Rachel or Jane but, in Advent, a number of group members agreed to introduce each session with a theme that was close to their own heart. So we had lovely reflections on the natural world, paintings, music, darkness, and the woman at the well. In all of these we were seeking, and finding light in the darkness of the time.

Our conversations are gentle, unhurried and inclusive. Everyone contributes but only as they want to. We spend the time listening to others to see where it takes us and this usually sparks other thoughts, but we also have moments of quiet. We are all feeling our way as the session progresses, exploring personally, spiritually and humanly in the peace and warmth of our sharing and togetherness.

Praising together

Learning and editing online service material takes a great deal of time. Making music together over the internet also takes courage and a new way of working. This year, musicians locally and nationally have been generous in helping churches to continue ‘to make a joyful sound unto the Lord.’ We have been grateful for the recordings that St Martin’s in the Field and the RCSM have made available; to George Balfour and David John, wonderful organists who have both recorded accompaniments and voluntaries for our online services; to instrumentalists across the Benefice and at Barnabas Oley who have recorded and performed pieces online and over Christmas, and to Rebecca Banner who has so kindly shared her composing, arranging and editing skills with us. We are also thankful for our Choir Director, Sheila, and our Choir, who have been flexible, creative and faithful in showing that worship is not just about the music we offer, but about the care and Spirit of the community that offers it.

Choir

Sheila George (Authorized Lay Minister for Music/Choir Director), writes:

In March we sang with other choirs for Deanery Lent Evensongs. St Neots, Gt Staughton and Gamlingay Choirs joined us here at Great; David John played the organ, Lloyd Barnett and myself shared the conducting.

Then singing was stopped. Thank goodness for Zoom which we use every week to get together for Choir Practice on a Wednesday to share news and laugh a lot, no singing! Choristers have been encouraged to record themselves at home and our efforts have been spliced together to provide music for our online services.

September saw a return of services to our buildings, but with stringent guidelines for a Choir of 6 singing non congregational items. Choir Practice restarted at Great socially distant at 2m, music sent out digitally beforehand. Lockdown 2 came into force after the All-Souls at Abbotsley. In December we could meet again to practice for Christmas and a wedding. We only had time to prepare 4 carols then Lockdown 3 and we again eagerly look forward to Zoom on a Wednesday evening.

Many comments have been received over the year and I quote a Boxing Day email, "Just to say that we thought your singing in the Little Gransden service yesterday was absolutely lovely, you sounded amazing."

Joining together

Deanery Synod

Our Benefice is part of the Deanery of St Neots, which joins up our different churches across our local region, so that we can stay in touch with one another, and explore together our plans, resources and worship as the Body of Christ.

Rachel Fogg, Deanery Synod rep:

The Deanery Synod has only met twice since the last APCM, in November 2020 and March 2021.  In November we had a presentation about Cyber Security.  At the March meeting we welcomed our new Rural Dean, Revd. Nicki Bland, and thanks were expressed to Revd. Grant Fellows, the outgoing Rural Dean, and also to Revd. Jes Salt, leaving the benefice of Buckden and the Offords.  We were then led in a fascinating and inspiring discussion by Revd. Mark Rodel (Fresh Expressions and Pioneer Adviser) and Revd. Phil Marsh (Mission and Ministry Development Officer) on our experiences of the past year concentrating on what we wanted to celebrate and what our challenges and hopes were.  In February our Deanery Treasurer was able to let us know that we had been able to pay the Deanery share in full, thanks to a generous donation from a Cambridge church.  As we had heard in November that the shortfall was £35000, this was cause for celebration.

Please join us in thanking Jenny Wilkinson, who has been a Deanery Synod member for many years, for her faithful service as she steps down.

Stewardship Reports

Caring together

Caring for People: Safeguarding

Phillip George, Benefice Safeguarding Officer:

There have been no known safeguarding incidents during the reporting period.

Work started during 2020 to expand the safeguarding system to include all parishes in the benefice. I would like to thank everyone who has worked with me during this challenging time of the Covid pandemic, to help ensure that each parish is compliant with national church guidelines.

A new private website has been created to allow easy access to key safeguarding documents, and I have attended several PCC meetings to explain procedures and answer questions.

I attended an online meeting in September 2020 with other safeguarding officers as part of the networking and training schedule set up by the diocese. Rev Rachel and I meet regularly to discuss safeguarding matters and the system is continually being reviewed and improved. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns about safeguarding.

The Good Shepherd, Little Gransden

Caring for Gifts: Finance

For year ended: 31/12/20 (please contact Treasurers to see detailed account statements)

This year Andrew Fogg will be stepping down from being Great Gransden’s Treasurer after years of generously staying on – and on - to cover ‘the extra mile’! We are so thankful for everything he has done to care for the resources we have been given, with such commitment, clear-headedness and often some much needed fierceness too! He has steered us through some meagre and complicated waters with great skill. Thank you so much, Andrew!

