Lay Dean's BlogEpiphany (Jan 14)
Hi guys. Well, the snow has been quite a challenge to our elderly church goers, but spare a thought for those orthodox Christians in Russia who have been getting baptised, in a semi-naked state, in the snow outside their church. A bucket of water has been poured over their heads by the priest (photo in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph). The Orthodox Church uses Epiphany as the time of the baptism of Jesus, following the Julian calendar, 12 days behind our Gregorian one. Reminds me of my school days when we were marched down to a freezing York Minster to witness the Epiphany procession of the three wise men. How I hated it. Now it’s an expensive ticket-only service which is very popular, including with me! How times change! The other evening, we had our yearly ecumenical forum in Danby Chapel, under the chairmanship of the Revd Alan Coates; with Reader Sally Wilson representing the Anglicans and Father Peter Ryan representing the Catholics. The question as to whether the lack of a church choir causes a drop in attendance brought forth a lively discussion. We think the only church in the Whitby Deanery with a choir is St. Hilda’s in Whitby. However, just over the border at St Leonard’s in Loftus, my old friend Richard Bendalow runs a superb treble choir. This is a must for those who like traditional music and high church. (Must send the Guisborough Deanery a bill for the publicity!) Other topics discussed at the forum were the church as a centre of the community: with added functions such as a post office, library, café, internet café, functions venue, and others. I think that this event is something that we should have more often. Good church going and mind the ice! See you around.
span class="subhead">Christmas Day and Revd Malcolm's Installation (Jan 7)
Now you may think that I am going a little senile — no comments please — but January 7th was Christmas Day. I bet that’s got you thinking!
“Of course”, say all you intelligent churchgoers, “You are referring to the Orthodox Church Christmas”. I was amazed, recently, to see a photograph of a Mass taking place at St. Porphyrius’ Orthodox Church in Gaza city. In my ignorance, I had believed that Gaza city had been reduced to rubble, but a photograph showed Archbishop Alexios seated in magnificent robes, with attendants equally magnificently attired. I love to see a bit of ceremony with the participants wearing such lovely outstanding robes — and, you know, that’s what brings many people into the cathedrals.
Now, talking of ceremonies, we had an important one of our own recently. Revd Malcolm Jackson was installed to the parish of Hinderwell by Bishop Paul. The service took place at St.Oswald’s, Lythe, and the Bishop was ably assisted by Archdeacon Sam and Area Dean Michael. Revd Malcolm was welcomed by other members of the congregation into his benefice. It was very moving to see the church full to capacity, and to enjoy the superb faith supper put on by members of the various parishes in the benefice. Now I think that we should repeat this in the other five churches in the benefice!
How many occasions can you think of when a church is full — apart from marriages and funerals? Here’s a start: installation of a parish priest, service for a retiring parish priest, opening a new church, closing an existing church. Any others? Please email me.
That’s it for now. If you see me at one of my deanery surgeries, come and have a moan (sorry, ‘chat’). Having said that, there will be no surgery this Sunday, as I am with the Methodists in Danby.
Pews and Other Things (Jan 1)
A very happy and prosperous New Year to all you churchgoers! I hope you had time to visit the wonderful displays of Christmas trees at St. Mary’s Whitby, and St. Stephen’s, Fylingthorpe. Big competition there — cannot say which took the honours, but congratulations to all those who laboured to put up such wonderful displays.
I had a good laugh watching BBC’s ‘Call the Midwife’ on Christmas day, when it was announced that the Vicar was being posted to St. Dionysius' in Birmingham. I hope he was not teetotal! I should not need to explain — I’m sure that all my readers know that Dionysius was the Greek God of wine. I do not recommend people to try to find the location of St Dionysius’!
Now to more serious stuff — there is a movement afoot to remove fixed pews in churches, to enable the space freed to be used for other purposes. Bath Abbey has just received permission to do this. In our deanery, two churches have already done so, very successfully: All Saints at Hawsker and Christ Church at Ugthorpe. So, you see, we can teach these Southerners a thing or two! Your Lay Dean strongly approves because, in this era, he sees the way forward as being for the local church to act as a social hub, and to have other functions such as a café, post office, library, GP surgery etc. Sorry to ride my hobby horse!
Finally, I want to publicise an important event next Sunday January 7 at 3pm at St. Oswald’s Lythe. Revd Malcolm Jackson is to be installed as the Rector of Hinderwell Parish. As many of you as can, please go and support him. Hope to see you there.
