Annual Clergy Report 2022

The Beaminster Area Team Annual Clergy Report 2022January to December 2021

Revd Canon David BaldwinTeam Rector 

The year 2021 began in a similar vein to 2020 with lockdown and closure of team churches. Worship was suspended from February including Lent and we returned on Palm Sunday. Understandably it took a few months for confidence to return and congregation numbers to start returning to pre-pandemic levels. Other activities were slow to return and parish finances have reported difficulties. 

I have written in past annual reports on the difficulties of finding officers to fill the needed positions on PCCs. Last year’s APCMs yet again showed up the continuing fragility across the team with five churches unable to elect any churchwardens, and just three with the required two wardens. The pressure upon individuals to single-handedly carry out day to day requirements is unreasonable. 

Last year I shared Neville Adams’ concerns over the church in Drimpton and we are now dealing with what this means in reality. Following a meeting with the wider community and Archdeacon I have been working with a small group of parishioners to see what the future holds for the church. Without a sense of reality I can see this pattern spreading in the team. I am aware just how hard so many of you work to keep the show on the road and I express my sincere and heartfelt thanks to everyone of you. 

The upkeep of ancient and listed buildings is a drain on parishes across the country, not only in terms of time but also in finances. Added to this are the costs associated with the upkeep of churchyards. Long gone are the days when the local community saw it as a form of pride to give their time to help, although we still have a few churchyards where this tradition is maintained in some ways. I was grateful to those parishes who took the Generous Giving scheme seriously and to those who responded with their support. Also I would like to thank our treasurers for the diligent way in which they maintained payment of the parish share as a priority.

The outcome of the  Church 2030 consultations was that we should be looking at six areas; prayer, study, working with the community, management of parishes, families and children, and discipleship. I have added in pioneering new ways of being church. I hope that across the team we can make these our priorities going forward. I recognise how much work is already going on within parish communities. I hope that we can provide support to parishes from within the wider team from volunteers who have a passion for discipleship and seeing growth.

I would like to thank my colleagues, especially Jo and Fiona for their continued prayer and support in the mission and ministry of the team. Also to our partner priests, licensed lay ministers, lay worship leaders, lay pastoral assistants. Those who administer the team and office; Mandy Alford, Brian Ridley, and office volunteers. I also thank Anne Woodward and Harry Neary for their outstanding work and support in the administration, communications, and technology required in keeping a team of this size running smoothly. There are also many other people who may have been missed but I will do my best to put this right at each annual parish meeting.

Rev Jo Neary – Team Vicar

The highlights of 2021 for me have been gradually getting back to a more familiar way of being church together in person, celebrating new things flourishing, growing despite Covid challenges, and the joy of being able to sing again in church. 

We maintained a good connection to our children and families via weekly recorded collective worship for schools and online Messy Church but it has been a joy to return to in person worship both in school and at Messy Church. Summer holiday activities in Drimpton and Salway Ash were well attended and highly valued for gathering people back together safely. Walk in Wednesday returned in September and has flourished in a new and slightly shorter format which has less impact on the volunteers. The foodbank has continued to be well supported by our churches and used more than ever by those in need. 

New things have flourished too. We have a new toddler and baby group in Beaminster supporting baptism ministry throughout the team. And a growing number of disciples in our Zoom community meeting Gin Church. Our online community on social media and YouTube continues to thrive and is probably the third biggest congregation in the team after schools and St Mary’s Beaminster. We had a really positive time engaging with both the Bible Course led by Fiona and the Living in Love and Faith course led by the whole deanery. The only sadness was the small number of people who engaged. 

There was joy to be had in outdoor worship particularly in Blackdown and Salway Ash and I hope this could be developed in the future, perhaps to include children and families.

The lows? The inevitable struggle to find volunteers to do everything and to avoid overburdening the same people and the sadness of those who have got out of the habit of church and haven’t returned.  Also the continued pressure from the diocese and the wider church to succeed and grow new things and flourish when the real success has just been to keep going. I also feel we need to pray more because when we pray things grow, when we don’t pray we just stay still. How might you be able to find time each week to commit to pray for new things happening in the team?

A huge thank you to all the volunteers who don’t just keep the show on the road but also do amazing things well beyond the boundaries of usual Sunday worship. There is much to do together, do come and join in with what God is doing in the Beaminster Area Team.