Easter Triduum at St Michael's - The Eas

As Chair of the PCC Father Tim writes a review of Parish Life in 2020.

 

This forms part of the Trustees' Report to the 2021 Annual Parochial Church Meeting.

 

We hope you find this Report below an interesting review of 2020!

The Trustees have pleasure in presenting their report together with the financial statements of the charity for the year ended 31 December 2020.

AIMS AND PURPOSES

The Parochial Church Council (PCC) of St Michael and All Angels with St James, Croydon, has the responsibility of cooperating with the incumbent, the Reverend Canon Timothy Pike, in promoting in the ecclesiastical parish, the whole mission of the church, pastoral, evangelistic, social and ecumenical.

 

The PCC is also specifically responsible for the maintenance of the church of St Michael and All Angels and its adjacent hall.

The parish is affiliated to The Society under the Patronage of St Wilfrid and St Hilda. The PCC has passed a resolution in accordance with the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the ministry of bishops and priests, and the parish is under the pastoral care of the Bishop of Fulham.

OBJECTIVES AND ACTIVITIES

The PCC is committed to enabling as many people as possible to worship at our church and to become part of our parish community. The PCC maintains an overview of worship. Mass is celebrated daily and with traditional solemnity on Sundays and other significant days in the liturgical calendar.  

When planning activities, the PCC has considered the Charity Commission’s guidance on public benefit and, in particular, the supplementary guidance on charities for the advancement of religion. We try to enable people to live out their faith as part of our parish community through:

  • Worship and prayer; learning about the Gospel; and developing their knowledge of and trust in Jesus Christ.

  • Provision of pastoral care for people living in the parish.

  • Missionary and outreach work.

To facilitate this work, it is important that we maintain the fabric of the church and hall and keep the church open as much as possible.  The PCC completely endorses the operation of the Pastoral Assistant scheme which, funded by grants received, helps in fulfilling these objectives.

ACHIEVEMENTS AND PERFORMANCE

The PCC ordinarily monitors the performance of the church in meeting its objectives by regularly receiving and reviewing reports by the incumbent and other church officers.

 

In 2020 this took place under extraordinary circumstances.

2020: An Extraordinary Year

The Coronavirus pandemic has had the most drastic impact on all aspects of life, including the life of the Church. 

Public worship was prohibited on 17th March and from 25th March the clergy were not even allowed to access Church buildings for private prayer.

 

The daily offering of Divine Worship continued during lockdown in the Clergy House.

Private prayer in Church was permitted again on 15th June and the public celebration of Mass was permitted from 5th July, subject to risk assessment and the careful imposition of Covid security measures.

During the subsequent winter lockdown Churches were allowed by the Government to remain open for public worship.

 

Worship and Study

During 2020 so many things had to stop. People were unable to attend Church for three months. It was not possible to have Sunday School.  Only choirs have been allowed to sing at Mass, and then not always. Our practice of catechesis and Christian study ceased. Normal expressions of communion and fellowship were halted: both liturgically – for example the sign of peace, the sharing of the chalice; and socially – it has not been possible to share refreshments together on Sunday mornings or even mingle after services to greet one another.

 

Our outreach to those in need has been drastically curtailed: the Refugee Drop-In centre has been suspended for much of the past year. It has not been possible for the clergy and Pastoral Assistants to visit Croydon College or the Hospital Chaplaincy. We have missed visits from Trinity School and the Vicar has not been able to celebrate the termly Mass in the school over the past 12 months.

One thing has continued throughout the year and entirely without exception. And that is that, in accordance with the venerable, long-standing tradition of this Parish and with the norms of Catholic spiritual life, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has been offered daily. The Vicar was grateful to his colleagues and to the Church Wardens for their unanimous conviction that the Mass is the source and summit of the Christian life and that, therefore, it was the daily celebration of Mass that was to be the priority when all else had to cease.

In fact, the liturgy was celebrated richly, to a very high standard and with an astonishing reach in the early part of the year. This was due to two particular factors. First, at the start of the lockdown Joshua Ryan, our then Assistant Director of Music, and Fr Philip, our then Assistant Curate, took up temporary residence in the Vicarage, armed with keyboards and iPads. Which introduces the second factor; thanks to Fr Philip’s IT prowess we were able to livestream the daily Mass from the Vicarage Dining Room! This new and well-resourced Clergy House arrangement enabled many parishioners to feel a connection with the daily worship of the Church. It also gained St Michael’s Croydon many new friends from near and far, not least because people enjoyed the sung liturgy, even as offered by only three people.