Diversity of Worship III (3rd December)
Hi guys. Managed to avoid the Christmas shopping and attend the Advent Service at St. Stephens Fylingthorpe. (Reminds me, I must get She Who Must Be Obeyed a Christmas present and write a few cards — our friends know that they may get one card, two cards or no card at all — so it’s a bit haphazard in your Lay Dean’s household!)
Revd Simon Smale is known for his innovative services, and his Advent Service was a cracker. The congregation, especially the young folks from Fylinghall School, were startled by the appearance of St. Elizabeth in her old age, complete with baby, during the service. You see you are never too old (good news for our congregations)! I must compliment the two pupils who took part in the liturgy, and who were absolutely faultless.
I got a chance to speak to the young people afterwards and get their opinions. Although there was a diversity ( that word again) they all agreed that social media was very important for reaching young people, and some would have liked more modern music. The Whitby Deanery Facebook page is under way. Any volunteers please email me. My address is on the website.
That’s all for now, as I have a three line whip to attend my 4 year old granddaughter’s school Nativity play. That should be fun as she is a shepherd (gender equality these days)! Just one last thing — Revd Simon is holding another unusual service on Sunday Dec. 10 at 10.45, namely Victorian Holy Communion BCP at St. Stephen’s. No requirement to dress up! Should be worth attending. Good church going, See you next week,
Diversity of Worship II (26th November)
Hi guys, I have been back on the road! I visited St. James’, Lealholm in the Middle Esk Moor Benefice. I arrived in the village to encounter gridlock outside the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel. (Must be a lot of Methodists in Lealholm or they are all ‘parkingly-challenged’) St. James’ is a beautiful little church with a wonderful barrel roof. I was very gratified to see that a lot of the congregation had travelled from other parishes in the Benefice — which is what we in the DLT are trying to encourage. Following the Eucharist we all decamped to the Advent Fair in the Lea Hall. (Wonder why I never win a raffle prize? Perhaps I am too mean and don’t buy enough tickets!)
I think the most isolated church in the Whitby Deanery is Christ Church in the beautiful village of Westerdale (population 120). It is worth visiting for the beautiful scenery alone, and no parking problems.
I think the future of the village church is to have diverse usages, and to be the centre of the community. I am indebted to an article in 'The 'Times' for publicising the opening of a new church in the middle of a new housing estate in Tottenham, near to the place where the London riots started in 2011. The church of St Francis will have a community centre, a café, a bakery and a nursery.
I know of several churches in our Deanery which have been adapted to be able to be used for non-church purposes. For example, All Saints, Hawsker is used as a gym by the local school. In many other cases, countrywide, I think the church is dying through not offering diversity of both use and services. So, again, this week’s buzz word is diversity! Good church going, See you next week,
Diversity of Worship I (19th November)
Your Lay Dean has been laid low with a virus for the last week, so has had to interrupt his perambulations. It has allowed me to do a little research. I note that Whitby, with a population of 14500 has four Anglican churches, whereas Guisborough, with a population of about 24000 has one Anglican church. I suppose it is the way that the two towns have developed. I think having only one church may allow a better diversity of worship — something for you churchgoers to ponder.
A friend’s church, St. Paul’s, Howell Hill, in Cheam, has five attached clergy to cope with more than 300 worshippers on a Sunday. Now, that is something for our Bishop and Deanery Synod to ponder.
However, St Paul’s does not have a Well Service such as that at St Hilda’s, Hinderwell. Earlier in the year, I decided to attend St Hilda’s, as I did not know what a well service was. As I was walking through the churchyard looking for the church entrance, a kindly person directed me down a slippery slope guarded by a perfunctory rail (amazing how the octogenarians managed it) to join the congregation assembled in another part of the churchyard around the well. I duly took my seat and suddenly found myself falling backwards as the back legs of my chair decided to sink. Immediately I thought of mine shafts, sink holes or hidden graves. However, my time had not get come, and I was rescued by a kindly parishioner. The service started, and I realised, with a start, that the Vicar was holding a collection of switches. (I thought flogging had gone out with the Middle Ages!) We were soon being baptised with water from St. Hilda’s well, and the Holy Eucharist was taken using the well head as an altar. It was a very different and enjoyable service, which should have wider publicity. That’s what I call diversity of worship. Look out for it next year. See you next week, Keep visiting,
Winds of Change (Remembrance Sunday)
Your Lay Dean attended the Remembrance Service at St. Hilda’s Church Egton. A moving service was conducted by the Revd Paul Jackson, during which the names of the fallen of the Parish were read out. I was pleased to note that the attendances had improved over the past year following Paul’s appointment to the Benefice. Also present were two couples hoping to tie the knot in a marriage ceremony in the near future. One couple had travelled all the way from Barnsley (the town of my birth) and the other from Eaglescliffe. It was also encouraging to meet other young people (young, at least, by my standards!). So, is the wind of change blowing? Well it certainly seems to be — according to figures released by the Church of England which state that attendances increased last year on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and also in Advent Services. But there is a catch: the figures relate to Cathedrals. People are attracted by the ceremony and by the familiarity of the tunes, with everybody singing along in stunning surroundings. To prosper in our parish churches, many of which are very beautiful, we have to learn from the above. Bishop Paul is very keen that we offer diversity of worship, and that is an important part of our deanery action plan. From the Church of England’s figures, I note that they reach as many people on social media as attend church services once a month (1.2 million on its sites). As an aside, I understand that Pope Francis has 14 million followers on his English Language Twitter account. This certainly shows the importance of social media. Having social media accounts is part of the deanery action plan. We will keep you informed. So, perhaps the winds of change are blowing a gentle breeze, but not a gale at present!
