PARISH OF DUNCHURCH WITH THURLASTON
Dunchurch and Thurlaston are really attractive, accessible villages, situated very close to the M45, and to other Midlands Motorway networks. They present an ideal opportunity for a priest who is ready to focus his or her energies in mission and ministry in a self-contained, medium-sized village context, with its own Church of England (VA) school, knowing that the main church building has just had some major renovation work completed and is in very good repair!
St Peter’s has seen some encouraging growth and, with the combined energies of younger people who have recently come to faith working alongside more established members of the congregation, this church community has grown in confidence and, as their person specification indicates, they are ‘aching’ for more growth.
St Edmund’s is small but is also keen to grow, and it has that potential.
I would be delighted to welcome a colleague to this post who has the leadership, energy and creativity to help mould these churches further into the thriving Christian communities they long to be.
I commend the post to you.
With my prayers
Rugby Deanery is currently made up of 11 benefices and 30 churches with some 20 members of the Chapter. It is centred on the town of Rugby with a ring of rural, multi-parish benefices surrounding the town. Dunchurch is a suburban village with a keen sense of its own identity which borders both town and country.
The deanery is a key strategic unit for mission and the Chapter and Synod work well together in furthering the mission of the Deanery. Members of the Chapter are expected to play a full part in the life of the Deanery including Chapter meetings (which are primarily for prayer and mutual support), Synod, and taking some responsibility within the Deanery.
Rugby Deanery has an active ecumenical group with about forty churches working together under the Revive Rugby organisation. Details of this can be found at http://www.reviverugby.net
The Deanery is responsible for determining the future direction of ministry and mission within the Deanery and with some ten thousand new homes projected in the next fifteen to twenty years this presents some exciting opportunities and challenges.
However, we see Dunchurch as a parish with the potential not only for growth within the community, but also able to become a resource for the life of the whole deanery and to that end the deanery has decided to support the case for the seemingly generous allocation.
The Deanery is keen that the considerable gifts that lie within the existing congregation be nurtured and released so that the good news of Jesus Christ can be shared in new and imaginative ways within the community. This aspect is described in the post profile.
We as a Deanery are committed to engage with the Diocesan Mission Purpose of Worshipping God, Making New Disciples and Transforming Communities, using the 8 qualities of healthy churches.
The Reverend Canon Peter Watkins
Acting Area Dean, Rugby Deanery
BACKGROUND TO POST
Dunchurch is a reasonably large village (currently about 3,000 residents but with some new housing developments being considered) near Rugby in Warwickshire. Tradition has it that Guy Fawkes was due to meet his fellow conspirators here after blowing up the Houses of Parliament! The parish includes the small village of Thurlaston (about 270 residents) about a mile away. Both villages are very close to major transport networks. The vacancy has arisen following the retirement of the previous incumbent and provides a great opportunity to minister within a more or less self-contained large village community, with a congregation growing in both younger and older age ranges and aching for more growth, and with excellently maintained buildings enabling the church to focus on the opportunities for mission.
This post has flexibility built into its configuration. The congregation have already made a number of constructive changes (and would be willing for more) to facilitate growth, including prayer meetings, some well attended family oriented events, re-instating ALPHA, and two men’s curry nights. The post itself can also be flexible. Most recently it has been 0.8 stipendiary.
Some might consider this a somewhat generous allocation considering the comparative small size of the parish compared to other posts with very large parishes elsewhere (including the neighbouring parish of 20,000). The Deanery however regards this as a potential resourcing parish within the wider Deanery, and so will be looking for Dunchurch and Thurlaston to be able to support the wider church in the Deanery/Diocese in the future. Given the mission potential of the larger village of Dunchurch, and its potential to become a resourcing church, it was decided, after a brief consultation with a nearby group of parishes (the Draycote Group), not to link this parish with any more nearby rural parishes. This means the post-holder can concentrate primarily on growing Dunchurch, with some additional support for Thurlaston. Given this configuration, the post may also be suitable for an able priest seeking less than 0.8 ministry (e.g. half-time or House for Duty).
The village has a lively Baptist church which has had a very successful family ministry for many years, with much better facilities for children’s ministry than St Peter’s. To some extent St Peter’s therefore tended to attract an older generation, but there have been some encouraging signs of recent growth amongst the younger generation, with some excellent leadership potential among them.
The parish has also during its history had various expressions of more charismatic worship and ministry. These have unfortunately also tended to attract suspicion from some quarters who have hoped it would not influence the ‘main’ church, forcing such expressions to operate outside of the ‘main’ structures, and therefore be accused of being separatist when actually that position was forced on them. Given the influence of ALPHA and the increasing openness of the younger generation and many of the older generation to more informal and charismatic worship and ministry, we hope that a new incumbent may help us sensitively incorporate this freshness without doing a ‘Guy Fawkes’ and trying to blow us up!
The Archdeacon Missioner (the Venerable Morris Rodham) lives in the parish in Thurlaston, and has helped with services, ALPHA courses, a contemporary expression of church (SEARCH), and outreach events. His contribution to the parish is in a voluntary, not official, capacity.
