2021 July to December in the churches

We are supposed to have a road map out of Covid, but that has been delayed. We started the second half of the year with 10 am services in each church plus an 11.30 Zoom service, which we put on youtube later in the day. (These services are all archived on the "Worship" page in the "Archive" section of this website). We re-started Wednesday morning Communion services in St Edmund's at the end of June, and Evensongs at the beginning of July (these alternate - one week at St Edmund's, the next at St Matthew's). We continue to collect for the Food Bank every month - here Julie and Dave take July's car-load to the Hope Centre. Peter produces a weekly video for Walter Evans School, and works with Anna to ensure the Allestree schools have some material. Broadway Baptist Church ran a Take-away Curry evening to support the churches in Nagpur, and served over 100 meals. At St Matthew's we said farewell to Margaret - one of those who had catered for every church event for many years. We ensured the flowers were beautiful for her. 

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On Wednesday 7 July we married Warren and Hazel at St Edmund's, on Saturday 10 July Graham and Hannah, and on Sunday 11 June we blessed the marriage of Mark and Camille (they had been married in Hong Kong earlier in the year). 

Peter has now married all of the Whittaker girls. Emily (married to Seamus  June 2021), Amy (married to Benjamin May 2018), and Hannah (to Graham  July 2021).

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Bianca came to be baptised on Sunday 18 July, here with parents Adam and Katrina, big brother Luca, and the Godparents. It was a very hot day! The Edmund Roses in the Vicarage garden are beautiful again this year. Although the government has relaxed the Covid rules, our Standing Committees both decided that we will keep most of them for now, and move forward slowly. 

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On Sunday 1 August, Ruby and Harriet (parents Louise and Darren), were baptised at St Edmund's, then Anastasia (parents Alarna and Richard, sisters Ellenah, Florence and Isabella). St Nick's church had Thursday children's activities - Peter had fun with bubbles, and met several children he had christened.  The following day saw a change of mood. We held a memorial service for Pam at St Edmund's. She was a friend to so many, so it was rather appropriate that the first hymn, the first hymn we have sung together in over a year, was "Now thank we all our God". Then a memorial service for Norah at St Matthew's. She was in Darley Abbey for the first decade of her life, then had a career in the diplomatic service. She had served Her Majesty in Le Paz (Bolivia), Poland and China, before ending her career as Vice-Consul in Melbourne, Australia. She died last year at the age of 92, and her ashes were returned to St Matthew's church to be buried in the grave of her mother. It was a small commemoration, just the family, Vicar, verger and organist - but what a privilege to lead it.

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Isla was baptised at St Edmund's on Sunday 8 August. We worked with Preschool to install a new noticeboard at the Church Hall, and then had a busy weekend. A Garden Book Sale on Saturday 14 August brought 77 people to the Vicarage and raised £323 for our link churches in Nagpur in India. Baby Gwen enjoyed her first church social event - she slept through her first Zoom service a couple of weeks ago. We also enjoyed Just Ice ice cream, now made in Darley Abbey. 

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Two physical services on the morning of Sunday 15 August, but with a sung Gloria and a hymn. A Zoom service, and JACK on zoom in the kitchen.

Then we married Blake and Natalie, with young Marcy at St Matthew's. A family picnic at the Vicarage brought seven families together, including people who knew each other through school and others who had only met on-line. More ice cream was eaten. Then a handful for Evensong. During the service we listened to the rain outside, and gave thanks the storm had not come an hour earlier.

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The following weekend was just as busy. We married Max and Helen at St Edmund's on Saturday 21 August, with a wonderful arch of flowers and a full church. We married David and Karen on Sunday with very colourful flowers - David is one of our St Edmund's organists. If you look back to the diary page for May 2020 you can watch him playing "I'm not getting married in the morning" - today was the fourth attempt.  We also baptised Alfie (with Ryan and Kathryn) at St Matthew's. 

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Bank Holiday weekend was also busy. We baptised Elsie at St Edmund's on Saturday 28 August (with parents Shaun and Catriona). The following day we had a United Service (our first in-building united service since December 2019), with a choir of 19, and two hymns for everyone to sing. Marvellous!  In the afternoon we married Peter and Sophie at St Matthew's. She arrived behind the wheel of her first car.

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The first weekend of September had three wedding couples in St Edmund's, and one outside. Harry and Amy on Friday morning, Natalie and George (with children Amy and Cruz) on Saturday, followed by Christopher and Emma. 

Outside the church we had another couple, and the Vicar and Reader too. Colin and Amy had done a wonderful job - but we don't usually transport a groom like this. The village had a wonderful Festival.