That’s it for this week,
good church going,
do try to visit different churches.
Deanery Leadership Team (5th November)
Your Deanery Leadership Team met last Thursday to discuss the Deanery Plan outline as put before the last Synod at Goathland. On the previous evening, together with representatives of the other four deaneries in the Archdeaconry, members of the team had attended a Deanery Leadership Forum in Middlesborough, with Bishop Paul and Archdeacon Sam.
Part 1 of the Deanery Plan will be concerned with explaining to parishioners the functions of the deanery. Amongst these functions are: to give support to parishes during any interregnum period; to provide expert advice on financial and safeguarding issues; and to provide, in synod, a forum for discussion of mutual issues (and, if appropriate, to take these to Diocesan Synod). There is an important need to develop the encouragement both of mission, and of greater diversity of worship in individual parishes, drawing on resources and expertise from all parishes.
Part 2 of the Plan will set out to improve communication between all of the parishes, and to increase the publicity of events. The deanery website and a presence in social media will be important in this.
Part 3 will aim to encourage sustainable finances in the individual parishes and the deanery as a whole. Attracting new people to services will be a necessary precursor.
How do we hope to action the plan? Firstly, there will be a concerted effort by our clergy and lay to explain from the pulpit, and in gatherings, the intended functions of the deanery in future. A leaflet will be produced for distribution across the parishes. To construct a detailed action plan we require information as to what is happening in each benefice and parish. We will be sending out a short questionnaire, which I hope you will find time to complete and return. Also, We will be completing an audit of the deanery resources.
As a last plea, before I finish, please encourage others to visit this website, which belongs to all members of the Synod. Good church going.
Ecumenical? (29th October)
Hi folks — it’s your travelling Lay Dean again! Last week it was to the modern Eucharist service at St. Barnabas; this week, nearer home, to the traditional Eucharist at St. Leonards Loftus, with its wonderful choir under award winning choirmaster Richard Bendelow. Both services were inspiring in different ways, and would probably differ in their appeal to worshippers.
At the Deanery Synod last week, worship in different styles and ‘ecumenical’ was much mentioned. So, being an ignorant physician, I decided to look up the word, which I found between ectopic and eczema (appropriately for a physician?). Well, the Oxford Dictionary defines ecumenical as: “of or representing the whole Christian world or seeking world wide Christian unity”. Now you readers knew that didn’t you?
I would like to make a slight change in the definition of ecumenical — to include joining with, and experiencing, other Anglican Churches in your deanery and diocese. Between St. Barnabas’ and St. Leonard’s I have experienced 'low' to 'high' church recently, but I have come across other ideas such as 'breakfast church', 'café church', 'oak tree services', 'pre-school services', and ‘carol services lite’. There must be others, and if you know of any please feel free to email me. As the Archbishop says “We must all walk together”, and I want to add to that the words: “in sacrificial love”.
Other notes from the Deanery Synod are that we are looking for a treasurer (no accountancy qualifications required) and that we need a lay representative for the Diocesan Synod. Let me know if you would be willing to have a go at either.
Well folks, get moving and go and visit those other churches — I know you will be warmly received.
That’s it for this week. If you see me, stop me and give me one — I mean an idea!
