Vicar’s Report

Vicar’s report 2021-2022

 

This time last year we were operating under restrictions imposed in response to the COVID  pandemic: social distancing, limited seating in Church, no congregational singing.

A year on and I am currently feeling the effects of being infected with COVID myself, the school was forced to close down early last week due to an outbreak of this infection, and the wards of the hospital in Hexham are as full as at any time during the winter.

For all that, we are not where we were last year and I am hearing from people who would like us to return to something more like our practices before COVID, though there is no great enthusiasm for sharing the chalice as yet.

Without wanting to repeat what has been reported by the Churchwardens I want to say what a joy it was to celebrate weddings in Church in 2021, even though they can no longer be registered at the altar as we have always done, and a joy to celebrate baptisms too.

Although we are returning to in-person meetings, I think we will continue to use zoom and other electronic media. It certainly opens up the Lent study group to those who could not attend in person, including a young woman who will be returning to England this summer to be baptized at St. Helen’s.

One of the joys of our weekly worship is real music, and I am delighted at the quality of the music provided for us, week by week, by Shirley and Rachael Nixon, and truly grateful.

We have been offered funding to set up a livestreaming facility at Church. The information I receive is conflicting and I wish I was more knowledgeable about this.

We have gained new members of the Sunday congregation, but as time goes by it is becoming clear that some of our congregation may never return to Church. This is a matter of  considerable sadness. The reasons will be various, but I think it means we must have a clear vision of what the future might look like at Whitley Chapel.

I will be 66 years old this year but one of the signs of encouragement I see is the young clergy who are coming into active ministry, bringing energy and fresh ideas. We have enjoyed having  Rev. Henry Hope  from Hexham Abbey leading worship at St. Helen’s : the future lies with people like him, not with me.

There are young families in Hexhamshire who are interested in the Church, and support the events and special services we organize.  The future of our parish Church depends on their involvement and I am grateful to Carole my wife for keeping this part of the life of the Church flourishing.

I am also grateful to have two gifted Christian ministers  amongst my neighbours. Carol and Robin Charlton  are each living out their vocation and  are part of God’s plan for this community of Hexhamshire.

The past year has been exceptionally busy for me. The additional duties of Area Dean of Hexham were not something I asked for, particularly at a time when not only Haltwhistle and Greenhead and the Allen Valleys but also  Haydon Bridge,  Beltingham and Henshaw  were all in vacancy.

I have learned a great deal, not least  where NInebanks Church is situated, but also how impressive is the lay leadership of those vacant parishes, and how much energy they have put, not only in maintaining but in renewing the life of the Churches they serve.

It has been my joy to be part of the process of  appointing  a new rector for Allendale and, after nearly four years, a new vicar for Haltwhistle

I believe I may also have found a new Deanery  Treasurer , and was relieved, on January 23rd, to hand over the duties of Area Dean to the Revd.  Dr. Martin Naylor.

I am thankful that we have an energetic Hon.Treasurer in David Wilson, and  a professional and conscientious Accountant in Claire Bradley, who has also made the time to support Haltwhistle’s  PCC during their long interregnum.

Thanks to Claire and David we end the year in a financially stable position, but have no room to be complacent as we look ahead.

I am grateful to our Churchwarden  Jenny Stirling, who has spent many hours  cleaning the Church before Sunday worship and has been tireless in keeping up with the Church’s  requirements in the area of safeguarding and in ensuring that the PCC  understand what is expected.

After more than 20 years in office, I know I must  accept Barbara Parker’s decision to retire. She is the most wonderful Churchwarden, loved by all, and a true example of Christian faithfulness. There are hardly words to express my gratitude to her.  Barbara is not walking away from anything, however; she has just produced a rota for flower arranging in church and persuaded a good number of ladies to take part.

Access to the Church is now through a beautiful pair of new gates, and for this we have to thank the Burial Ground Trust under the leadership of Tony Macklon for its generous support.

We have been waiting since October for  Northern Powergrid to tell us when they will be replacing the power supply to the Church but this winter their focus has  had to be elsewhere.

I am personally grateful to Ruth Marlee for encouraging people to go on the Church’s rota, and for putting the whole thing together.

The Baby and Toddler group continues to welcome and support young families, thanks to its faithful volunteers: again, I think this is an essential part of the ministry of this Church.

We are going through a time of great change and uncertainty.

Let us remember all that God has been doing with gratitude, and look ahead in hope and with faith.