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Sunday, 22 April 2018

Changes to Services

Vicar’s Open Letter - 22nd April 2018

2nd Sundays – From October, Morning Celebration to be replaced by Messy Church in the afternoon in the Village Hall
4th Sundays – From May, the new-style Family Service will revert back to its original, more-traditional, style and be named “Chearsley Praise”
Family Communion, Evensong, Said Communion remain unchanged 

When I applied to become vicar, I signed up to the principle that we would continue to offer the most-diverse range of services the Church of England can offer – from traditional services such as BCP Evensong to what are known as fresh expressions of worship (shaped specifically for people who don’t come to church) such as Morning Celebration here.
I also signed up to the principle that we wanted to do more to engage families in our villages who don’t regularly come to church. This is not just about services, but opportunities to worship are part of this.
I am committed to both these principles and will encourage our church to hold true to them. This takes courage as it means we won’t all be comfortable with every form of worship we offer. It will also mean we will try some things that may not work out the way we hope or expect. I believe this is all part of being a healthy Christian Community living out our purpose of worshipping God and showing everyone in Chearlsey how much He loves them. 
In February 2018, the PCC undertook a formal consultation with a number of families in the village (my thanks to those who took part). This revealed a diverse range of preferences. Some prefer traditional-style services for their children whilst others prefer informal worship. Some valued services where children can take part whilst also appreciating services during which the children are supervised in separate groups. Others were drawn to more-creative and less-structured events at different times of the day.
In addition, I received helpful feedback on our Family Service from others in our church family.

Morning Celebration and Messy Church
Morning Celebration currently seeks to engage families and others who don’t have a traditional church background. Hence it is deliberately informal, with words, modern music, and films projected on a screen.

However, each service requires a huge amount of time and creative energy, and attendance over the past 2 years has been significantly lower than in the past. This prompted the question whether that creative effort could be directed more fruitfully elsewhere.

So the PCC have decided to replace Morning Celebration in the morning of the 2nd Sunday with Messy Church in the Village Hall in the afternoon, before Evensong. Messy Church is a nationally recognised initiative which seeks to engage families and others who don’t regularly come to church with craft and activities, short informal worship, and a shared meal. It has recently been successfully introduced in Dinton on the 4th Sunday of the month and is publicised in Cuddington & Dinton School. It is hoped this will start in October 2018.

Family Service and Chearsley Praise

Last year I introduced a more-informal style of service, reflected in the introduction of an order of service with very little written liturgy, creative prayers, and a modern song with actions.

This was based upon my assumption that the term “Family Service” denotes a service which is aimed at meeting the needs of young children, whilst enabling adults comfortable with a less-formal style and newer songs to worship with them.

I now realise that this was not the original intention for the Family Service in Chearsley, and that it was a service that strived to meet the needs of adults wanting to worship in a formal but non-Eucharistic context, as well as children who could engage and participate in a traditional service.

What’s become clear is that this change has disenfranchised a number of Family Service regulars without seeing any growth in new families attending it. And as I have stated above, I believe it is healthy to try new things to reach out to different people in the village, and when it doesn’t work, to acknowledge this and try something else.

So the PCC have agreed to stop the new style of service with immediate effect, and revert back to a lay-led service much more like the old Family Service, with written prayers, well-known hymns, and children continuing to lead intercessions. The service will be called “Chearsley Praise”. This change of name will avoid confusion for families responding to the informal-style Family Services in Long Crendon and Nether Winchendon; and is flexible enough for communion and baptism to be incorporated into the service at times.


These changes effectively return our church to the balance of Sunday Services in place when I arrived, with the exception that the informal Morning Celebration on 2nd Sunday mornings evolves to Messy Church in the afternoon.

I hope this represents the best compromise in meeting the diverse needs of our village, whilst also concentrating all our creative energy into 1 service per month, rather than spreading it across 2 services.

I do intend to propose changes to the pattern of services across the Benefice in future, to reflect changes in our ministry team and to remove clashes on particular Sundays (for example moving Evensong away from the 2nd Sunday). However, there are no plans to change the services themselves beyond those outlined in this letter.

Thank you to all those who have contributed towards these changes; to all the volunteers who are prepared to make them happen; and to you all for your courage whilst we make them. I would appreciate your feedback as we discern whether these changes are successful or not over the coming months.

God bless you and keep you.

Rev Richard