The plans for a new rota in Salisbury Plain Benefice – an update, July 2015
The current rota reflects the time when the our 4 villages were independent parishes, this has left us with anomalies: we have 2 Family services on the 4th Sunday of the month; and 2 Holy Communion Services one after another on the 3rd Sunday of the month. Every time we come to put together the rota for a 4 month period, we find clashes which are very difficult to resolve. For example on the 1st, 3rd & 4th Sundays of the month we have 2 services taking place at 10am or over that time. This system is unsustainable and, notwithstanding the upset that this may cause we all have to accept some change.
We are now blessed to live in a Benefice where there are 3 priests, but only one is licensed to the 4 churches full-time. David Walters has additional commitments which means that he is only able to take services in the middle of the morning on one Sunday per month.
Ian Chisholm has Permission to Officiate which allows him to take services within this diocese. We love welcoming Ian into the churches of the Benefice to take services, but understandably we should not rely on him in our rota, we should view the one or two services where can officiate each month as a bonus. During the interregnum we were supported by many other clergy and licensed lay ministers to sustain the rota. These ministers can continue to support us, but their priority has to be at other churches nearby which are now in vacancy and deserve the same level of support we enjoyed. Further, there is a financial implication at local church level every time a service is ‘covered’ by someone from outside the parish.
The creation of the Benefice also offers us real opportunity: it allows us to come together in far greater numbers. It may also enable us to attract younger parishioners to worship; we should all be concerned that our congregations are aging and dwindling. A revised rota will allow us to respect the traditional places of worship while at the same time giving greater opportunity to worship together. David and Eleanor rarely have the opportunity to minister together, and no minister has the opportunity either to properly prepare or have fellowship with their congregation following a service because the timings set by the current rota are far too tight.
A rota is a tool to aid us in our Sunday worship, it doesn’t dictate to us how we worship, what types of service we use, or indeed what time of day is the ‘best’ for ‘proper church’.
Eleanor established a working group with the support of the PCC to explore the options for the clergy to develop a new model of worship rota. Their deliberations identified certain supporting themes of great value, such as the importance of each church continuing to be used regularly as a place of Sunday worship, the opportunity to worship together, the opportunity to share some resources (such as our choir), and of allowing each village to build upon particular services which are feeding the community. It is the role of the clergy, with the agreement of the PCC, to develop the ideas put forward by the working group and then decide upon the form of services which should take place in church. There are four principles that we have applied in developing the rota further. These are to:
- Encourage Holy Communion as a central observance in the parish every Sunday
- Maintain continuity- BCP services will take place each week
- Support our newer families- 2 Family services will take place in the Benefice each month
- Allow for new growth- services such as Matins/Morning Prayer at 9am, and Bible Study/Contemplative worship in the later slot
The result is the rota that is shown in the table below:
The timings have been identified for the following reasons:
- The rota can in this form be regarded as a ‘core’ rota, it is predictable and can be sustained by only one minister (priest) during leave periods etc
- The length of the services allows for the mid-morning service to begin at a suitable ‘mid-morning’ time, and for the minister to have fellowship following a service, and time for travel. This is the minimum gap possible in order to achieve those things.
- There is a clear intention that early services should be shorter, often without music, but at a later time than the villages have had to cope with until now. The early service is also too early for some of those who value it most. A 9am start also allows for people to travel more easily to another village if required.
- 30am for the Mid-morning service allows for a full sung Communion service to take place, and for refreshments & fellowship before people begin to wish to go away for lunch.
- The afternoon/evening slot has not yet had a firm time put in place. Tilshead, who have had evening services for some years as part of their core provision (while Chitterne have taken ‘their’ early slots), have become comfortable with 6pm. In the winter we adjust this to 4pm. A constant time of 5pm across the Benefice and across the year has been mooted.
The people available to serve this community through worship will not change dramatically with the new rota. While one person could take all the services alone, this is not the primary goal. We now have one person in the parish who is commencing training to be a Licensed Lay Minister, another who is continuing the discernment process to ordained ministry. We would encourage others from the wider community (such as retired clergy and LLMs from the deanery) to be involved in our worship as before should they wish to do so. However, the new rota will allow us greater flexibility for those in training to lead worship and preach, to develop new forms of worship we have not yet engaged upon; to share together in preaching and presiding at Eucharistic services.
We know that you will have questions, indeed the rota working group have already considered some, but we are keen that we have a period of consultation so that we can engage and address any concerns. To help this process we have summarised the main questions that we have been asked, and our response:
- ‘An equal share’. It was felt appropriate that each village in the Benefice should have an equal share of services in the new rota even though Shrewton was considerably bigger than the rest. This reflects our commitment to the benefice, and provided we are prepared to travel we are shifting the emphasis from where we worship to what and how we worship.
- A range of times. Chitterne and Tilshead have been the two villages who have taken the earlier and later slots in the past on the rota. By doing this they have made it possible for Shrewton and Orcheston to have access to the majority of the mid-morning services. As described earlier, however, this pattern is increasingly difficult to fulfil and we wish to emphasise the importance of the Morning Service as a focus for worship by all ages in the Benefice. Those who feel strongly about worshipping at a specific time will now be free to worship at that time every week, though they will have to be prepared to travel to do so.
