Parish of Leatherhead - 2003

This page shows some notable events in the life of the church family in 2003.

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Chronology

Consultation on worship and groups Sep 2003, from Dec 2003 mag

In September a Consultation on worship and groups took place at Cleveland Lodge, Westhumble. This was well attended and many views recorded. Since then the process of review has been continued by a Clergy and Churchwardens Working Party, seeking to bring views together to see what changes can be effected. Proposals will go to the Church Council for approval before being implemented. The responsibility for worship lies with the Incumbent and Church Council acting together. To find a way forward several different factors have to be taken into account.

We must consider and recognise the tradition of our church, which I take to be liberal catholic within Anglicanism: Liberal in the sense of being open, inclusive and liberal-minded over belief; catholic because we value sacramental worship which is colourful, liturgical and accessible to all. In recent years there has also been an evangelical emphasis expressed by some church members with its appreciation of Bible, Mission and freer forms of worship.

As a congregation, we are mixed both in age and background, being made up of children, young people and young families, as well as older adults. We are a diverse community both in terms of our Christian practice and social mix. Like all churches, we face complexity when it comes to deciding what kind of services to have and when to hold them. Two models offer themselves.

Worship can be like a wheel. There is one core service at the centre or hub of church life, with other services on the rim, which feed into this. For this Parish the 10.30 Family Communion has acted as the core service in recent years on most Sundays of the month. Communion, or Eucharist, has the merit of combining both a Ministry of the Word centred on the Bible, and a Ministry of the Sacrament when communion is received.

Sunday Club is a key part of the service providing appropriate teaching and fun for children, who join the service for the administration of communion. A core service like this aims to provide a place where all ages and traditions can gather. Some of the feedback from Westhumble would like to see this service informalised and simpler, to make it more accessible. Liturgy and communion can be difficult to enter into if you have little or no church experience. On the other hand, others would like to see greater use of silence and value the structure and ceremony, which this service offers.

A second model for church worship is a Menu. Here there is no core service but a number of services, or courses, on offer. You pick whichever you think suits you, but may well not attend other services which are a regular part of the menu. This happens at the moment to some extent with a number of services catering for smaller groups like Prayer Book Communion and Taize Plus.

The question we face is: Can the present core service at 10.30 continue to meet a cross section of interests and preferences, or should there be two services midmorning, one eucharistic and one non-eucharistic; and even, should this pattern be repeated in the evening, with the doubling up of traditional and contemporary worship?

At this point a practical consideration enters into the debate. My colleague Briony Martin, and her husband Peter Murphy, are expecting their second child in January. We wish them every happiness. Briony will rightly be on maternity leave for 26 weeks. There is also expected a change in staffing arrangements in our sister Parish of Mickleham, for which I also have responsibility.

Given these changes, it will not be possible to introduce more services than we currently hold in the first part of 2004, at least. I therefore think that a way forward for worship is to continue with something like the same pattern based on the wheel analogy. Change to the 10.30 service can be introduced. The communion can be made simpler and Sunday Club more closely integrated. It will be possible to hold All Age Communions from time to time, say on 5th Sundays. The evening pattern can embrace some change and offer a variety of services at 6.30 on a Sunday evening: Communion, Praise, Taize, Prayer Book on a published rotation.

Should this pattern not be found to meet current needs, then in the second half of 2004 it can be reviewed. It may be the menu model will need to be looked at more closely. But I am reluctant to break up the core communion service because of the depth and breadth it can offer. My hope is that this central family and holy meal can be something around which all can continue to gather, presented in a way that is accessible and yet holy and sacred to all who come. A service which has depth to satisfy our congregation of experienced Christians and long standing churchgoers, but at the same time is sufficiently attractive to welcome newcomers.

The risk of running two services mid-morning is that the Eucharist becomes sidelined, a service for older people, with no children or young families. Families which come to us because we offer a service for the whole family will be frustrated by only a diet of Family Services with no serious adult or sacramental content.