The vicar of the neighbouring group of 5 parishes (Draycote Group – currently in interregnum) will also live in Thurlaston (as no suitable vicarage was found within that group), but they will have no responsibilities within this parish.
The parish looks forward to a fresh injection of enthusiasm and spiritual leadership which will help us flourish and thrive, and become a resource to others!
The role of this post is to lead the churches in fulfilling the Diocesan Mission Purpose of:
· Worshipping God
· Making New Disciples
· Transforming Communities.
This will be achieved by developing 8 essential qualities in the life of the church:
· Empowering Leadership
· Gift-oriented Ministry
· Passionate Spirituality
· Inspiring Worship
· Holistic Small Groups
· Need-oriented Outreach
· Loving Relationships
· Functional Structures
We would welcome applicants committed to the Diocesan Mission purpose and the 8 Essential Qualities, and who:
· Are gently charismatic, inspiring and innovative and can bring about excellence in all we do, thriving in both modern and more traditional worship contexts.
· Are aching for church growth, and excited by the missional opportunities to minister within a self-contained, medium-sized village with its own school, and with growth already happening in younger and older age ranges.
· Have the courage and ability (with tact!) to have the difficult but necessary conversations, with the small number of individuals who might unhelpfully resist such change in our context, on behalf of the many who want appropriate change and growth.
ST PETERS’ DUNCHURCH WITH ST EDMUNDS’ THURLASTON AND THE DIOCESAN MISSION PURPOSE AND THE 8 ESSENTIAL QUALITIES
The Mission Purpose of the Diocese of Coventry is:
· Worshipping God
· Making New Disciples
· Transforming Communities.
St Peters’ Dunchurch with St Edmunds’ Thurlaston is fully committed to fulfilling these three aspects, though under the previous incumbent we re-phrased these to:
· Worshipping God
· Sharing the love of Jesus
· Serving our Community
The parish conducted the Natural Church Development survey in relation to the 8 Essential Qualities in September 2014. However, it is fair to say that we have not addressed our weaknesses methodically. Given the lapse of time since the survey, the results may not be as accurate now, though we have tried to be honest in relation to the current descriptions of our strengths and weaknesses for both churches.
As the two churches only have a little cross-over and are very different to each other in many ways, we will describe each separately.
ST PETER’S, DUNCHURCH
St Peter’s has relied on key lay leaders (e.g. churchwardens) for many years, who are very committed but now feeling tired. Younger people are coming to faith but are not as interested in fulfilling the more ‘maintenance-oriented’ tasks of the church, preferring more missional roles, especially those which reach their own age range, and which also tend to be the newer or more innovative events and services. This situation is not uncommon for many rural churches. Being able to train and support laity, and sensitively hold together the aspirations of both the older and younger members of the church will therefore be a key leadership task of the next incumbent.
We have a recently appointed Lay Reader (Kevin Downham), who has joined us since the start of the interregnum.
A number of people have been encouraged, and felt empowered, to take on additional responsibilities, especially during the interregnum. These opportunities have been embraced with enthusiasm. Fellowship groups, Bible study groups, prayer groups and children’s work are all lay-led. The raising of over £250,000 for the church masonry (mainly through grants) was almost entirely lay-led. And some members of the church have delivered lay-led worship which has received very positive feedback.
There have been some occasional difficulties in developing lay leadership when certain individuals with influence have not wanted something to happen, or not wanted certain people to have more influence. Communication issues have then also led to either misunderstandings or hurt. However, we have been addressing this and feel these occasions are now diminishing.
We would welcome an incumbent who is an excellent trainer and developer of lay leaders, and who will not disempower people by trying to do or have control of everything themselves.
With the shortage of volunteers for the number of roles, we realise that at times we have been so desperate for volunteer help that we have just asked for help for existing tasks rather than identifying the passions, skills and gifts that others could bring. So asking for volunteers to add their names to rotas has become the norm, rather than recognising that people may have particular gifts or skills for something and encouraging them into a role where that is best utilised.
We are trying to approach this differently. So, recently, some younger parents have organised family craft mornings. One younger mum who had a passion for learning deaf sign language was helped to do so and is now qualified at Level 3 in sign language and giving signing classes in church. Junior Church is now recruiting help from the wider congregation, rather than solely relying on the parents of the children who attend, which has allowed the parents, themselves, the opportunity to worship.
A number of initiatives have started in the interregnum to encourage greater participation. Prayer groups, men’s fellowship, a healing service and increased pastoral visits have all taken place. We have also recruited a number of new sides people and Chalice bearers, and supported a teenager who approached us wishing to volunteer as part of his work towards the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. Following the resignation of our safeguarding officer, a volunteer stepped forward, making an immediate and committed impact on the role.
The bell-ringing team have also recently embraced the opportunity to recruit some of the younger members of our congregation who are now making good progress in learning to ring and are now ringing with the team on Sunday mornings.
We should however develop a more systematic way of discovering people’s gifts and helping them flourish within and beyond the life of the church.
In common with many churches in the Diocese of Coventry, we scored poorly in this area. This may be also linked to low scores in some aspects of our worship. What is clear is that there needs to be a greater sense of spiritual vitality and a greater connection with Jesus in our church.
