Updated 3rd May 2021
Final Pastoral Letter from the Revd Arthur
Dear friends and neighbours,
It’s been a privilege and a responsibility to be living and working here in the Churn Valley these past six-and-a-half years but now the time has come to say goodbye.
Margaret and I have come to know and love some of you very well, others less so and some only by sight. We are grateful to those who welcomed our arrival in December 2014, especially Sylvie Piece who helped with the unpacking and has remained a good friend throughout. A few weeks later I remember feeling a special sense of purpose during the licensing service in Colesbourne parish church.
As much as I love leading worship, I’ve also made lots of mistakes although thankfully not all at the same time! I recall a family service early on at Elkstone when the sermon involved creating a model of the Solar System. It was an ambitious project with balls of various sizes strung out along the length of the building. At the end of the service, I was waiting in the Porch ready to say goodbye as people left the building and spontaneously exclaimed something like “Thank you God, I’ve survived!” This was immediately followed by laughter from inside the building... my microphone was still switched on! Then there was the Christmas Eve service where the order of service omitted the Eucharistic Prayer and I had to say the words entirely from memory... although no one seemed to notice! Whilst seeking to honour God in worship, we are only human after all and must not take ourselves too seriously. God is love as revealed by Jesus Christ and I firmly believe He has a great sense of humour.
One of the best things about living and working in the Churn Valley has been the opportunity to have short walks in such a beautiful landscape. I wrote a series of articles for Parish Link magazine which were compiled into a booklet and then became virtual walks on YouTube. It was a way of recognising the historical significance of each parish church and celebrating the vibrancy of life still evident today.
Our annual village fetes are important fund-raising events, but they have even greater social value by bringing neighbours together to have some fun. I have great admiration for those who organise the fetes as well as everyone who pitches in by doing the hard work of setting up and dismantling as well as sharing their various gifts. In recent years
Colesbourne has innovated by having a barn dance and at Christmas our first ever Drive-In Carol Service! I was surprised to learn that the CofE’s first live wedding on the internet took place in 1999 at Colesbourne parish church!
These rural parishes are kept going by a small number of committed and talented individuals who find inspiration and direction from the life of Jesus Christ. The physical state of the church buildings and churchyards is much better now than seven years ago but what really matters is the life of the community. One of the worst aspects of the current C-19 pandemic has been disruption of natural contact. Thanks to Zoom and YouTube most of our relationships are still intact but some rebuilding is going to be needed over the summer months.
And now to conclude... the CofE expects clergy to retire at 70 which in my case will be next month. Therefore, Margaret and I have spent the past year trying to discern where God is leading us next. Eventually we realised that what matters most is just “abiding in Christ” (John 15:4). After 33 years of living and working in the Cotswolds we were expecting to stay around here but we have gradually realised the benefits of being closer to our family in the Derbyshire Dales.
Margaret and I came here hardly knowing anyone but now seven years later we’ve been blessed with so many lovely friends and parishioners that it’s hard to accept our last Sunday will be on 30th May at North Cerney. The Diocese has granted us until the end of June to move out of Cowley Rectory and away to a village near Ashbourne. We are hoping to stay in touch and will keep the CVB in our prayers.
God has sustained and inspired these churches since the Norman conquest of 1066, and we trust He will bless you until that great day when Jesus returns in glory to fully establish His kingdom here on Earth.
Easter blessings Revd Arthur.