- The parish profile for this benefice, along with all other profiles nationally, rightly recognised that in order for the church to grow and flourish in the next 10-20 years, our younger community needed encouragement to worship more regularly with us. As baptised members of the church, we are all equal, and yet at times our liturgy does not reflect this. The Benefice, on the current rota, has 4 Family Services. Two are well attended and have shown growth in the overall church community (giving, electoral roll membership, involvement in ministry) through the involvement of newer families. In the other two churches, the Family service is less well attended. In addition, families tend to be more prepared to move around the community for regular worship which ‘fits’ their faith journey. The new rota allows for only 2 Family services, in the villages with schools, and to take place in the mid-morning slot. One will have Holy Communion within it, the other, for now will not. As our families grow and as our work in Messy Church and the schools develops, we will seek to develop the content of the 2 Family services, so that our younger children and their parents may grow in the faith. Tilshead’s only morning service has been ‘Family’ focussed for many years. In the case of Shrewton it is felt that the mid-morning slot on the new rota should be focussed upon Family worship, developing its structure as the congregation grows and develops.
- Various elements come out of a review of the worship rota, which people may not anticipate initially. One is how we develop and support our families (as above), another is how we continue to nurture and support our older members. We already provide lifts for older members of our congregations who no longer drive. We anticipate that this would be something that should be developed further when the new rota comes into place. In addition, we feel that along with the Sunday worship rota, the monthly MU Holy Communion and Day Centre Holy Communion services, we should now put in place a mid-week service of Holy Communion. This idea was approved by the PCC in the summer of 2014, but has yet to be implemented. It will probably come into place in Shrewton, mid-morning on a Tuesday, though suggestions for other options are welcomed.
- The Shrewton choir have decided that they would like to support the new rota by moving around the Benefice and becoming effectively a Benefice choir. We are delighted with this commitment and enthusiasm and hope it will provide us with more opportunities to develop our worship together. By the same token other groups, such as bell ringers and sidesmen, sacristans & those who provide the refreshments, are invited to explore what the implications of the new rota will be for their role, and to feed back any concerns or suggestions for development.
- Some have voiced concern that giving will decline if people are moving to different churches. This need not be the case, as we anticipate a growth in congregation as a result of the change and three of the four churches will continue to have the same number of services per month as they did before. However, should people wish to identify specific concerns they are encouraged to speak with their treasurers or members of the working party during this consultation period.
- Our ‘Special Services’. There are many events and occasions which are precious to each village, and these will still be programmes separately from the core rota. The seasons of Lent, Advent, Easter and Christmas will continue to be marked across the Benefice, combining some services and holding others, such as Easter & Christmas morning in each church. In addition, annual services in the ‘closed’ churches will continue in the same pattern as before, and other ‘occasional’ services, such as the gathering for All Souls, flower festivals, and our ecumenical services will also continue as before. In fact, we will have more scope to include all of these special occasions within the framework of the proposed rota. If the proposed calendar is approved, we should also be able to plan more easily in advance.
No change such as this is going to ‘suit’ everyone. The current rota doesn’t work, and it has become an obstacle. The new rota will require some compromise, and will take time to get used to. It is proposed that the following timescale be applied:
September 2015- PCC decision as to new rota
November 2015- if approved, new rota implemented
September 2016- review & amend/give final approval as appropriate.
The creation of the Benefice took place through necessity, but it has brought with it a new sense of shared identity, purpose and focus upon our mission as one church before God. The new rota, similarly, is being created through necessity, but provides us with great opportunities for growth, nurturing of vocation and shared fellowship. We commend the proposals to you.
Please feel free to address your questions, ideas or concerns to members of the rota working party, or to the clergy & PCC members. If possible, please suggest alternative solutions where you have identified something you regard as a problem, so that we can move forward and create the best possible model for our future worship together.
The Revd Eleanor Rance 01980 620580
The Revd David Walters 01980 620038
Nick Parker 07801 707891
You may also wish to speak with PCC members, or members of the rota working group:
Marcelle Stobie (Chitterne)
John Badgery (Orcheston)
Heather Brearey (Shrewton)
Claire Cooper (Tilshead)
The longest day of the pilgrimage, I was joined by Peter in the morning but marched on alone through incessant drizzle to Winchester Cathedral. Having completed the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust Neolithic Marathon in 7 hours this May (and in dreadful weather conditions) I was sceptical that today’s walk, which took 8.5hours was only 24 miles. I have checked back on the 1:25,000 OS sheets since getting home and it would seem that today’s trip was nearer 30 miles. I am hoping that Alton is no more than 19 miles from Winchester. The good news is that I am working from a different guide book tomorrow which I hope is a bit more realistic on its distances.
The Spirit of the SPB marches ever deeper into Hampshire and the next day it will be Surrey’s turn to hear about us.