Having said that, it has been our experience during the interregnum that things may already be changing! Visiting priests have brought a freshness which has been welcomed. We have had moving accounts in a recent baptism service of people growing in their faith. Newer forms of service with real spiritual content and challenge have been enjoyed by young and old alike. People are attending ALPHA and some younger people are interested in Confirmation. Our lay-led prayer meetings are increasing in number and vitality. So we think we are becoming more passionate already!
The scores in our NCD survey for worship were certainly not inspiring (!), and actually revealed a level of dissatisfaction about aspects of services over which we had little control. As worship in a village context is a major element of our missional ‘shop window’, this needed addressing. We would welcome an incumbent who would help us in all the aspects necessary for delivering inspiring worship, across the styles.
Services in Dunchurch try to cover many styles, ranging from more traditional Holy Communion services to relaxed/informal all-age services. According to the recent APCM report, average Sunday attendance has been 45 adults and 6 children.
With the increasing number of younger families who are also influencing the life of the church here, there is an increasing sense that we are moving positively forward. There is of course much still to be done, but we are in optimistic mood and look forward to what God is going to do in the next phase of our mission and ministry. We have enjoyed and appreciated the variety visiting priests have brought during the interregnum. We have also had a number of lay-led services drawing on members of our congregation to both lead and assist. Although challenging and a new experience for several of those involved, this has actually been very successful, with some excellent feedback from the congregation.
We have tried using more audio-visual material during services and this has gone down well.
There are a number of “occasional” services where our numbers are significantly increased – principally around Easter and Christmas. We also have an annual service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving for those suffering a bereavement in recent years with candles lit as each name is recalled in an act of remembrance.
The Archdeacon Missioner created a more contemporary expression of worship (called SEARCH) in response to the worshipping and spiritual needs of those who had come through the ALPHA course. This is effectively a Small Group which meets weekly in his home on Sunday afternoons, finishing with a light tea.
Toddler Praise meets twice a month. This is led by one of the young mums, who originally joined the group as a participant, along with an older member of our congregation. It encourages mums who are not familiar with church or those who find it difficult to attend church on a Sunday morning.
Musically, the church has a regular organist, who can also play keyboard. We used to have a music group though this has now ceased due to the leader having taken time out because of family illness. We are aware that what we think is ‘modern’ worship is not actually that modern!
Holistic Small Groups
The Small Groups were the strongest area in the life of our church. We have a number of smaller groups (not all ‘holistic’!) but people find that they meet a number of needs:
· Toddler Praise – See under Inspiring Worship. .
· Junior Church - led by a team of committed parents and support from the wider congregation and a Duke of Edinburgh participant. They meet twice a month (Third and Fourth Sundays) during the morning service at St Peters and join the congregation for their blessings during communion.
Hope Gang – a small group of young/pre-teenagers representing the older children in the congregation who have either already been confirmed or who have been admitted to communion prior to confirmation. Led by a parent and a member of the congregation, this group focusses on the wider meaning of service and faith and how this is relevant in their daily lives.
· SEARCH - a small group meeting weekly on late Sunday afternoons. Considered to be a third congregation of Dunchurch and Thurlaston, this is an informal expression of worship allowing people to explore their faith through contemporary worship, bible study and application, and prayer. About 8 people usually attend, often people who have attended ALPHA.
· Friday Fellowship Group – this group, consisting of approximately 10 members, meets over coffee on the 2nd Friday of each month and has seen growth over the past year. This group feels that it has empowered members to grow in their journey of faith. Contributions from members have broadened their outlook and study of the bible passages has brought familiar verses to the fore and increased their knowledge of less familiar texts.
· Social Group – consists of 4 people who lead the organisation of various social activities and events (including concerts and a barn dance), provide refreshments for parish activities such as Harvest lunch and hot cross buns following the Good Friday service, in addition to supporting the children’s and family events.
· Bell ringers – based at St Peters there are 8 bell ringers who have recently been joined by 3 novices from the Hope Gang. The adult members comprise regular members of the congregation as well as others who have little other involvement with the church. The group are active in organising events and meet regularly outside of these activities. Following an event for the Hope Gang in August, at which the young people were given a “taste of bell ringing” 3 of them, in the 11 – 13 age range, have now joined the group and are progressing well.
· Gardening group and Church Yard team – meet every other Saturday between February and November to maintain the Church grounds. Everyone is welcome and no specific skills are required, just a willing nature. Some members of the group have no other involvement with the church, but willingly give their time and effort to help maintain the appearance of the grounds.
· Prayer Group – Meetings are held once a month and attendance has significantly improved during the interregnum.
Pastoral Care Team – visit members of the parish who are unable to attend church through ill-health or other domestic situations. This has gained further importance during the vacancy and 2 visitors have now been licensed to administer home communion.
· Signing Group – as referred to earlier, this is a group receiving tuition in British Sign Language (BSL) from a young adult member of the congregation. A group of adults meet weekly and members of the Hope Gang participate for specific services. A number of services have included signed hymns and songs by both parts of the group.
· Holiday at Home – a committee of individuals working with other churches in the village to provide trips and events for local residents who have restricted access to the wider community. Planning meetings are held at St Peter’s.