Abbotsley: Julie Crabb

As for so many churches, Covid has reduced our income substantially, with regular collections not taking place and the usual fund-raising events needing to be cancelled. The Benefice Calendar project helped raise a good contribution, and an application for a Covid-recovery grant (granted this year) has also helped. As in previous years though, money has had to be transferred from our investment/reserves account to help cover an ongoing annual deficit of about £5k.

This year will see us needing to give a real drive to some focused fund-raising.

Great Gransden: Andrew Fogg

The main points concerning Great's finances for the last year have been the effects of the pandemic and the installation of the new sound system. With the church being closed, cash collections pretty much vanished; one parishioner kindly set up a standing order instead, a couple of others have given via the GoodBox card machine.

The new sound system is installed, and although not yet formally commissioned due to Covid, is working well so far. Little Gransden has kindly loaned us £30k interest-free on flexible terms which means we can cover cashflow; £25k of this is still to be repaid, so significant fundraising is needed. Many of the possible grant-givers have been focusing on Covid-related support so there is work to do, to the tune of about £20k.

It is of course nearly time for the next Quinquennial Inspection, which could trigger further works.

Little Gransden: Joe Ward

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant effect on the day to day finances of the PCC in 2020 with a General Account deficit of £5,468, which is a little worse than in 2019. Income from service cash collections was down, as was the income from the normal Summer fete and Autumn bazaar, which were unable to be held. However, this loss was reduced by the excellent income from a summer auction of promises and raffle. We are very grateful to those who donated prizes and organised the successful event. Although some expenditure was less, our main costs, the Parish Ministry Share and insurance, were unchanged. Fortunately our running account deficit was offset by income from the Pickard Legacy Investment.

The main expenditure from our fabric funds in 2020 was the completion of the internal decoration scheme and the installation of our new sound system. Our investments performed well in 2020 and therefore the overall result is that, despite the challenges of COVID-19, Little Gransden PCC's financial position remains stable and even marginally better than a year ago.

Waresley: David Taine

With the closure of churches early in the year we saw a massive slump in offertory, donations and fees. We were seeing the current account balance dropping over £800 per month where it is usually steady. This flattened by June as the community responded generously to appeals. Throughout, our standing order donors remained consistent.

The summer Church Fete was spectacularly supported, with significantly higher turnout than previous years. As the first social event for many people for many months it was almost a full village turnout. Great for the soul as well as the coffers!

In December, with no possibility of the annual carolling to raise funds for charity (EACH), we made a specific appeal to the whole community and were overwhelmed by generosity such that we were able to make a significantly greater donation to EACH than in earlier years. Thus the accounts reflect higher levels of inward donation and charitable giving.

Our accounts also hold the newly launched Bluebell 19 fund. This is not Waresley Church funds as such but provides financial governance and administration of a grant awarded by Cambridgeshire Community Chest for the mutual aid of those within our four parishes needing support due to the impact of Covid-19.

We are pleased to report that over the year, though down, our overall financial position has remained essentially stable. The continuing lockdown and possibility of a return later in the year means that this is no time to be relaxed in the face of continued challenges.

Caring for Charities

Jenny Wilkinson:

Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic this year, we have been unable to hold our ‘normal’ fundraising events for the charities we support across the Benefice. We have supported charities with our prayers and, thanks to donations and retiring collections when we have had services in church, we have managed to send modest contributions to: Chifundo; The Children’s Society; The Need Project in Gamlingay; St Neots Foodbank and, through special online collections for Remembrance Sunday and the Crib Service, to the Poppy Appeal and MIND. Waresley also raised money for EACH over Christmas. We were not allowed to collect back the house boxes for The Children’s Society, so box holders have been encouraged to give their money directly.

Caring for Buildings: Fabric

Churchwardens

Abbotsley: Julie Crabb

There has not been much work done to the fabric this year, save for the regular checks and cleaning measures in place through Covid-19, and some careful replacing of light bulbs in the Chancel, with the help of Stuart and his very tall ladder. The special Bible display cabinet made in memory of David Staughton, who served the church and village for so many years, has been completed and we are looking forward to marking this in our next Patronal service.

Through the year, the PCC recognised that the garden of remembrance for ashes was not being maintained as well as we would like. Having advertised for some volunteer help, we are immensely grateful to those who stepped forward and have made such an improvement to its upkeep and dignity.

We are glad to have had a wedding in the Chancel in December, just between the lockdown restrictions. It was a joy to welcome back a family with a long history of connection with Abbotsley church. Sadly, we also laid to rest three much loved and missed members of our community, whose ashes were interred during this period.

Towards the end of the year, exciting conversations began about the possibility of opening a Community Village Shop in the nave (the part of the church now owned by the CCT).

