Fr. Christopher’s Letter

Report to APCM 15th May 2022.

My annual report is an opportunity to reflect on our activities during the past year and to look to the future.

As with all other churches in the country, 2021 was the year in which we had to continue to adapt to the impact of the Covid 19 virus. We had hoped that when the second national lockdown was lifted in December 2020 things would begin to return to normal. But you will recall that at the end of 2020 there was a surge in Covid cases caused by a new variant and on 6th January 2021 a new national lockdown was imposed. Churches were excused from this. But nonetheless many – probably most – churches decided to close, and with a very heavy heart I decided that All Saints should also close for public worship after the Baptism of Christ on 10th January. We remained closed until 28th February when Sunday masses resumed. This closure was for a much shorter period than many other churches. I know that not everyone agreed with my decision, but I still believe it was the right thing to do given the profile of our congregation and the fact that the vaccination rollout was then only just beginning. And with the on and off surges in new variants of the virus and its incidence in schools I reluctantly decided that the Christingle and crib service should not go ahead that year.

I’m very grateful for the loyalty shown by everyone in the church during the past couple of years. Sunday attendance has almost returned to its prepandemic level, and we have welcomed several new worshippers, but I fully understand why some people still feel uneasy about coming back just yet. Several people have asked me when we will be able to bring back the chalice. I am thinking carefully about this and discussing the position with fellow priests in SSC but of course receiving communion in one kind only is a valid reception of the true sacrament.

It is a sad fact that almost every year we have to record the passing of some of our fellow worshippers. 2021 seemed a worse year than many for this, and I must record the loss of John Woodley, Gwen Watts and Ted Armstrong, all of whom were given funeral masses in church, and also of Gary Darke whose funeral I took at the crematorium. And though not occurring in 2021 I can’t overlook the loss of Joyce Ogle and Tony Somerton this year.  May they all rest in peace and rise in glory.

It is not only traditional but a great pleasure for me to thank everyone who contributed so much to our lives together during last year. I continue to be immensely grateful to Chris and Roger our churchwardens, and to Jenny, our parish administrator, for all that they do. So much of this is unseen by most people but without their efforts our church life together would not run so smoothly. I must thank Linda our PCC secretary who deals with the paperwork for our PCC and correspondence with the diocese, and Allison our Treasurer who works hard to manage our finances. Members of the PCC play a vital role in church governance and I thank them for the time they give and the suggestions they bring to our meetings. Thank you to our Deanery Synod representatives. Thanks go too to David our organist, Patrick our sacristan, and to our loyal bands of choristers and servers without whom our worship would lose much of its beauty. Thank you to our working party which meets almost every week to keep the church in such good order, to our sides persons, flower arrangers, members of the social committee and those who help at our fairs and social events, those who prepare our tea and coffee after Mass, our school governors.  Anyone I’ve not mentioned who I should have done please forgive me. As you see, so many people contribute in so many ways to maintenance of the Catholic faith in this part of South Wimbledon and we should all be very grateful to each other. I should also record my thanks to Fr Michael Hazelton, Fr Nicholas Roberts and Fr Graham Piper who kindly came to say Mass here while I was on holiday in September.

And now to look to the future.  As you know the church has received a very generous legacy from Gwen Watts, in addition to the legacy we received from Pauline Brooking, and the PCC is considering how best to use these funds. A building committee has been set up to look at various needs including the church roof and the rebuilding of our church hall which is important for increased community use. We look forward to these projects being carried through.

Also looking to the future; as I think most of you know, this will almost certainly be my last report to the APCM as my licence here ends on 6th March next year, the day before my 75th birthday. Leaving this lovely friendly church will be a terrible wrench, but much as I would love to continue in post, I believe that the Bishop will not license parish priests after the age of 75. So next year you will almost certainly be entering a period of interregnum, the first such period for twenty years. Your PCC will shortly need to look again at its Mission Action Plan as well as its parish profile to help identify its needs in a future parish priest, and to start talking to the Bishop of Fulham and the Archdeacon of Lambeth about the way forward. It is important that the PCC has the support of you all in this. It is particularly important that you show that All Saints is a thriving church with a great future, which I know it has.

Thank you all for your loyalty to All Saints and for your kindness to each other and to me. May All Saints Church continue to flourish.

Fr Christopher

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