The churchwardens and clergy working party continues to meet, so this is an interim report. I will publish the final outcome when all aspects have been considered by the Church Council.

Parish Hall Improvement - August 2003 magazine

Users of the Parish Hall will be aware that it currently has no toilets which are suitable for use by disabled people. That is about to change, but as always things have to get worse before they can get better.

The existing Ladies toilets are to be remodelled to provide a separate unisex toilet for disabled men and women, which will also incorporate improved babychanging facilities. The existing Ladies will be reduced in size to provide two cubicles (rather than the present three), although the hand washing facilities should be improved. There will also be a small area for hanging coats.

Work is due to be camed out between Thursday 17th July and Tuesday 19th August, and for much of this time the only usable toilets in the Hall will be the present Gents, which will have to be used by both sexes. The Hall committee apologise for the temporary inconvenience, but are convinced that the longer term benefits more than justify the disruption. We ask everyone to exercise due consideration whilst the work is in progress. Kevin Taylor (Chairman of the Hall Committee)

Where now? Canon Jeffrey John

Canon David Eaton, from the August 2003 magazine
More and more, as I read of the Christian religion as Christ preached it, I stand amazed at the forms men have given to it, and the fictitious barriers they have built up between themselves and their brethren. Lewis Carroll, July 1882

The withdrawal of acceptance by Canon Jeffrey John of his appointment to the Bishop of Reading has come as a blow for those, like me, who had welcomed the invitation from The Bishop of Oxford. The saving grace may be that it does hold the Church of England together, and the Anglican Communion, from what otherwise may have been a row and possibly a split. If this was Jeffrey John's motivation then it is to his considerable credit that he was willing to make a sacrifice of this kind. However, it cannot but look, from a distance, as though there may have been some scapegoating. My guess is, at the time of writing, that someone somewhere was threatening to split the Church. The tragedy is that the outcome is to send a message that in the Church gay people are not fully accepted.

It also leaves the issues, which surround this appointment, no further forward. The Church will have to face these at some time and, it could be argued, now would have been as good a time as any. There are at least three issues, which press upon us.

Biblical Interpretation Writing in the Church Times, the Archbishop of Nigeria, The Most Revd Peter Akinola, sets out why he considers homosexuality a sin. His argument rests to a large extent on his understanding of the Bible. He is right to say that there are passages in the Bible which forbid homosexual relationships. He quotes Leviticus 18 and 20 as examples. The problem is that there are lots of other directions given in these chapters. Quite a few of them invoke the death penalty. I make no case for adultery, but Leviticus directs that those who commit adultery should be put to death. Meat, which has blood in it, should not be eaten. Neither should a priest shave his beard. Those who are disabled should not present offerings to the Lord. It can be seen that these instructions may have held water in the culture of their day, but to pick out one clause and not others is selective and misleading. It is to interpret the Bible in a wooden kind of way and without reference to contemporary understanding.

The Bible is an important and historic anchor when it comes to authority in church life. It holds our faith together so that there is consistency, now, and in the past. But Anglicans, in particular, have also used the tradition of the church, and our reason and experience, to come to a rounded understanding of God and of what is right and what is wrong. The Bible accepts both slavery and the subservience. We would clearly want to take another viewpoint. We cannot jump straight out of the pages of the Bible into our own day on any issue we may care to name. The Bible has to be understood in its own context and culture and then applied to ours. The Church has to have the debate about sexuality and come to a common mind. The Bible can be used in evidence, but it can't be used as a battering ram, or proof text, in an unthinking kind of way.

