27th September 2017
Apologies received from: Lesley Smith; Tom Hill; Phil Gascoyne: Mary Reynolds; Glenda Flanagan
Attendance: 20 people
Meeting opened at 7.20pm with prayer.
The notes taken at the Parish Gathering on 7th December 2016 were taken as agreed having been published on the website and reported by Canon Anthony in the Newsletter at that time.
The following notes capture the main points of the meeting:
- Parish Priest’s Report
(a) Thank you
Canon Anthony wanted to thank everyone who has contributed in any way to the parish throughout the last 12 months. He specifically wanted to mention:
- Deacon David for his consistent and helpful ever-present support;
- George who always gives great encouragement and support;
- Binoy for the services he is always willing to give us;
- Fr Valentine who has now begin his work in the prison service;
- Eucharistic Ministers who visit the sick and housebound;
- Anna Thompson who has given nearly 3 years service to the parish as its administrator and whose last day was today as she moves into a new job. Anna has been a great asset and help – a friendly voice on the telephone and at the front door. Thank you Anna;
- a temporary 4 month contract will be put in place while the job description for the post is revisited and the post advertised
- for the next 3 weeks voluntary help only will be covering the desk
- Margaret, Andrzej and Jola for their loyal, ongoing and valuable work in the Presbytery;
- Fr Daniel – who has just had his first year with us as assistant parish priest – for all the energy and commitment he is showing to his placement here.
(b) Specific Events/Issues
Canon Anthony summarised:
- the church roof is now free from dry rot;
- Eucharistic Ministers – we need to encourage more people to this mInistry and also have to update the Archdiocese records;
- changes at Kent & Canterbury Hospital Chaplaincy – the priests are still called there for sick visiting and still celebrate Mass once a month but this may not continue;
- the Pilgrim’s Hospice – the once a month Mass that used to be held there has been discontinued. The Chapel is being used for other purposes. In time, the Hospice is to move to a new site in Thannington Without and there may be a room set aside there;
- 2016 was the Year of Mercy and saw a pilgrimage to St George’s Cathedral to go through the Door of Mercy;
- 2017 saw the success of the annual pilgrimage to Lourdes led by Annie Judge;
- the church has received many, many visitors as a centre of pilgrimage including:
- a choir from the Netherlands;
- the 14 Bishops who con-celebrated Mass;
- many children’s groups from Schools;
- pilgrim groups from different countries as well as the UK.
- Matthew Donnelly from St John’s seminary did a 3 week pastoral placement with us in the Summer;
- Fr Daniel set up the Prayer and Pub night for the 18-30s years age group which has been very successful and is growing. This now includes University students who are welcomed into Parish life rather than standing outside of it;
- July saw a very successful Open air Mass in the grounds of St Anselm’s School;
- Robert McCulloch, the Procurator General of the Society of St Columban in Rome, gave the homily and concelebrated a stirring Mass of Translation on 7th July. He also presented the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral (The Very Reverend Robert Willis) with a relic of St Gregory the Great in thanks for his ecumenical spirit (Bishop Nicholas Hudson will celebrate this Mass in 2018);
- the funeral of Fr Barry Angus on Monday 10th April filled our church with our Archbishop, Bishops and many priests of the Diocese in memory of this long serving and loyal priest;
- January 2016 saw our first and very successful Epiphany Concert;
- School visits by the priests are more regular than ever before with Canon Anthony a governor of St Thomas’ primary school and Fr Daniel a governor of St Anselm’s Secondary School;
- January 2017 saw a successful Confirmation programme come to fruition with The Sacrament of Confirmation celebrated by Bishop Paul Mason (Fr Daniel has just launched this year’s programme);
- May 2017 saw an equally successful Sacrament of Reconciliation and Holy Communion programme culminate for our young children. Canon Anthony noted with regret that while our schools are always in demand (St Thomas’ is Ofsted Outstanding), there are reducing numbers of children who (a) are Roman Catholic and (b) if they are Roman Catholic they don’t attend Mass or make their Holy Communion and Confirmation;
- Baptisms; we are trying a new arrangement whereby the parents are seen in groups rather than singly and the ceremony is incorporated in the body of the Mass. This aims to incorporate the parents and family into the Parish by meeting other people in a similar situation.