· Alpha – a 10-week course led by the Archdeacon Missioner. We have run 4 courses in the parish, with people of all ages both coming to faith or being renewed in their faith. A difference in opinion with the previous incumbent over how ALPHA should be run led to it going into abeyance until being re-started again at the parish’s request in May 2016.
Some other groups used to run but, for various reasons, do so no longer, including the Tuesday Fellowship, Pilgrim group, and music group.
Dunchurch is a relatively affluent village, with only a small pocket of more deprived area. The parish has not really engaged in any ongoing social action initiatives beyond having a facility in church for collecting food for the local food bank (based in Rugby). We could do more.
We have however responded positively to individual requests for support once we hear of them, including support for further education, and a need for cash, furniture and household goods when appropriate.
Working with the other churches in our community, the Holiday at Home project supports the older sector of our communities by arranging outings and local events, with transport provided as necessary.
The incumbent in this parish has, historically, maintained a good relationship with the local community through the schools and involvement with village based charities.
One of the younger adult members of our congregation, whilst completing sign language qualifications, has donated her time to teach others this skill and a number of services have included signed hymns and songs by both adults and children. She has also extended this into the local infant school. Both have been very well received within the community.
In addition, a number of members of the congregation assist in the wider community with the provision of a library service, coffee shop at the Methodist church and the Village Fete committee, supporting the annual fund raising efforts and encouraging participation from the congregation.
Whilst this is a parish that wants to make new disciples, there is still more that can be done to support our efforts with this.
4 ALPHA courses have seen people come to faith and then take a fuller part in the life of the church. Some of these are now PCC members and leading other aspects of the life of the church. We are currently running both an ALPHA course and a young people’s confirmation course.
An additional children’s group has been started called The Hope Gang (fourth Sunday of each month) to help them explore their growing faith, the relevance of Jesus and the Bible in everyday situations and the role that church can have in their daily lives.
St Peters is a very attractive church and there are lots of enquiries about weddings and baptisms. The weddings are due to the nearby Dunchurch Hotel, which is a popular reception venue. Many wedding requests are not from local people. Baptisms are more local but it can be difficult to fit all the baptism guests into the church along with the existing congregation (some of whom have complained that the church is full of outsiders!!). So, unless conducted for one of the church families, baptisms currently happen in a separate service.
Both these groups represent a great opportunity for engaging in a way that enables us to share God’s love, and be in a position to start conversations about faith and to encourage the development of others as new disciples. However, we probably need to be more intentional, strategic and integrated about these opportunities, as the reality is that few continue that spiritual journey at St Peter’s.
We have very recently initiated two men’s curry nights as a means of developing fun and friendships with men in the villages. These have gone down very well and rumour has it that the ladies may be having one soon as well!
Overall, people have come to faith but we really need a much more structured and integrated process of social action, evangelism and discipleship.
People laugh and have fun together, but this has been marred by occasional relational difficulties. These have been between certain members of the congregation, and also in some cases with previous incumbents. These may account for the relatively low score for loving relationships. In both churches, difficult personalities or difficult issues, have not always been faced and addressed satisfactorily, though some of these have been resolved during the interregnum.
Having said all this, overall St Peter’s has a reputation as a welcoming and positive church. The majority of people attending Sunday services stay for tea, biscuits and a chat after the services, and the overall atmosphere is friendly and positive.
An active social team works hard to bring people together. Recent activities included a barn dance, social evenings, bring and share lunches and concerts. A real effort has also been made in the last year to arrange events for children and their parents. An enthusiastic young team has arranged parties, film shows with a spiritual message, and pancake sessions which have all been well attended. Hope Gang members had a sleepover in St Peter’s and made bacon butties for the congregation on the following morning!
Pastoral care had been an issue, with some feeling that the church was not doing enough to keep in touch with them. The approach had been to try to look out for people in one’s own small group, but some were missed. The pastoral care team has become active again during the interregnum and conducts home visits and takes communion to the house-bound.
The PCC covers both St Peter’s and St Edmund’s Churches, and meets 6 times a year with the Standing Committee meeting in alternate months. The PCC contains committed and faithful people, and we are attracting younger members onto it.
There have been some issues needing to be addressed around the respective structures of the two churches, with St Edmund’s having its own deputy wardens, finances, committee, and annual meeting. Although some steps have been made in the right direction (including the same treasurer now overseeing accounts), some of these issues remain and will need to be tackled by the next incumbent.
The major focus and energies of the previous PCC were largely directed to the restoration project, which has been highly successful and the major restoration of the stonework has now been completed.
The PCC began looking at the 8 Essential Qualities of a healthy church, including spending an away day on this, but we have not addressed the weaknesses following our survey in 2014 in any co-ordinated way.
Overall, we need to look at our structures and also our communication strategy for the parish. There have been some inappropriate and inaccurate aspects of communication across the parish.
Duty rotas, covering sides-people, readers, tea/coffee and intercessions are prepared quarterly by a volunteer. Flower rotas and cleaning rotas also prove beneficial in ensuring that the church always looks its best.
Our finances are discussed in more detail below.