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On Sunday 5 September we had three morning services and then baptised Elliot with dad Richard, mum Lisa, brother Zack and sister Rosie (they both had their baptism candles so Diane got the job of supervising them too).

The Friends of St Matthew's met for their start-of-year Communion on Tuesday 7 September. In another show of normality, Clive put gift aid envelopes back out on the pews. 

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On 11 September we married Faye and Jay at St Edmund's. Peter said it felt like an episode of Midsommer Murder, Vicar found dead under a hanging basket erected by the Churchwarden. The wedding cake was stunning!

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Like many other churches, in our worship this weekend we remembered the events of 11 September 2001. Peter spoke about how he watched the events unfurl while sitting on a bench in the Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmund's. It was, according to the Borough Council, "the world's first internet bench" - it had a phone socket you could plug a laptop in. He had been asked to talk about it on Anglia TV's Sunday programme, so had gone to the bench with the Cathedral laptop to make sure it worked. In our prayers we asked God's forgiveness for the sins of the world, and held the victims and their families in our prayers. 

We celebrated St Matthew's Patronal Festival on Sunday 19 September, at 10 am, on Zoom and with a lovely Choral Evensong at 6 pm. We had three baptisms in the afternoon - Alfie, Arya and Marley. Here is the assembled multitude of children, parents and Godparents. Photos by @photosbymichael - our thanks to him (and the families) for allowing us to use them. 

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Several members of the St Matthew's congregation are involved in the organisation of the annual Shoe Box appeal through the Rotary Club - and we will be collecting boxes in both churches. 

On Saturday 25 September we had the pleasure of marrying Tom and Sophie at St Edmund's.

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October started with Harvest. At St Edmund's we had a Harvest Fish and Chip Supper in the Church Hall, followed by a short musical and literary entertainment - good to hear the Compton organ being played again, though we failed to take any photos. On Sunday we had Tom from Christian Aid who came and spoke about the situation in Malawi, and later enjoyed Choral Evensong. Church looked beautiful. We also baptised Lacey, with parents Paul and Jennifer.

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Some normality returned the following week. Peter was able to go into both Portway and Walter Evans Schools and deliver "in-person" assemblies. We celebrated Harvest at Walter Evans, and they organised both a harvest loaf, and a collection for the Padley Centre. 

On Tuesday 5 October we had the first St Edmund's Luncheon Club for a year and a half. It was great having the team and the guests back in the Church Hall. 

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The following weekend at St Matthew's, the church also looked beautiful for harvest. On Saturday we married Chris and Mollie, and baptised both Mollie and their son Freddie. On Sunday Melanie led a morning celebration, then we baptised Oscar (here with mum Olivia, dad Marc and big brother Solomon), and we had Choral Evensong.

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On Sunday 17 October we had two lovely baptisms at St Edmund's - Sonny with parents Gavin and Emma and big brother Jude (left) and Cruz with parents George and Natalie and big brother Marley (right). Later we had Evening Prayer for St Luke on the Eve of his Feast Day. As he is the Patron Saint of Doctors we started with the theme tune from "Dr Finlay's Casebook", prayed for our NHS,  and ended with the theme tune to "All Creatures great and small" on the theory that vets are not that different to doctors (and it's a cheerful piece of music). Lovely to have a quiet evening service when we have time to stop, think, reflect and pray. 

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The following weekend at St Matthew's we baptised Laurie, here with big brother Barney and parents Adam and Lynsey. Sunday 31 October was a fifth Sunday and so we had a United Service at St Matthew's. We had 63 people, an excellent choir, and a very good service. Our Zoom service failed to record - the first time it has failed in a year. Then we had the All Souls’ service at St Edmund's in the afternoon. 37 in the congregation which, considering the circumstances and the limited number of funerals we have done, was not bad. We dispensed with candle lighting and post-service tea which made it a shorter service than in previous years, but it was still much appreciated. 

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At the start of November we re-started St Edmund's Toddler Group. 12 adults and about 15 youngsters for the first one. Great to have them all back. Strange to see some of the Grandparents who used to come before Lockdown, back after Lockdown with the sibling of the child they brought before! We had firework pictures, and hedgehogs later in the month. 

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On Armistice Day itself, Peter did assemblies for the whole of Walter Evans School and told them about Tom Hughes, a Spitfire pilot in his former church. St Edmund's Pre-school made a wreath and placed it on the War Memorial. On Saturday both churches were a hive of industry - here are a couple of the florists at work at St Edmund's (thank you). On Remembrance Sunday we had two full churches and representatives of the Royal British Legion at both services. The Deputy Lord Lieutenant and local Councillors came to St Edmund's, along with many other guests. In the evening we had a communion service at St Matthew's, and Peter told them the story of Tom Hughes. All our worship material is Archived here - though you'll need to scroll down a long way to find it. 