Great Gransden: Rob Chignell

A big expenditure this year completing all the Schedule ”A“  items  in our 2016 quinquennial.  All these were exterior works and mainly around windows, repairing “clunch” and stone works. The grid in the west window was replaced. We had some interior repairs to the walls in the north and south aisles, mainly  the wall  behind the Standards. The total was around £30,000 including architects’ fees etc.

The wall behind the Altar will be having its cement render removed  and re–mortared  with lime stone , in June this year.  

Our next quinquennial is .......June this year!

We may not notice masonry and clunch repairs but we can certainly tell that the sound in the church has improved.  New speakers, CD player. Extra mikes etc etc . The new set up is vastly superior in every way. Not used much as yet, due to Covid, but Revd. Rachel is very excited about its possibilities.

All the proper inspections of electrics, alarms, fire extinguishers are carried out. The Church is spring cleaned annually, all downpipes and gulleys are checked regularly. The church is mainly in good repair. I am hoping the quinquennial will not raise many urgent works required.

The churchyard is well looked after by our faithful band of volunteers to whom we should be very grateful.

Little Gransden: Nick Wareham

Although 2020 was a challenging year, we have managed to undertake several improvement projects and most importantly, have kept the church open, allowing parishioners and visitors to access our beautiful church building safely. We are grateful to all those who clean the church and keep it, and the churchyard, maintained. We are particularly grateful to Sheila George for locking and unlocking the church on a daily basis.

In the early part of 2020 we took advantage of the temporary closure of the building during the first national lockdown to commission a restoration grade clean of the floor. The before and after photographs illustrate the level of improvement. Just before Christmas 2020 we completed the installation of new sound system including an induction hearing loop. This project was excellently overseen by Michael Hyland and Associates and delivered by About Sound of Stapleford. The improvement in audibility of speech is dramatic and the system also enables us to play recorded music in a very professional manner.

Waresley: Churchwarden Team

The churchwarden team consists of Sheila Thompson, Louise Wigan and Christine Badcock. Sheila Thompson is now stepping down from the PCC.

The team would, as always, like to thank the people who regularly help in church life: flower arrangers, cleaners, grass cutters, banking duties, and bell ringers. We feel that Colin Croot deserves a special mention for helping to keep our church open and safe for private prayer and John Archer for helping to troubleshoot some electrical problems and programming the heating. Your support is valued and appreciated.

We are also very grateful to Philip George who so diligently fulfils his role as safeguarding officer.

The PCC is working through the quinquennial report. There is one urgent matter to check the cross on the north east gable, over the chancel. Herringbone restoration were recommended and have assessed the problem. We have a quote and are pursuing Herringbone for date to do the work. The cost will be £1350 +VAT, half the cost being for a cherry picker hire for one day. It may be possible for the work to cover some minor roof issues and gutter clearing.

The floodlights and some nave lights failed in January. The connector boxes were flooded and remedial work is booked. The nave light failure was checked and bulb replaced. Tom Race may also be able to give the PCC more ideas about improving the lighting .

The lighting plans from HSE are approved in essence but the PCC are reluctant to go ahead until the Quinquennial issues have been attended to. Mrs Banks has been informed about the delay in spending the £5000 bequeathed to us from her husband’s will.

The church was given a 3 day spring clean in April, and huge thanks go to the regular cleaners for their hard work.

The churchwarden team would like to record our heartfelt thanks to Revd. Rachel, for her wonderful support and inspiration, especially through the difficult and challenging time of lockdown and ongoing restrictions to our lives. We would also like to welcome and thank our new LLM Jane Connell for her contribution to church life.

The Year Ahead

Trusting together

New Beginnings

Jane Connell, Licensed Lay Minister:

‘Seeing God at work in our communities and joining in together’

As the bluebells are spreading their beautiful carpet of colour in our local woods and blossom is appearing on cherry trees we have been thinking in our Sunday services about the beginnings of the Church, the powerful encounters that the first disciples had with the risen Christ and the ways in which their lives and the lives of those they met were transformed.

As we start to return to worship in our churches and to think about holding our meetings in person again we are in a time of new beginnings, a time of opportunity. We have the chance to think about the ways in which we have done things in the past and also how we would like to move forward into the future. We have the chance to think and pray about what new things God is doing in our four Bluebell Benefice villages and how we can join in together.

As the trees come alive after winter I’m reminded of an illustration that I read recently, linking mission action planning to the image of a tree:

  • The life of the church needs to be rooted in the life of God, through prayer, passion and desire – drawing sustenance through Him.

  • The trunk reminds us of the importance of being united around a common purpose.

  • The main branches represent the priorities that enable the church to bear fruit.

  • The values that the church holds are like the sap that runs through the whole of the tree, feeding and nourishing all of its life.

  • The sky represents the vision that the church members are aspiring to reach.

Colossians 2: 7 puts it like this:

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

We have so much to be thankful for, not least the gift of one another – so let us nurture all that is fruitful and grow together in faithfulness, love and joy in the year to come...

Accomplishing together

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3: 20-21)