ST EDMUND THURLASTON
Thurlaston consists of about 130 houses with a population of around 270, and is about a mile and a half from Dunchurch and the Parish church of St Peter’s. The church has a small congregation of up to 14 people. The NCD survey was conducted in 2014, with some very low scores. If we are honest, there is a large difference between the perception we have of ourselves and the NCD results. We are told that the NCD survey results from St Edmund’s were amongst the lowest in the Diocese. Some scores go into minus figures (which we are told is actually hard to achieve!). On the NCD results, our capacity for growth seems very low. We questioned the accuracy of the results and so have not engaged with what were identified as our weakest qualities. Some in leadership in the church believe that little change is needed. Others (especially externally) say there is a significant amount of change necessary. This means that there are quite important differences in opinion about our church and the way forward. The following summaries should be read with this in mind.
It is fair to say that the same people have tended to hold power, influence and control for many years. There is no process for identifying or training new leaders. This has resulted in a small group of elderly people who have been running the church for a long time. Although efforts are made to engage with younger people, there is still work to be done in order to attract more involvement from families and appropriate sources of inspiration need to be identified. It is encouraging that a young mother has recently joined the committee and we hope will hold activities for children.
During the interregnum, the deputy wardens have volunteered, with help from the few who attend, to take many of the non-Eucharistic services, including running a lent course for the parish.
St Edmund’s is a small congregation, so a lot is done by a few. People seem to know what their gifts are but don’t necessarily feel they are using them in the life of the church. There is a tendency to ask for volunteers rather than seek people’s gifts.
This was our weakest quality, with a very low score. People said that they were not enthusiastic about their church, and that they did not believe God would do more next year than this. The impression given is that many people’s personal faith and relationship with Jesus Christ needs considerable energising, and their confidence in God and in their church needs uplifting. Internally, we would say our faith is stronger than the NCD results reflect.
The worship in St Edmund’s is mostly traditional, either Common Worship Holy Communion or BCP Evensong. More informal, café style services were tried but were not popular and have ceased. Although sermons were scored very low at St Peter’s, exactly the same sermons were rated much higher at St Edmund’s, possibly because of our more traditional approach. We enjoy singing hymns!
40 services were held in St Edmund’s in 2015 with an average congregation of 14, usually all aged over 60. We rejoice when young families attend occasionally, but they do not stay.
Recognising the problems arising from having a small number of leaders available and also difficulties in achieving cover from visiting ministers to do services in both Dunchurch and Thurlaston, the pattern of services has recently been changed to a Communion Service on the first Sunday of each month and a BCP Evensong on the third Sunday. Every fifth Sunday we have a combined service alternating between the two churches.
The most popular service within Thurlaston has always been the Carols and Readings service, which attracts all ages and has completely filled the church, which has a maximum capacity of about 100. We also run a Harvest Thanksgiving service and lunch, and a Remembrance Service by the Cross including the Last Post, which is always thought provoking.
SEARCH was established in the village by the Archdeacon Missioner in his home, initially as a means of providing more contemporary worship for those who found the traditional more difficult. This was especially true for people coming through the ALPHA course. It is likely that this has been seen by some as a threat to the traditional church, even though it was never intended to be so. It is possible that some of the communication issues mentioned under Functional Structures above exacerbated this misconception.
Holistic Small Groups
In a sense, the St Edmund’s community acts like a small group, where everyone is known and supported. We have run Lent Courses for the Parish in a Thurlaston home since 2015, with the intention of welcoming newcomers and furthering our knowledge and understanding of the Christian Message. There is scope for more group work of different kinds.
The village is pretty affluent, and little poverty is evident. SEARCH supported some poorer churches in the Diocese, but this was met with comments that the money could have been better spent on the church building in Thurlaston. Needless to say this caused some raised eyebrows and revealed a concerning lack of empathy for poorer areas in the Diocese.
Our primary social action is care given to the local Warwickshire Nursing and Residential Home. Services and are regularly undertaken in this venue, and encouragement given to those in wheelchairs to attend services in St Edmund’s when the weather permits.
The church runs a monthly coffee morning for villagers, which is always well attended.
One of our number, a doctor, has been to the Calais refugee camp recently as part of a team offering first aid and support.
The church building receives a financial contribution from the village of about £700 each year, representing half of the proceeds from the annual village fete. This contribution came at some cost to the local reputation of the church however, as it appears not to have been a popular decision with some. A suggestion that the Village Hall should keep all of the proceeds was resisted by a previous chair of the St Edmund’s Committee.
In terms of helping people to Christian faith, the parish ran 4 ALPHA courses based in Thurlaston and ran by the Archdeacon Missioner. The average age on these courses dropped from over 60 years on the first course to about 35 years on the fourth, attracting people from a wider area, demonstrating that young people were definitely interested in Christian faith. Unfortunately, a difference of opinion about the way ALPHA was running led to ALPHA being stopped and replaced by Pilgrim, ran by the vicar himself. During the interregnum, various people have expressed an interest in faith and so ALPHA has started again in May 2016.