- a new Charismatic Prayer Group has started in October on Monday nights
- Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament continues each week;
- the Franciscan Study Centre (FISC) sadly closed in June 2017 – this has understandably upset many people who regularly attended Mass there and played values roles in the life of the centre. All are being welcomed into our community and a social is being arranged for those connected with FISC (hopefully) for the first Friday in November (3rd);
- Talks by Fr Tom Herbst on Scripture and Mercy and a video course by Bishop Barron during Lent continued to educate and develop our knowledge of our faith
- At Pentecost we held a moving and well-attended Vigil arranged by our young people;
- the new Syro-Malabar Bishop to the UK visited us in June and celebrated Mass;
- our parish church has a Mass each month for our parishioners who are:
- the UCM celebrated long serving members this year with Mary Reynolds having 40 years and Geraldine, Celia and Margery having 30 years membership;
- the Universities have an ecumenical chaplaincy but Christ Church (Gregory) want to be part of the parish (Pub & Prayer) with a “cross fertilisation” across the two Universities and support from all the parish. A launch evening was held Sunday last for students and young people and will meet again in November for a weekend. (Canon Anthony mentioned that the rebuilding of St John Stone House had stalled owing to the builder going broke..)
- The Four Parish Projects
- Making the Most of Our Assets: a meeting was held in August (Annie Judge is leading). The meeting indicated that generally there is NOT a lot of enthusiasm for moving/selling our buildings but all agreed that we had to do something with the Hall. It needs upgrading then maximising its use;
- The Narthex: meetings have been held and Fr Daniel’s ideas of reorganising the sacred space to make what is available more welcoming and more accommodating. Mike Lilford (chartered surveyor parishioner) has promised a design and costings in the next two weeks. Ideas include the installation of automatic doors, re-framing the confessionals to allow for F2F and non-F2F confession but both in privacy, re-allocating storage space more effectively. Request was made to allow kneeling in confession – this would be looked at.
- Fun & Fundraising: Fr Daniel has met with a group (about 7 core people) to set up a social committee and organise events. Fr Daniel explained about the purchase of the grand Piano, the gift of a good upright piano from FISC and the disposal of the old worn out upright from the hall. The pianos are part of a strategy to raise funds for a new organ for the church and other projects. So far events organised are:
- Quiz & Curry Night on 11th November 2017
- Epiphany Party on 6th January 2018 – International flavour possibly but a planning team is needed for this
(4) Parish Links to our Schools and Universities: this hasn’t formally started but Ben Saul (our Musical Director) is keen to go into the schools to start a school children’s choir; Question was asked if St Anselm’s have retreats? Yes once a year and have had a mission though not recently (parish last had one 24 years ago)
- Our Parish Ministries
- Parish Directory – this has been updated and shows we have 47 (at least) different Ministries active in the parish. Canon Anthony will be asking all ministries to send in a brief (one page) report for 2017 to share on the Church Noticeboard;
- Canon Anthony thanked everyone who participated in and led and managed our ministries;
- Sign-Up Sunday; Fr Daniel spoke of asking a representative from all our groups to be available in the Hall after each Mass on the weekend of 25/26 November 2017 to invite people to sign-up to work in a ministry for just one year;
- Altar Serving; Fr Daniel said it was proving very difficult to secure people to give a reliable service and he was not sure what he could do. Fergal Clancy had given great and sterling service but has now gone to University and will only be home outside term time. There are 4 “grown up” men being inducted as MC (Master of ceremonies) servers. During the week the Syro-Malabar young people give devout service but often go to Ramsgate at weekends. Discussion mentioned at a certain age, young people may be embarrassed as you are very much “on show” on the altar. Overall we need to try and recruit new servers.
- Finance Report
Tessa Metcalfe (member of Finance Committee gave the headlines (Glenda Flanagan our Finance Accountant gave apologies for not being able to be here to do this). The key points were:
The accounts for the year ended 31st December 2016 were agreed, audited and finalised in July 2016; details will be made available on Finance Sunday which is hoped to be held (as usual) in November
- Headlines show that for 2016:
- We received exceptional income of circa £45k and spent £32k on major repairs detailed as follows:
|Funds received re mini bus||20,000|
|Loan from Diocese||14,662|
|Roof works in 2016||23,554|
|Presbytery Roof works||2,736|
|Hall – lift repairs||1,005|
|Hall – new heating pumps||4,530|
|Large Building works||31,825|
- In addition, a further circa £7.5k was received as non-specific donations likely to be in response to the roof appeal.
This highlights again the Parish’s reliance on legacies and special donations
- Ordinary receipts were down just over £1k with new income from fund raising activity being offset by a reduction in income from votive candles and repository sales however after an appeal on Finance Sunday November 2016, weekly income from both loose plate and Gift aid has increased (thank you); a new trial for votive offerings to be voluntary is being tried at present and details of this will be given in due course.
- Weekly collections have been steady at c70% non-Gift Aid and c30% Gift Aid; our new Gift Aid Officer (Sam Harmison) will be launching a communication programme to encourage more people to sign up. The new donations envelopes have helped with this.
- Utility contracts have been reviewed and credits recovered in respect of prior years. On-going tariffs will remain under review.
- Diocesan payments represent assessments made by the Diocese – the largest of which is levied with reference to the Parishes mass attendances. These levies account for around one fifth of ordinary receipts.