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We baptised Ralph at St Edmund's on the Sunday afternoon - here with parents Daniel and Claire and Godmother Leanne. The following week we baptised Lyla-Rae at St Matthew's with parents Karl and Faith.

Sunday 21 November was the Feast of Christ the King and the Feast of Edmund, King and Martyr. In the evening we had a Joint Choral Evensong. 

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Julie was on top form as she told the story of the Owl Babies to Toddler Group. The shoeboxes piled up in both churches and in the Office, and we married Gareth and Anna at St Matthew's. 

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Bishop Malcolm came to St Edmund's on Advent Sunday morning - here he is with Alex the server (plus Gwen) and Michele the churchwarden. It started snowing in the afternoon and our Advent Procession was postponed for a week. Sara took this photo of St Matthew's.

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Lola was baptised at St Matthew's on Sunday 5 December (with mum and dad Jen and Ben). Two choristers looked dangerous at the Advent Procession. Peter and Cyra took Christmas communion to the residents of Stanley House and Abbeydale.

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St Matthew's had a Carol Service on Sunday 12 December, and later we baptised Cole (with parents Karl and Kirsty and big brother Rafe). On Wednesday we had Carols in the Churchyard at St Edmund's - shorter and socially distanced - and on Thursday Toddler Group and Pre-school came for their Christmas service. 

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A week later we had a small Nativity at St Matthew's Choral Communion service. Then we baptised Darcie and Charlie (with parents Graeme and Lauren) at St Matthew and Zachary (with parents Lee and Emma and big sister Vienna) at St Edmund's.  That is a total of 26 baptisms this year and, as we didn't start until the end of June, that shows we have been busy. The Carol Service at St Edmund's was held in the evening - a congregation of 53 meant it felt safe, but we had enough people to feel it was worthwhile. It was a lovely hour of peace and beauty. 

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We were involved in the Nativity Trail which Walter Evans School had organised around the village - figures outside school and paintings in the windows. On Monday 20 December there was a Nativity in the school playground, with the school choir and ours'. Covid numbers are increasing again, so Luncheon Club's Christmas Dinner was cancelled. 

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On the Tuesday before Christmas both PCC Standing Committees met by Zoom and made the difficult decision to cancel the three Crib Services on Christmas Eve. Peter wrote this on our social media pages: 

It is with great regret that we have decided to cancel the Crib Services on Christmas Eve at both St Edmund's and St Matthew's. We have thought about how we could make what are normally crowded, somewhat chaotic, services Covid-safe, but haven't come up with a safe way of doing them. If we limit numbers or try to ticket them, we have to have people willing to send folk home if they arrive ticket-less (and no one is keen for that job), if we go outside we have dark churchyards full of trip hazards (and the weather forecast is wet),

if we plough on regardless we would not forgive ourselves if there was a spike in cases next week. I have to think of the safety of my volunteers (many of whom are not in the first flush of youth), and I have to be comfortable myself in taking them.

I am sad because I love working with children and families. I love the opportunity Christmas Eve gives to meet youngsters I've baptised (and try desperately to remember their names). I love it when people tell me how much Christmas at St Edmund's or St Matthew's means to them. Most of all I enjoy sharing the story of God's love, the coming of the Messiah, because I believe that story, that action,

makes our world a better place.

We produced a Christmas Video - if we had known we were going to have to cancel so much this Christmas, we might have prepared alternative material earlier. Flower arrangers got to work in both churches, so we still had beauty. We had one Midnight Mass, this year at St Edmund's, with 51 people, and 10 am services in both churches (37 at St Edmund's and 39 at St Matthew's). 

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Boxing Day, the Feast of Stephen, fell on a Sunday, so we had a United Service at St Matthew's and a Zoom service. We ended the year with our Wednesday communion at St Edmund's, and the wedding of Callum and Natasha at St Matthew's.

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They were the 22nd wedding of the year - rather more than in a normal year, we were catching up with those postponed from last year. We have done 26 baptisms - in just six months. Less funerals than in a normal year, which is an interesting comment that the nation has not turned to the church in a time of pandemic. We've had services in both churches every Sunday since Easter Sunday (and on Wednesdays), and we're back doing Evening Services again. We have produced more than 50 Zoom services, all of which you can find on youtube, and taken communion at home to those who have asked. We have tried to keep in touch and tried to care - even though we haven't been able to sit and have coffee together after services. With God's love, God's grace and God's forgiveness we will continue to serve him into 2022.