There was another positive effect too. The clergy were particularly grateful for and upheld by the many expressions of gratitude and affection that were offered by those who joined in with worship online. The pandemic has helped us to realise what a gift it is to be able to access prayer and worship. Now we no longer take that gift for granted, as perhaps we might have done before. The lockdown has also reminded us that we are a gift to one another.

With regard to the gradual re-opening of the Church and restoration of public worship, particular appreciative tribute should be paid to the Bishop of Fulham and to our Director of Music, Andy Scott.

 

Bishop Jonathan was assiduous in his support of the clergy during the spring lockdown. He also encouraged parishes to prepare for a maximum uptake of the opportunities offered with each relaxation of Covid restrictions. It was a tremendous encouragement for the clergy to hear that the Bishop wanted us to get back to work in Church as soon as possible.

 

And Andy’s wisdom, experience and zeal meant that thorough risk assessments were undertaken and a careful programme of Covid security measures were put in place in time for the re-opening of the Church.

 

Bishop Jonathan was quick to come to St Michael’s to pray privately with parishioners before the Blessed Sacrament and to offer pastoral support, not least to parishioners who had worked ‘on the front line’ as nurses and chaplaincy support in Croydon University Hospital.

Since last July the Church has been open every day and Mass has been celebrated. We are grateful to our Pastoral Assistants, who were able to return from exile and assist in the task of Church sitting.

 

We were awarded a grant of £4,950 by the Croydon Episcopal Area for the appointment of Lay Minister Covid Stewards to help ensure social distancing, offer pastoral support to visitors and oversee the safety of those who visit the Church. This we have done and we have been grateful for this Diocesan grant to help us re-open each day.

By opening our doors as much as possible, we have been able to attract new worshippers to St Michael’s. We expect a good increase in the number on the Electoral Roll of the parish in 2021. At the end of 2020, the average attendance at weekday Mass was between 15 and 25. Sunday Mass numbers were beginning to grow again and extra Masses were organised to avoid over-crowding. 

It has been a particular delight to have had as much lovely music as possible at the Solemn Mass on Sundays and on special occasions. We are hugely grateful to the members of choir for all they have done to be robed and in fine voice at absolutely every opportunity. We have enjoyed the singing of individual cantors at Mass when the full choir was not permitted to sing. We even enjoyed our traditional Advent and Christmas Carol Services in December, though it was very emotional and poignant that, apart from the Choir, the congregation was not able to sing those much loved songs.

 

Our 2020 Easter and Christmas attendance and communicant numbers look drastic!

Here are some 2020 figures, with 2019 figures in brackets.

 

Easter Communicants                                                     3          (215)     

Easter Attendance                                                            3          (263)

Number of Facebook Livestream Views                    623

(Easter Vigil & Easter Day Masses)

 

Attendance at Special Services in Advent                   140       (434)     

Christmas Communicants                                             132       (144)     

Christmas Attendance                                                    156       (218)     

(Christmas figures are for Masses on 24th & 25th December)

 

Average Sunday Attendance in October                                      94        (115)     

Average October Weekly Weekday Service Attendance           170       (162)

 

Average Sunday Livestream Views in May                      587

Average Weekday Livestream Views in May                 1,043                                                    

 

Baptisms                                                                                 3          (5)        

Weddings                                                                                0          (2)        

Funerals in Church                                                                1          (4)        

 

Staff Changes

There were a number of significant staff changes during 2020.

In the summer our Pastoral Assistant Stephen Miller left us to begin training for Ordination at St Stephen’s House, Oxford. We are delighted that he was recommended to train for the priesthood and wish him well.

 

Jordan Kay and Scott Canadas continued to serve as Pastoral Assistants, though their experience has been sadly inhibited by lockdown.

Our Assistant Director of Music Joshua Ryan left in the autumn to take up a new appointment as Organist at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Joshua’s contribution to our liturgical life during lockdown was outstanding and we are very grateful to him. We were delighted to be able to appoint Nick Tall to take on the ADOM role.

In the autumn our Parish Administrator Paul Shipley left to take up a full time post as Parish Administrator in Sanderstead. We are tremendously grateful to Paul for his good cheer and dedication to St Michael’s, which has continued in many helpful quiet ways even after his move.

During the autumn we were delighted to announce the appointment of Luke Demetri as our new Assistant Curate. He is currently completing his studies for the priesthood at St Stephen’s House, Oxford and will, God willing, be ordained deacon in June 2021 and priest a year after that.