We have recognised the need to reach out to and attract younger families, and with the help of some of the younger members of St Peter’s, we have recently run special events for children and their parents and carers, such as Easter Egg hunts and film shows in the church.
Relationships within the church community are generally good, although there is a perception by some that the church could relate better with the wider village. The village itself has a wonderful community, and is a very popular place to live.
Relationships with St Peter’s are cordial, and recently more is being done to work together. This co-operation could be improved upon significantly though.
St Edmund’s has a church committee now chaired by a Church Warden from St Peter’s. The two Deputy Church Wardens from St Edmund’s are on the Parish PCC.
The church committee meets during the day making it impossible for anyone who is working to have a say in the running of the church, though a young mother has recently been welcomed on to the committee with young child in tow! Suggestions to change the times of committee meetings came to nothing, as did offers from SEARCH to meet with the St Edmund’s committee to discuss joint working.
Until very recently the financial affairs of St Edmund’s were separate to the parish, and had many anomalies. This has now been addressed and rectified. Added to the complexity was the formation of SEARCH with its own restricted fund. The finance entering the SEARCH account was considerable, and has been the cause of some awkwardness. This fund however has made considerable contributions to the parish share. During the interregnum, it was agreed to move all these funds to the parish PCC, for parish share and mission costs. For various reasons, this particular income stream has stopped replenishing itself.
The structural organisation of the parish as a whole still needs attention, including how the organisation and ministry of St Edmund’s and within Thurlaston fits in with the overall parish mission and ministry strategically, especially given the comments about too much being undertaken by too few. The traditional approach adopted by some of the individuals concerned however may make such strategic thinking quite challenging.
A church has stood on the present site of St Peter’s for at least 1000 years. The Domesday Book called the village ‘Done Cerce’, and said that there was a priest here.
The church is, for the most part, the work of the monks of Pipewell, a Cistercian abbey near Kettering in Northamptonshire. Pipewell owned lands and property in Warwickshire and St. Peter’s was appropriated by the abbey in 1175. An abbey document mentions a fire in the early church and it was almost entirely rebuilt in the 14th Century. St. Peter’s remained their property until the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
In the 18th Century, four galleries were erected inside the church, two being in the south and north aisles, another for the musicians and finally another in the tower when the organ was introduced. These ‘light starving’ constructions were removed in the major restorations of 1841 and 1908. In 1724, 6 bells were installed at St. Peter’s, the weight of the tenor (heaviest bell) being 17cwt 0qtrs 8lbs in E. They were re-hung in 1913 and again in 1981. The bells are rung for service every Sunday and also for weddings and other special events. Every year following the Gunpowder Plot in 1605, a ‘Guy Fawkes’ peal was rung prior to a service of thanksgiving for the preservation of the King’s life.
The church clock was installed in 1912 and strikes the hours and quarters. A new organ was installed in the south aisle in 1972 and in its early years was used for recordings by the BBC.
Dunchurch is situated 3.5 miles South West of Rugby, Warwickshire. The Parish is near the eastern edge of the Diocese. It is very close to the end of the M45, which passes the village on the southern side. Rugby is 4 miles away, Leamington Spa 13 miles, and Coventry 14 miles. Communications are good, as in addition to the M45 there are the M1, M6, and the M40 motorways all within easy reach. Rugby is on the West Coast main line with fast train services to London (50 mins) and the Midlands and North West. Thurlaston is a much smaller village that borders Dunchurch on its western side.
The population of Dunchurch was 2,938 on the 2011 Census, living in about 1,270 households. Thurlaston has a population of around 368. There is virtually no industry in the Parish and those who live here and who are of working age do so in Rugby, Coventry, and other surrounding towns and there are a number who commute to London, from Rugby.
There is a small trading estate on the western outskirts of the village. There is one residential nursing home in the Parish, one sheltered accommodation and two areas of designated housing for older people.
The village of Dunchurch is attractive to tourists and travellers passing through because it has connections with Guy Fawkes and has a certain ‘olde-worlde’ charm with some thatched cottages. It has a strong sense of community. The centre of the village has a variety of shops including a Post Office which also sells some groceries, a pharmacy, a garage, five take-a-ways, two very popular inns that provide food, four other restaurants and a Social Club. Dunchurch Park is a country house hotel and conference centre which is well-known as a popular venue for wedding receptions. Sainsbury's has a large out of town supermarket just one mile out of the centre of the village on the way to Rugby.
The village has a number of thriving clubs and associations including a WI, an ‘Over-Sixties Club’, a Photographic Society, a Cricket and Football Club, a Social Club and a Youth Club, Scouts and Guides. ‘Health Walks’ are held twice a week. The Dunchurch Festival Group arranges a ‘Fete Day’ and other village events throughout the year including plays and a pantomime. The village is twinned with the French village of Ferrières-en-Brie, East of Paris.
There two schools: Dunchurch Boughton Church of England (Aided) Junior School (270 on roll) and Dunchurch Infants School (156 on roll). Both schools have achieved Outstanding Ofsted reports and the Junior School received national publicity for the excellent results achieved. Both schools are very fortunate in having active Parents’ Associations. There is a Nursery School on the same site as the Infants’ School.