St Barnabas' Church (22nd October)
Hi folks. Your perambulating correspondent took communion at St. Barnabas’ family service today in Linthorpe, Middlesbrough. Tea coffee and biscuits were provided by the welcoming party on arrival. Now that’s novel! Could we have some mulled wine before the Christmas Services please? An interesting group provided the modern music, with two singers leading the congregation, of which some were worshipping in the 'Orans Position', which is adopted standing with arms raised. The Virgin Mary is frequently depicted in Byzantine art in such a position. It may go back to the time when there were no pews in churches — a fashion which seems to be returning. Comments please?
At Saint Barnabas’ no hymn books or prayer books were provided, all the words and liturgy being projected on screens. The church was 80% full, with lots of young families. I could not help comparing it with Simon Smales’s service nicknamed ‘service with a slant’ (he has a fancy name for it!) at St. Stephen’s Fylingdales — which for me had been more moving.
Now for this week’s competition. I am offering a bottle from my drinks cupboard — a lovely bottle purchased on a foreign trip and lovingly conveyed to my domicile — for the most innovative answer as to why the St Stephen’s service is nicknamed ‘service with a slant’. Click here to e-mail me. The usual catch is that you have to come to church to receive your prize — and then you may wish to share it with us all — some hope!.
So you see, the seeds of diversity are beginning to sprout in the Whitby Deanery! The ‘service with a slant’ is shortly to be repeated and you church goers should not miss it. You get free parking after Oct.31st! As soon as the date is fixed we will be putting it up on this page. Don’t miss it!
Good church going,
more adventures next week,
Parish churches (15th October)
Ignorant as I am, (must have gone to the wrong school — my parents’ fault!) I did not realise that in 1649 cathedrals were abolished and three years later Parliament resolved that they should be demolished. Carlisle lost most of its nave and Lichfield its roof amongst others. I am indebted to Christopher Howse writing in The Daily Telegraph for this information. Things have now turned full circle with many of our parish churches suffering a decline, in some cases terminal, in their congregations, while the cathedrals are experiencing an increase. Why is this? I suggest that part of the reason is that we are not offering what churchgoers want. In the Whitby Deanery we intend to reverse this decline by offering worship in different styles and innovative services in our churches across the Deanery. Please watch our news column for forthcoming events. If you have any suggestions please email me, address on the website. Your Lay Dean is not known for his choleric disposition, despite his red hair, always said to be auburn by his parents (what’s the matter with red anyway?) but this week his ire has been raised over two news items: firstly, Lidl is taking the cross off the top of the Greek Island Churches on its packaging; and secondly, an Oxford college is banning the Christian Union from its Fresher Fair. One’s complexion turned the colour of one’s hair when one realised there was no response from the church authorities! It seems to be the Anglican mouse and the atheist tiger! It’s high time the mouse roared. The ire settled following a visit to Christ Church at Ugthorpe for their Sunday communion service. This is a beautiful little church, so bright inside, and which has been very elegantly restored by the congregation and good people of Ugthorpe. The welcome here is most warm and sincere. I recommend that my readers go and see for themselves, and I know that they will receive a hearty welcome. Click here for more details. That’s it for this week,
Good church going!
See you next week!
Deanery Service (7th October)
Several members of Whitby Deanery attended the Deanery Service in York Minster on Saturday September 17th at which the Area Deans and Lay Deans were anointed by the Archbishop. I wish that I could say that the Minster was overflowing with worshippers, but the large choir certainly was. A moving traditional evensong was performed, with the usual obscure hymns and settings. (What’s the matter with settings by Stanford and Ireland these days, as remembered from my youth?) Our prospective Area Dean had not been ‘spoken to’ at the time so he had to forgo the holy oil and the Archbishop’s hands. I did think of going up twice, like in those old school photos, but none of our clergy had a spare dog collar! At my old school, someone did manage this but had trouble sitting down for the next few days!< Afterwards we all enjoyed the tea and cakes, and the prospective Area Dean was able to attest to the quality and quantity of each of the different cakes.
For those of you who read the last blog — a multitude I hope — I have to tell you the latest on the 'Heck'. My daughter and her husband received a letter from the preservation of listed buildings department of the council telling them to 'restore the Heck. As neither the council nor my daughter and husband know what the heck a Heck is — oh dear there’s the pun again — they are wondering what to erect. Suggestions please? No offensive or dirty ones will be accepted! You may win a bottle of homemade plum gin.
Good church going!
See you next week!
Dogs and Docks (25th September)
Well guys, it’s a really sad tale this week — our lovely Vicar — the one who preaches the erudite sermons and is known for choosing the obscure hymns — is leaving the area on his retirement, with his family and large dog. For his last service, St Hilda’s Church was overflowing with worshippers. Popular rousing hymns — I wonder if he chose them — were sung with gusto. Tears were shed, entertainment and a faith lunch were enjoyed later.