- Loan to other Parish
Given the age of the church and presbytery we should aim to have an on-going maintenance programme rather than purely reacting on a crisis basis. Although we currently have sufficient funds to repay the loan from the Diocese a programme of works is being drawn up so that these can be prioritised versus available funds.
- Organ fund
As the advice we have received is that the current organ is beyond repair and needs replacing we probably need to re-life the organ fund. There is currently circa £11.5k held in a Barclays reserve account in respect of monies previously collected for the organ fund.
Post year end there has been an investment on a grand piano to assist with fund raising activity.
- Fundraising Generally
One of the Parish Projects is aiming to re-introduce parish community functions, hoping to bring us together as a worshipping body and also raise funds for the church
- Repair of the Presbytery
This year has seen the main sitting room and dining room decorated and those of you who have seen the end result know how much of a considerable improvement this has been; we had a live infestation in the carpet and the lack of repair over 30 years had taken its toll. Total costs for this were £3675.
The garage doors have also had to be mended – this will happen later in October at a cost of £2900 (incl of VAT).
Unfortunately there are still major issues with repairs needed for the Presbytery – much caused by water & general damp coming through the roof and other areas of the building fabric. The Finance Committee has commissioned a full report of all that does need doing in order to prioritise the spend that has to happen in 2018.
Following this report a lively discussion took place on how the parish could raise funds and through this perhaps get people into the church and maybe even into or back to the faith. The main points arising were:
- we can’t rely on legacies or windfall donations; the current legacies tend to be from people of a generation that were able to save capital. Present day life seemed to suggest this is not something many people can do and if they have it, they are helping children and grandchildren with property buying or education fees;
- Canon Anthony suggested the setting up of a Friends of St Thomas’ Church inviting people from across the world to contribute to etc upkeep of a Roman Catholic Shrine of St Thomas á Becket? This has been done in Ramsgate with St Augustine. Our church is already a place of pilgrimage for many – we could affiliate ourselves to other St Thomas of Canterbury churches across the globe with a newsletter etc. Veneration of the relics (many people still do not know they are here) plus the items we have for Blessed Archbishop Oscar Romero – a modern day priest martyred at the altar. (Chapel of the Two Martyrs?)
- Fr Daniel spoke of the work he had started on hand-held pilgrim guides to replace the paper booklets in the Narthex. This is a way of catechising using the church building;
- Comment made that the RC Cathedral guides would bring the relics to the attention of the Cathedral visitors;
- Question was raised as to whether the relics were alarmed and had we taken advice from the police or insurance companies about them. Yes to the former, no to the latter; the relics are valueless in one sense though invaluable to Roman Catholics;
- this would be a very good thing to do but we need people to form a group to get it going and follow it through…….
- Parish Pastoral Council
- Canon Anthony handed out a draft of the proposed terms for setting up a Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) and ran through them and asked for comments;
- Canon Anthony wants more people to feel responsible in the parish as the priests cannot do everything. People need to initiate things and take ownership’
- it is also important for the people to have a vehicle for their voices to be heard, to feel involved and be effective;
- Canon law says we have to have a Finance Committee but the role of a Parish Pastoral Council is set out in Canon 536 of the code of Canon Law. If, after consulting the council of priests, the diocesan Bishop considers it opportune, a pastoral council is to be established in each parish. In this council, which is presided over by the Parish Priest, Christ’s faithful, together with those who by virtue of their office are engaged in pastoral care in the parish; give their help in fostering pastoral action. The pastoral council has only a consultative vote, and it is regulated by the norms laid down by the diocesan bishop.
Another lively discussion elicited the following points:
- it was thought to be a good idea if enough people are interested to do this;
- modern day life styles/work-life balances/competing interests and activities were all in competition with the church and parish;
- tea & coffee after the 9.30am Sunday Mass had successfully brought mass groupings together – could this work for other Masses?
- the parish let had a PPC in the 1980’s which comprised of all ministry groups and had a number of sub-committees;
- if representation was from the ministries would it be (a) too large & unwieldy and (b) full of “single issue” representation? People who had experienced the 1980’s version felt it had worked – the reps were charged with going back to their teams and reporting on all issues not just their own
- question was asked on what the focus of a PPC should be? the idea was posited that it should be formational – focusing on growing our faith. Formation groups could be set up for natural groupings of people i.e. under 18s, men, women, families – all to form and focus on our faith and belief. This in turn would naturally gain greater commitment and ideas to the church and (for example) young people would want to serve on the altar;
- Fr Daniel spoke of bringing together prayer, catechesis and social events – this way the Parish comes on fire;
The agreed way forward?
- idea given that each Mass be asked to elect 3 members for the PPC. Names to be out forward;
- try to set up the council to run from January 2018 for 2 years to see if it works;
The meeting ended in prayer at 9.00pm.
Notes taken by Tessa Metcalfe at meeting
& typed up 30th September 2017