Saint Margaret's Hornby
Saint Michael the Archangel Whittington
Saint John the Baptist Arkholme
Saint John the Evangelist Gressingham
in the Lune Valley in north Lancashire

Vicar’s report for Annual Parish Meetings in 2020

2019 seems a long time ago – back before Covid reached Europe. But the annual report is due, as we prepare for delayed annual meetings, so here is a look back at 2019.

Two major highlights of 2019 were the Passion Play and the Peace Pilgrimage.

The Passion Play was written and directed by our own David Battersby, with Rodger McPhail as The Devil, and David Findlay as Jesus of Nazareth, with a full supporting cast of actors and singers, featuring excerpts from Stainer’s Crucifixion, Lotti’s Crucifixus, and original songs by David Battersby, with the ensemble of singers directed by Anthony Smith, and Peter Entwistle at the organ. Saint Margaret’s Hornby was filled for two dramatic evening performances, on Wednesday of Holy Week and on Good Friday.

The Peace Pilgrimage on 27 July saw pilgrims from the valley and beyond walk from Saint Joseph’s Kirkby Lonsdale to Saint Margaret’s Hornby, via Saint Michael’s Whittington, Saint John the Baptist Arkholme, Saint John the Evangelist Gressingham, and Saint Mary’s Hornby. All six churches had created dramatic displays – filling the churches – on different Peace themes. The Prayer of Saint Frances was repeated throughout the day, and 50 gathered for the final act of worship.

Also in 2019: we hosted both the Women’s World Day of Prayer and the MU Deanery Festival; Derek Seber addressed MU about his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela; boiler problems in Whittington saw the Whittington and Arkholme congregations combine, and decide to stay together for the long-term, travelling faithfully between the two buildings on alternate Sundays; Hornby renewed its commitment to the Food Bank; Whittington organised a Lent collection of practical items for the homeless; and musical events for charity included Divers Voyces in Hornby (‘music for the evening’ from Rachmaninoff, Lassus, Dowland, Rogers, Rusby and more, for Sarcoma UK and Dementia UK), Levens Choir in Whittington (for their scholarship programme and Whittington church), 'River Song' by Lancaster Singers in Hornby (‘from Gospel to Garfunkel’ for MNDA), an organ recital by Peter Entwistle in memory of Tony Ewens (for the church music fund), and a celebrity organ recital with Gordon Stewart (combined with a Gift Day raising over £17,000 for the roof fund).

Our Lent Book was An Introduction to the New Testament by Luke Johnson – establishing that the entire New Testament is ‘all about the resurrection’, before giving fresh insights on the Gospels, Saint Paul, and more. Guest speaker Fr Richard Taylor completed the programme on Monday of Holy Week.

In another full year in 2019:
• youth-led services continued on Sunday mornings each month in Hornby, and Hornby Primary School joined our Wednesday morning communion service once each term, with young people taking part and helping to lead the service;
• weekly Bible Study continued every Wednesday, looking in greater detail each week at the previous Sunday’s bible readings;
• the 11am silence was observed for Remembrance Sunday in all four parishes;
• and the carol services across the benefice continued to be amongst the largest events of the year in each of the four villages – including Gressingham’s candlelight service, in its third year.

Gressingham continues to investigate the possibility of re-ordering Gressingham church for wider community use – looking now to obtaining grants, and a full village referendum on the proposals.

Hornby has all the funds ready, and is just waiting for listed-building permission, to replace the entire church roof.

We continue to share with Saint Mary’s the combined choirs carol service, the Remembrance Sunday parade, the Palm Sunday procession, and Pentecost drinks in Saint Mary’s garden, as well as the Lent Programme and the annual Away Days.

Links within the benefice continue strong, coordinated through the Benefice Advisory (or coordination) Committee, and celebrated in our Sunday United Benefice services, held for each Patronal Festival and in every month with five Sundays. The Benefice Advisory Committee also coordinates all youth-work across the benefice, and ensures compliance with best practice in safeguarding.

Sister Judith continued as our curate, in particular coordinating the Peace Pilgrimage. Robin McIlveen continued as our Lay Reader, and Judith Greenwood as both our Pastoral Assistant and – with Anthony Smith – as an official Occasional Preacher. Rose Roberts continues as Mothers Union branch leader, with a full and varied programme through the year. Lent Lunches for Christian Aid, and Afternoon Teas for church funds, were generously catered by Avril Scoffin, Liz Allison, Fiona Humphreys, and their team, and enjoyed by all who attended.

I am of course enormously grateful to all those who contribute in any way to the life of the four churches (there are far more than can be listed here): leading and taking part in Sunday services, offering music and hospitality, decorating the churches with flowers, organising special events, serving as churchwardens and on PCCs, taking communion to the housebound and to The Old Vicarage, ringing the bells, winding the clocks, cleaning and maintaining the churchyards and the buildings and their contents, working for various charities including the Morecambe Bay Food Bank and Christian Aid, caring for one another within the church community and beyond, and all those other things that contribute to our churches’ life and ministry. For myself, it is a privilege to be a part of the church community across the four parishes, and I look forward to continuing to work alongside you all in the year ahead.

[Little did we know what a year it was going to be.]

Michael Hampson (vicar) for the Annual Parish Meetings 2020

Back to home page