Now, come to mention it, I have just remembered a happier dog story and, on my honour as a scout (had to leave as I couldn’t tie the knots) this is absolutely true. It starts when, unfortunately, my partner and his wife were divorcing, and, wanting to help, I offered to take the dog. The wife said I could have the teenage daughter but not the dog — naturally I refused. But the tale (not tail) had a happy ending. As my partner was walking the dog on the moors (he must have refused the daughter too) he met a lovely widow walking her dog and, guess what, the dogs got on well and the couple were soon happily married and all living together on our wonderful moors. Now isn’t that a wonderful tail (sorry, tale)? Motto: if you want a happy life, find Jesus and get a dog.
Ah, now the docks… Moorsholm docks are like Wigan pier or the Heck in my daughter and son in law’s house. They were surprised to receive a visit from the council’s preservation of ancient buildings officer and his large entourage asking to see the Heck. My daughter and husband didn’t know what the heck a Heck was, and it turned out that the entourage from the council didn’t know either. I am offering a bottle of homemade plum gin for the first person who can tell me what a Heck is. The only problem is that you have to come to church to get it. Well that’s it for now folks.
Don’t forget to go to church.
See you next week!
Moorsholm Docks (17th September)
Your scribe has been travelling around the deanery attending the different parish services. This week I attended communion service at Moorsholm. Moorsholm is a village in Cleveland, North Yorkshire, Teesside, Langbaugh, Redcar and Cleveland and wherever our politicians decide next. It is known for its Open Gardens festival winning many prizes and raising funds for charity and its docks. This year the village got first prize for its churchyard in the Northumbrian Region. I arrived to find lots of cars outside the church so I thought I had better hurry and get into church to get a seat, as there must be lots of people already in (you wish!) because it is the Vicar’s last service in the village before retiring. Rushed in to find a few worshippers only (presume the rest must have been looking for the docks!). More came later. Service started on time, not like ours. The Vicar, known for his obscure hymn choice, gave his usual erudite sermon and then we came to the last hymn. A real coup de grace here — the organist strikes up, first verse hardly a whimper from the congregation, then the refrain: three lines, each moving up an octave, difficult for the ageing congregation. Next verse sees congregation out of time with the organist, who played on manfully (or is it neuterfully these days — oh dear, I think I have invented a new word, it has foxed the spell check). Last verse — congregation now in time with organist if not totally in tune. They are clever people in Moorsholm! Total time 45 minutes. Well done! (Your scribe is in favour of short services.) Had to miss the hospitality as the wife was having a luncheon party and I was wanted to open the bottles and do the washing up ( believe that if you can!). Sorry to keep you in suspense, but I did not have time to search for the docks — but more revelations next week! Promise! Well guys, try attending different churches around the deanery — you never know what you may find!
Good church going!
See you next week!
At the End of the Pilgrimage (10th September)
Met up with the St. Hilda’s pilgrims at the bottom of the 199 steps. Bet you are wondering why I wasn’t on the walk. Got a good excuse, as I had just recovered from an attack of gout brought on by walking the streets of Copenhagen. Now some of you may think I have been on the bottle, but it was the preserved herrings, honest! Visited the Anglican Church, which they tell me is full every Sunday — must be the only time the Danes could get alcohol, as it’s so expensive.
Ah, where was I? Bishop Paul arrives decked out in walking shoes and cassock. What do you think? Banners were unfurled and the service stared. Bishop Paul baptised us all with holy water in the name of St. Hild plus the bemused bystanders and the coffee of the lady who was sitting outside the café. As he got me twice must have been because of my views on the way the church goes about replacing retiring clergy.
Well, off up the 199 steps for the next part of the service which took place around Caedmon’s Cross. Here I must mention the magnificently rendered oration given in Anglo-Saxon English by a young pilgrim, obviously heading for high office in the church. I think only understood by Bishop Paul and the young orator. I didn’t do Anglo-Saxon English at school — Chaucer was bad enough! Wind gets stronger — put another layer of clothing on — and off into the Abbey grounds. Meet Rev. Malcom’s dog, which clearly needs a good walk. He says it has walked all the way with him. Do we believe him? Technology fails again — Revd Michael called to assist, fiddles with it and silently I think he blesses it and it works for 30 secs, and fails again. Put on another layer of clothing. Bishop Paul restarts the final part of the service ably assisted by other pilgrims. Well folks, food then arrives.
Good church going!
See you next week!