There is also Bilton Grange, an independent school for children from 4 to 13 and other pre-school facilities. The church has good relationships with the schools having representatives on the governing bodies, holding services in church for schools/year groups and inviting schools to join us for particular services during the year (e.g. Education Sunday and particularly the Open Air Nativity).
Historically, the parish has supported the involvement of Rugby Youth for Christ (RYFC) in the Junior School. The school is now funding this and the relationship with RYFC, who used to attend All Age Worship three or four times a year, has now fallen by the wayside. There may be scope for re-igniting this relationship.
Dunchurch has a good branch library staffed by volunteers and served by an excellent new library in Rugby. There is a recently constructed large Village Hall with good facilities for sports, theatre and youth activities and also a WI Hall for smaller groups. The church has used both the Village and WI halls for different styles of events.
All Secondary Schools are situated in Rugby. There is a Church of England Academy (Harris), two single sex Grammar Schools and a number of co-educational High Schools. In the private sector there is Rugby School.
The village has a modern surgery with five doctors and a pharmacy close by in the centre of the village. In Rugby there is the St Cross Hospital which in recent years has had a considerable amount of building work done to up-date its facilities although, in most cases, the University Hospital of Coventry and Warwickshire is the main point of referral.
The social mix in Dunchurch is predominantly middle class in owner/occupier housing. There are two small areas of Social Housing. A number of these houses are now owner occupied. There is a wide spread of population in terms of age but with a relatively high proportion of retired people in the two villages.
The nearby pretty village of Thurlaston is entirely residential. There is a Village Hall but no shops or pub. Each year there is a Fête and there is a strong social life within the resident community. Close by is Draycote Water (a Severn Trent reservoir) which is popular for bird watching, sailing, walking and fishing. The adjacent Country Park is managed by Warwickshire County Council. There is also a local golf club.
St Peters is in the centre of the village in The Square. There are one or two Norman areas left but the majority of the building is 14th Century with a floodlit square tower containing a ring of six bells. There is one small meeting room on the North side of the Chancel, which is used for Junior Church, PCC meetings, some mid-week services, and also for the signing of registers at weddings. Beyond this room is a vestry. A kitchen and toilet have been installed at the rear of the church.
Apart from the services the church is usually left open during the week to allow people to find some quiet space, though at the time of writing the church is being kept locked following police advice in response to a potential threat of arson. We hope to be able to open again before too long. The church is not used by any other organisations although the PCC has been considering the possibility.
Within the last ten years the church has been rewired and new lighting has been installed (at a cost of almost £30k – largely funded through legacies) and the tower roof replaced.
More recently, the pews in the North aisle have been removed and replaced with comfortable seating. This has provided a more flexible space which has been used for social/celebratory events – including Harvest and Lent lunches, a leaving lunch, many children’s activities and for the celebration of the completion of the major restoration project. We have installed a new sound system and the floor of the ringing chamber has been lowered with the ringing room being glassed in bringing the bell-ringers into the community and the body of the church.
The last Quinquennial took place in 2011 and we are delighted to be able to say that we have completed all of the “urgent” recommendations. Most notably, this included a major Restoration Project during 2015 where approximately £300,000 was spent on the external stonework on the tower and in improving the West Door entrance. The congregation, with the aid of the village, were responsible for significant fundraising towards this project the bulk of which was funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund and a number of other grants.
We are not aware of any major building works required for at least the next 5 years
There is a large churchyard. The areas that are most recently being used for interments are kept mowed, as is the approach to the church. There is a Churchyard Management Plan and an area is set aside for the benefit of wildlife as agreed with the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust. A dedicated group organises work parties every 2 or 3 weeks in the growing season to keep the churchyard mowed and tidy. Some members assist during the week. The gates to the churchyard have been replaced in the last five years.
An issue in the churchyard, which resulted in an exhumation, was the subject of scrutiny by the Consistory Court in 2013. This was amicably resolved with no negative impact on the parish despite the potential for negative PR. These instances are, however, very rare.
St Edmunds is set in a tranquil location ideal for “quiet days”, for which it has occasionally been used. The building is a Chapel of Ease to St Peter’s and is in the centre of the village. It was originally constructed as a Village School by William Butterfield in 1848 and was only used as a church on Sundays. It became a Chapel of Ease in 1905 and was fully furnished as a church in 1925. The interior is welcoming and the pews have been replaced by comfortable chairs which are not fixed therefore allowing for flexible use of the space. The church is generally in good and sound order with no major structural problems. Some minor repairs have taken place including the rebuilding of churchyard walls. The windows have recently been repaired.
The Vicarage is a five bedroom (one en-suite), gas centrally heated and double-glazed house built in 1972 on a small estate about 100 metres from the church. There is a large living room, a dining room and a study to which access can be gained without impinging upon the privacy of the family or the visitor. There is a single garage.
An example of an average monthly service rota is shown below. We are willing to consider changes to this.
All Age Worship
Family friendly Communion with Junior Church
Held alternately at the two churches
In addition to the Sunday Services there is a mid-week act of worship. Meeting at 10am on Thursday mornings the format alternates between Communion and Morning Prayer.