Worlds Apart At least some of the pressure on Church leaders over Jeffrey John's appointment has come from overseas. It has been argued that a split is opening up in the Anglican Communion. In western countries there has been more and more acceptance of gay relationships; in developing countries this is not the case. This is evidence of the different cultures there are across the world, and how difficult it is for us to talk to each other. It is easy to pick-up on an issue like homosexuality, and make it a cause for division, when what is needed is an open acceptance that within the Anglican Communion we come from different cultures. When we see culture as the main issue then we can begin to build understanding. There has to be a willingness to stay together as one church, for its own sake, and to work out the issues which divide us. Not to storm off because we can't get our own way. It may be that the best that can be achieved is to agree to disagree. The sooner we see that it is our cultures, both religious and secular, that divide us, not our faith, then we will be able to make progress.

Ethical dilemma I am not gay and in many ways it is better to let those who are speak for themselves. One of the advantages of Jeffrey John's appointment to Reading would have been to have an open and genuine gay voice in the House of Bishops. We do not know for sure why it is some people prefer, or respond, in same-sex relationships and others in opposite sex relationships. There may be all kinds of reasons, some psychological and social, others genetic and inherited. The fact is the gay community exists and is not about to go away. Gay relationships in the past have been seen as too promiscuous, but to wander into Soho is to see that heterosexuals have the same problems. It is to miss the many faithful and long lasting same-sex partnerships, which exist, and to value them.

The question, which persists at the heart of this dilemma over homosexuality, is just what is wrong with being gay? It is not sufficient to say the Bible doesn't like it. The issue has to be stated in its own terms. When that is done it is hard to see what all the fuss is about and what the ethical problem is. Ethics are concerned with damage limitation. Codes of behaviour seek to stop people hurting one another and themselves. Faithful gay partnerships are not by definition damaging or destructive, any more than heterosexual partnerships may be. The potential is there for both to be so, but so is the potential for good. So that the ethical issue is not gender preference, but faithfulness. The Church has long prized faithfulness. It challenges everyone, whatever their preference. It is unfaithfulness which causes damage. Too much concentration on sexuality misses the real ethical issue at the heart of all relationships.

The House of Bishops is soon to publish a study guide on their previous document, Issues in Human Sexuality. This will be a good opportunity for church members to address issues of biblical interpretation, cultural divide and ethical dilemma. The hope is we can do so by generating more light than heat and move forward.

June 2003 - Churchwardens

I am delighted that at the Annual Meeting Frances Presley and Bernard Salsbury were elected to be Churchwardens, John and Sheila Sutherland were re-elected as Deputy Churchwardens at All Saints and Martin Cole and Tim Hauxwell were confirmed as Assistant Churchwardens at the Parish Church. This is a welcome team of able people, who with me lead in managing Church services and affairs. I am most grateful for their willingness to serve. You will find below a few words from the four Parish Churchwardens by way of further explanation:

"As this is the first opportunity we have had to introduce ourselves as the new Churchwardens and Assistant Churchwardens, we thought that we would like to explain a little how this has come about.

"Helena Hill has been Churchwarden for the last four years, and only during the past few weeks of the handover have we fully realised what an incredible duty she has performed. When David approached us individually it was to explain that the post of Churchwarden was, amongst other things, time-consuming, demanding and exacting, It was felt that if a team could be formed and the duties shared, then the load would be much lighter for each Churchwarden, enabling each of us to cope despite having busy lives outside the church. There is no doubt that we four follow a very hard and devoted act in Helena, and our first joint act must be to add our own appreciation of her dedication during her four years in office."

"Our very first days of handover have not only shown the level of work involved but also revealed the detail of the administrative improvements she has made. She, and Mike Lewis, were responsible for the refurbishment of the two vestries, the Clergy Vestry upstairs being dedicated to the memory of her late husband, Anthony. Helena - many thanks indeed."

"As there can only be two named Wardens, the other two are named as Assistants, but the four of us will act as a team together with John and Sheila Sutherland as Deputy Wardens at All Saints. We have divided the various background responsibilities between us, and every Sunday, whilst we may all be present, only one of us will act as the lead Warden for that day. We would like to thank the Servers and Sidesmen who have kindly agreed to take on many of the pre-Service preparation duties. We would also like to thank the many people who have given us much help and advice in these early days."