After a very distinguished curacy at St Michael’s, Fr Philip Kennedy was appointed Assistant Curate of St Bartholomew’s Brighton. We bade farewell to him in October 2020. It was sad that we were unable to have a great party to celebrate all that Fr Philip contributed to our life together. But he was presented with a gift from parishioners of £1,000, which was a telling indication of the respect and affection in which he is held here.

 

Meanwhile, out with the old and in with the new: we were extremely pleased to welcome Fr Nigel Palmer as our new SSM Curate. SSM stands for Self Supporting Minister, which means that Fr Nigel does not receive a stipend or accommodation in relation to his ministry. Fr Nigel was licensed to the parish in October. He has quickly settled into parish life here and has already conducted a Zoom Catechesis course on the Doctors of the Church. He is looking forward to post-Covid opportunities to get to know the congregation better.

Our Links with the Wider Church

During 2020 St Michael’s has been pleased to participate in the life of the Croydon Central Deanery, albeit mostly online, both through the clergy chapter and the Deanery Synod.  It has been a pleasure to collaborate with friends at Croydon Minster and St Alban’s South Norwood in devotional activities and in terms of mutual support for the clergy 

We have played an active part in the life of the Diocese in various ways, not least in paying our Parish Share in full and on time. 

During 2020 we have had far fewer visitors than usual. But the Bishop of Fulham, the Bishop of Southwark and the Archdeacon of Croydon have all had occasion to visit St Michael’s on various occasions. 

Earlier in the year the clergy and Churchwardens attended the farewell service at Emmanuel South Croydon for the Venerable Chris Skilton, who retired as Archdeacon. He was always a great friend of St Michael’s.

In July the Bishop of Southwark appointed Fr Tim to an Honorary Canonry at Southwark Cathedral. He was installed on 4th October and was glad to have had the support of Churchwardens and colleagues at that service.

 

Thanks

In 2020 Joseph Goswell and Philip Bignell continued to serve as Churchwardens with great dedication and kindness, not least in carrying out their duty of care to the clergy. We are tremendously grateful to them for their cheerful and generous commitment of time and energy to the life and ministry of our Parish.

 

The Parish was very well served by many generous people who make the life of the church happen smoothly and well.  We are very grateful not just to our Wardens but also to our PCC Secretary, our Parish Administrator, our Director of Music and all our musicians, our servers, Church sitters, cleaners, gardeners, flower arrangers and holy dusters. 

We are extremely grateful to Gloria Renner Thomas, whose calm and reliable dedication to her important work as our Safeguarding Officer is very much appreciated by everyone here at St Michael’s and widely admired by our Diocesan Safeguarding colleagues.

We thank them all for their contribution to the life of the church here at St Michael’s and trust that there will be even more opportunity for us all to work together for the glory of God and the building up of the Church in a new post-Covid time.

PLANS FOR FUTURE PERIODS

In the coming year the Incumbent and PCC will continue to ensure that the Christian life and Catholic ethos of the Parish is celebrated and developed by the offering of divine worship and opening the church to visitors every day, as conditions allow. 

We will continue to take all steps to ensure St Michael’s is well placed to take full advantage of all relaxations in Covid restriction. But we will also take care to ensure the safety and well-being of all who visit our Church.  

We look forward to a fuller resumption of Catechesis programmes.

The imminent redevelopment of West Croydon will offer important opportunities to St Michael’s to witness to new residents of our Parish.

An important element of future planning is the commemoration in 2021of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Parish of St Michael’s, Croydon. Some significant dates include 28th July, the actual anniversary of the foundation of the Parish by an Order in Council; 31st August, the anniversary of the appointment of Canon Hoare as the first Minister in Charge of the Parish; and 26th November, the anniversary of the first service to be held in the Upper Room. Visiting preachers and splendid liturgies have been organised to mark these events.

We will continue to work with other parishes in the Deanery and with our ecumenical friends to worship God and serve our neighbours in practical ways.

 

We commit to being gracious and generous supporters of the deanery, the diocese and the Fulham fellowship.

Meanwhile, the Incumbent and PCC will need to take stock of our Covid-related experiences and to consider what we have learnt. The coming year will offer a chance to start our parish life afresh and plan for the appropriate resumption of many activities.

 

There are various fabric projects that have been on hold and will now need to be brought to completion.

The Incumbent and PCC gladly commit themselves to these tasks, grateful for all that has been given us and mindful of our responsibilities to the present congregation, to the wider community and to future generations.

The Reverend Canon Timothy Pike

April 2021