As well as the normal pattern of services St Peters, in particular, is very popular for weddings and baptisms. Many of the latter are the children of couples married in our church, the majority of whom do not worship with us. Over the last 3 years we have had an average of 13 weddings, 17 baptisms and 17 funerals.
School and Village Ex-Officio Links
Previous incumbents have been involved in, as a member or as the Chairman of, a number of village organisations. Also a number of PCC members are involved in these organisations which include:
· Dunchurch Boughton Church of England (Aided) Junior School (ex-officio Foundation Governor).
· Harris Church of England High School, Rugby (Governor – voluntary role).
· Dunchurch and Thurlaston Community Trust (Chair).
· Newcombe and Spiers Alms houses Charity.
· Thurlaston Poor Plot.
· Dunchurch and Thurlaston Educational Foundation
The incumbent took morning assembly regularly at the Junior School whose children attend St Peter’s for their carol service. Children from the Junior School and the Harris Secondary School visited the church for talks on its history, the restoration project and “A day in the life of a vicar”. The Junior School has asked to repeat this in 2016 and the Infant School will also be paying a visit.
The church-led Holiday at Home group regularly visits the Junior School for lunch and a concert from the children.
Links with other churches in the area (Baptist and Methodist) prove beneficial to the community as a whole, with shared services for Remembrance Day, Nativity and Good Friday allowing leaders from all churches to participate and closer relationships to be developed.
Our principal ecumenical project is Holiday at Home. The three churches in the village work together to provide a programme of activities for retired people in the parish or connected with the churches. The activities are heavily subsidised. The incumbent has chaired the group of volunteers on an alternative year basis with the Baptist minister.
St Peter’s advertises the weekly Beech Tree Coffee morning held at the Methodist church on both its weekly sheets and on its website. Several members of St Peter’s help.
Some members of our congregation get involved with initiatives run by other churches or church members. This tends to be on a more ad hoc basis – St Peter’s has been represented at the St George’s charity quiz and the Christian Aid lunch.
The previous incumbent was supported by a part-time administrator working typically two hours per week. This was in the vicarage, as there is no separate parish office, on fairly routine administrative tasks. The Diocese however actively discourages vicarages being used as office space for the parish so this will need to be re-visited.
In addition, the church is ably and willingly supported by a volunteer who compiles and publishes the “Weekly Diary” and the monthly “What’s On”. Both are distributed in church when people arrive for services, though the latter also has a wider circulation in the villages. The PCC Secretary produces agendas and minutes for PCC and Standing Committee meetings, in consultation with the Chair.
Another volunteer produces a monthly Duty Rota (lectors, sides persons, chalice bearers and coffee rota). Also currently produced (during the interregnum) is the quarterly Parish Service Schedule (confirming service details, worship leader, readings, liturgical colours, etc.)
There is a website (www.stpeters-dunchurch.org) which covers the Parish of St Peter’s Dunchurch with St Edmund’s Thurlaston which is maintained by one of the current churchwardens. A Facebook page had been set up for St Peter’s and while it is still in existence it is not kept up to date and is not currently widely used by the congregation. Neither church has any other social networking involvement.
The local paper (“The Rugby Advertiser”) as well as free papers and local radio have been used to communicate what is going on at the church, particularly during the duration of the restoration project, with several news articles and pictures.
Finance and Stewardship
The table below summarises our financial situation in 2015.
St Peters’ Dunchurch
Fundraising (eg fetes)
(used in the Restoration project)
Parish Share Contribution
Any special considerations, future expenditure etc?
Parish share arrears (2015) £4,000
As St Peter’s
Historically, the parish has met its obligations to the Deanery and paid its share in full, though this has until recently been a subsidised share. In 2014, however, we needed to embark on a major building project to secure the tower. Our congregations were highly supportive in directing their efforts into fundraising and the project was able to go ahead with additional support from grants. Sadly, the efforts put into fundraising impacted on regular giving and at the end of 2014 the parish had not paid its share in full. This situation was rectified and the arrear paid off with the help of a substantial grant from SEARCH which has also financially supported our outreach events. We would also have been unable to pay our parish share again for 2015 but a surplus from fundraising for the Restoration Project paid off the arrear and has allowed the setting up of a maintenance fund for the future.
The Standing Committee, which aspires to be able to pay the share in full each year, is actively discussing how to tackle the question of increased regular giving. We have invited Graham Wright, the Diocesan Stewardship Adviser, to speak to the congregation.
The parish ensures that all bills and commitments are met in a timely manner and meets all clergy expenses in full.
In the Coventry Diocese parishes are expected to fund the costs of their own ordained ministry. This in effect means paying the full cost of all clergy. Currently the contribution for a full-time vicar with all ancillary costs is approximately £56,500/annum. The post in this parish is currently 0.8 with costs therefore being £42,400. St Peter’s with St Edmunds recognises that its current contributions only cover the current costs and is not, therefore, contributing to the wider work of the Deanery. We have been grateful to those churches elsewhere in the Deanery and Diocese who have helped us to support our ministry by paying more than their own costs. It is our every intention to contribute more ourselves towards these costs as the congregation grows.
A copy of our accounts for the last 3 years is available on request.