Holy Week and Easter

With Lent just around the corner, our focus will soon turn towards journeying with Jesus to his cross and grave, only to find his has risen. The Christian church has always understood Holy Week and Easter day to be a journey – both physically, and of course spiritually. We walk in procession on Palm Sunday, and end up gathered at the meal table on Maundy Thursday, before walking to a lonely horrific cross on Good Friday, followed by a race to a tomb on Easter Sunday. The so called Triduum (three days) of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day act as one seamless drama – the services do not have definite endings, allowing the days to blend into one another. Dramas of course require actors, and Holy Week invites us all to become the actors. So I hope we will all accept the invitation this year and get caught up in the drama of Holy Week and Easter.

To add to the richness of the drama I have decided to introduce a new service to Easter Day. Our Gospel tells us that the disciples went to the tomb “early in the morning”. For centuries the Church has held its resurrection service in the early morning, and I would like us to be part of that drama. In my experience, gathering at dawn helps us to appreciate our faith in a new way and experience the resurrection as the sun rises, and new life is offered to another day. So I would like you all to join me for an Easter Sunrise Eucharist on Easter Day at 6am at St Peter’s. Hopefully (Borough Council permitting) we will start in Caversham Court Gardens to light the new fire of Easter and greet the dawn. Our service will then move into church to hear the Easter readings and continue our Easter celebrations. Our service will conclude with us sharing in an Easter breakfast together. We will gather to start at 6am. If you have never been to such a service, can I encourage you to be brave, and get up early as this is the most marvellous way to celebrate the most central day in our faith.

Mike Smith, Rector

Update on Jeremy Tear

We have sadly been without Jeremy Tear since the beginning of October, when he needed to take some time away from ministry due to illness. The good news is that Jeremy is now feeling a good deal better and is working with me and diocesan colleagues to plan a phased return back to parish ministry. I hope this will begin to take place in the next few weeks.

Since Jeremy has had quite a long time away from the parish, I will be working with him to ensure he has an up to date grasp of the life of the parish, and St John’s in particular, and that he has the information he needs to begin work with us again. I have invited an external consultant to bring some expertise to the process of helping Jeremy return to work so that Jeremy and us can appreciate what developments have taken place and how we might continue to work constructively together.
When dates concerning Jeremy’s return are known I will ensure they are made available through the church pew sheets, and I know you will want to welcome him back amongst us.

Mike Smith, Rector

St Peter’s organ

St Peter’s has been raising funds for a new organ for the last two years. Thanks to the generosity of so many in all three churches right across the parish, the funds needed have nearly been reached, and the St Peter’s CLT have felt ready to make the commitment to purchase and install the new organ.
The plan is to have a temporary installation of some speakers attached to a temporary console in church during February to help locate the right place for the organ speakers. This will introduce a level of disruption to the church for three weeks.

This will be followed by fully specifying the new organ, building the console and other equipment, seeking the necessary permissions needed to make such a large installation, before finally the new organ can be installed in the autumn.

The new organ console will be installed in a similar place to the existing console, but rotated 90 degrees to allow the organist to have sight of the choir in their stalls. This change will mean the current gap between the console and front row of pews will disappear, and the CLT have therefore been considering how to alleviate this. They will be bringing forward proposals to St Peter’s congregation and the PCC in due course, which could include a proposal to remove some pews at the front of church. This would have the benefit of creating some more space at the front of the nave to allow for performances, including concerts and recitals and allow for more flexible space for worship. It would also help us provide dedicated space for people in wheelchairs to be located and included more fully in worship. Clearly we might have different views on the merits of the removal of pews, and the Church Forum at St Peter’s will be given over to this subject, so do ensure you come along and join in the conversation.

Mike Smith, Rector

Annual Parochial Church Meeting

Can I encourage you to put Sunday April 19th in your diaries for our Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM). In a change from previous years, I suggested to the PCC that we hold this meeting on a Sunday after a parish-wide Eucharist – they agreed with this idea and we have therefore planned on that basis. So we are all invited to gather at St John’s at 10am on Sunday 19 April for a Eucharist, which will be followed by the meeting at 11.30am. For those who wish to stay, we will then conclude our time together by sharing lunch together.