"We are all hoping to get to know all of you over the next few weeks as we begin our new roles. Please feel that you can contact any one of us for any reason. We feel that it is a privilege to have this position. Thank you for your good wishes; with your prayers and God's help we hope to serve God effectively in Leatherhead, encouraging involvement and growing the friendship we have within the Church."
Frances Presley, Bernard Salsbury, Martin Cole, Tim Hauxwell

Covenanting with the URC and Methodist Churches in Leatherhead - from the March 2003 magazine

The Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Anglican Church in Leatherhead are to enter a new depth of relationship by covenanting together. [to see the Covenant go to the Churches Together website via their link in this Parish website]. This means that we recognise a new commitment to working together in our town, and to,sharing our life as Christian Churches. This already takes place in good measure: we have appointed a shared Youth Worker, we share Services and Events like the Good Friday Walk of Witness, Pilgrim Players and Christian Aid are joint activities, as are Lent Groups.

This new phase of covenant has been agreed by the Church Councils of each Church; there has been a public meeting for Church members. I have preached and written before on this theme. We will jointly prepare for Confirmation. We will be pledged to doing together all that we can in Church life, and to recognising fully each other's ministries. This in particular means that ministers may lead Services in each other's Churches, with or without the resident minister being present, including the celebration of Holy Communion.

I think that this level of partnership recognises and respects the individual traditions in which each Church stands, and so retains individual identity, but it allows and encourages joint working wherever possible. In this sense it may be a more realistic and desirable goal for Church unity than the full organic goal of one Church.

The Covenant will be inaugurated at Leatherhead Methodist Church at 6.30pm on March 9th. The Leaders of all three Churches will be attending to sign on behalf of the denominations: Nigel Uden, Moderator of the Southern Province of the United Reformed Church; John Swarbrick, Chair of the London Southwest District of the Methodist Church; and Ian Brackley, the Bishop of Dorking for the Diocese of Guildford. This will be a very important occasion. Please come and support this important new step in the life of our local Churches.
Canon David Eaton, Vicar

Improving the Church Hall - January 2003

If you have used the Parish Church Hall since the summer you have probably noticed that the wooden entrance doors, which had become distorted and difficult to open and close, or to lock or unlock, have been replaced. In their place we now have double-glazed entrance doors which look like mahogany (as long as you don't look too closely), but which are really metal-lined UPVC. Given a little consideration and care from users we hope that the new doors will provide many years of trouble-free service. After our experience with the wooden doors, this will be a refreshing change.

The new entrance doors are the latest manifestation of an ongoing programme to maintain and, where possible, improve the Parish Hall. Last year, for example, the exterior was redecorated, the Parish Office was greatly improved, electrical safety systems were upgraded and faults were repaired. A Public Entertainment licence for music and dancing was obtained; and this, in turn, facilitates licensing if a play is to be presented.

A number of potential improvements have been identified by the Parish Hall Committee and some, such as disabled toilet facilities, are certainly needed. As well as making improvements, we need to keep the hall and its decoration in a reasonable state: a constant battle in premises which are heavily used. Both improvements and maintenance cost money.

As well as providing a facility to be used by the church and its members, the hall (with its variety of rooms of different sizes) and car park are let to raise money: some 10,000 is contributed to parish funds each year, the greater part of which is income from leasing the car park. More lettings of the various rooms in the hall would increase our income, enabling us to increase our contribution to church funds or improve the hall facilities, or both.

Descriptive leaflets have been placed in the library and elsewhere in the town, and copies will be found in the Hall itself. Please familiarise yourselves with them - and if the opportunity arises, suggest that any potential hirer takes a look at what we have to offer. Sheila Sutherland is the booking secretary, and her contact details are listed at the back of the magazine.
Kevin Taylor, Chairman of the Parish Hall Committee

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last updated 5 Feb 15