One year on…

March is here and I cannot believe it is now just over a year that our new united parish of Capel and Ockley has been in effect and that later this month we will be holding our first Annual Parochial Church Meeting together to review our first twelve months and set our sights to imagining the future. Just as nature around us is greening so too we are hoping that lots of new shoots and some young tender plants of church growth will begin to flourish and take root around our two communities.

As I prepare to write my report for the APCM I can look back and reflect on all that we have achieved – the highs and lows, joys and challenges we have faced. Everyone has worked so hard to enable ministry to flourish in both villages and we are grateful for all the support both communities have given us. Each church has been able to hold a regular Sunday morning service three out of four Sundays in the month and then on the fourth Sunday we take turns to worship together at either Ockley or Capel. It has worked very well and for me it has been such a pleasure to meet my new parishioners and get to know how Ockley works – I am still very much learning of course (!) Our two congregations also really enjoy being with one another and our PCC (Parochial Church Council) has flourished working hard to ensure everything has run smoothly. I cannot thank everyone enough for their care and commitment to our churches – it really has been a joy!

So looking back at the past year what have we achieved? Well, both churches have made steps forward in maintenance and restoration work on their ancient buildings and surrounds. For all this type of work we are very grateful for the support financially from both the Friends of St John the Baptist and the Friends of St Margaret’s. At Capel most notably we have been able to replace our rainwater goods on the church which was long overdue in order to protect the walls; a new fire exit door has been made near the organ and kitchen area; and we are looking at replacing the interior lighting with a new lighting scheme which is very exciting indeed. At Ockley, plans are moving forward for also a new fire exit door along with an outside WC and a new heating system! Again, very much needed and will greatly improve the experience of our congregations and visitors! I stress though that all of these improvements have only been made possible through the money raised over the years by our Friends groups.

As many of you will be aware by our Stewardship campaign, we have to raise money separately throughout the year to support the cost of a full time minister here (that’s me!) which is metered out through something called parish share. Every church has to pay thousands of pounds to their Diocese to provide ministry costs and other resources to keep our churches open. Please, please, do think about contributing even a small amount for us to keep our churches open. It is very easy to organise and information is available in our churches or speak to one of our treasurers or myself.

Despite the constant shortfall in finance for ministry we have been able to raise funds in all sorts of creative ways. In November we enjoyed a magical dinner with superb food and magicians in Ockley Village Hall. In October we benefitted from a share of the proceeds from that wonderful Pop up Spanish restaurant in Capel Memorial Hall! We raised money for our local schools in the annual Vicarage Fete, taken collections for The Children’s Society at Christingle, a donkey charity ‘Safe Haven’ in the Holy Land through our Palm Sunday collection; CMS (Christian Mission Society) through Church teas at the end of the season and The Royal British Legion through Remembrance Sunday, not to mention Christian Aid and Traidcraft goods. We also raised awareness through Curry and Comedy for children whose lives are changed by sponsorship through Compassion UK. All in all everyone is so generous with their time and gifts. Thank you all very much.

And of course who could forget Remembrance Sunday this year as we commemorated one hundred years since the armistice was signed. The noise of that canon gun going off brought it home to us all just what the sounds of war must have been like for our brave soldiers and airmen. Capel Church Teas continued to serve scrumptious teas from Mothering Sunday to the beginning of December and we had the most wonderful exhibition of Quilting and art and crafts which filled St Margaret’s with rich colours and textures, part of a very special weekend last April which again raised much needed church funds.

Sometimes it seems like it takes an age for certain projects to get off the ground so to speak and the restoration of the Church Boundary Wall was one of these. Well this year with the help of our new architect and a brilliant stonemason the West wall is nearing completion and I know that many of you have admired Shaun’s work and that of his volunteer assistant Tom and have given generously to the project. We have been greatly assisted by the Parish Council in sharing the cost of this long wall which separates the churchyard from the Parish Burial ground. We want to continue the good work and so will be fundraising for the next section of the wall to be completed, so if you appreciate the look of our beautifully restored wall, please do help us!

Another project or area of ministry which has been simmering away for some time is that of providing teaching and activities for the younger members of our community in the Christian faith. Our church schools do an amazing job of teaching Christian basics and how to live out your faith in everyday life, but Sunday is increasingly a day when it is difficult to attract the young to church. Messy Church has been a constant help in this area as it happens on a Tuesday after school once a month, but there are many more children and families to which we would like to offer opportunities to hear about the love that God has for each one of us. To this end we will be spending a half day away reviewing our children’s work and then imagining the future. You may find you are given a short questionnaire in the next few weeks if you have youngsters, in which we are asking for your ideas and feedback as to what you might like to have provided from our churches. We will be using your responses to imagine the future for our children.

There is so much more than I have space here to share with you about our churches life so do come along to the APCM at St Margaret’s Ockley which will begin at 11am on Sunday the 24th March after our ECO church team lead us in a special Creation service at 9.30. And that’s another thing; both churches have become ECO churches now making Guildford an ECO diocese now. Intrigued? Well come along and find out more. In any case all this and more will be available for you to read if you pop into Capel or Ockley and pick up a copy of our annual report. Otherwise, why don’t you just join us one Sunday and journey with us as we imagine the future?!

With my love and prayers

Revd Liz