At our annual meeting I intend to repeat the pattern I established last year of not reading out reports, but assuming that everyone at the meeting has read them and invited questions. I know a good number of people found this a helpful way of running the meeting last year. It was clear however that a number of people at the meeting last year hadn’t managed to download the reports from our parish website, so I have agreed that we will collate a paper report which will be made available in the weeks leading up to the APCM. The report will contain brief summaries of our parish activity, as well as give us the annual statement of our financial activity.

Whilst the APCM is understandably a review of the last year, I hope it will also allow us to look forward together to the coming year as we elect Churchwardens and PCC members, and think about where God is leading us as a parish. I hope we will be able to have a more expansive conversation about some of the longer-term agenda that face us as churches ministering together in one parish. I do hope that you will want to join us on 19 April to worship and reflect together.

Mike Smith, Rector


In this first year I have been giving quite a bit of thought to how our churches can focus more on our mission to this parish, discerning where God is already active in the lives of people and how we as the church might develop new activity, and congregations eager to undertake them.

The Bishop of Reading has recently written to me to invite our parish to become part of a pilot for a mission initiative called Partnership for Missional Church (PMC). This is a programme originating in the USA which has been used in other English dioceses, and proved fruitful in helping parishes who are keen to become more mission focussed.

I have realised in my first year in the parish that there are a good number of us who deeply desire us to be outward looking and engaging with our local community, and yet collectively we struggle to find the right ways to do this. PMC is a tool precisely designed to help churches who are keen to do mission but not sure how they go about it in their context and offers us the strategies to review ourselves, our local community, and to develop new ways of thinking missionally, so that we might make a greater impact on our parish.

My hope is that the PCC will embrace this invitation from the Bishop and prioritise us to as part of this PMC programme, alongside a number of other parishes in this Archdeaconry including some in Reading. In doing so, the PCC will have to consider how we devote the necessary time and energy to the tasks required over the 3 years duration of the programme.

I have some information that I can hand out to anyone who wants to know more about this opportunity, and we have been invited to attend an information evening on Tuesday 3 March where we can learn more about what is involved. I would love to be able to take some of you with me who are interested in learning more about this exciting development – do get in touch with me if this excites you.

Mike Smith, Rector

Lent Groups

Churches Together in Caversham are arranging several Lent Groups this year, in addition to the CTM Home Groups. All groups will be using the York Course ‘PRAISE HIM – Songs of Praise in the New Testament’ . This is a course of five sessions written by Paula Gooder, with contributions from The Archbishop of Canterbury, Sister Wendy (TV Art Programmes), David Suchet (aka Poirot) and Moira Sleight (Editor of Methodist Recorder). Each session starts with a recorded conversation of about 15 minutes, based on a New Testament passage. These conversations are coordinated by Simon Stanley who introduces the speakers and invites them to express their personal reflections on the passage.

Each session continues with a discussion among the group members addressing as many or as few of the questions that have been suggested. The timing of the sessions will be decided by each group, but I think 90 minutes would be a reasonable duration for each meeting.

Groups within the parish are being led by Mary Tucker (947 1685), Steve Jenkins (947 4685), Richard Purkis (947 5120), Janice Walker (947 4581) and John Dudley (954 6664). Rev Marion Pyke (947 5834) has details of these courses. If you would prefer to participate in a group that may reflect the wider church membership in Caversham, please contact Barbara Macrae (947 0040) who is coordinating all the groups on behalf of Churches Together in Caversham.

Rev John Dudley

Pastoral care—what is it?

Pastoral or spiritual carer offers a friendship that is intentionally seeking to “walk with you along your path”. Its focus is on emotional support and spiritual care. In difficult and demanding times such as a critical illness or other traumas in life, we may experience high stress, reducing our ability to cope. At these times the help of others may be very valuable. Family members and friends are often a very important support, but sometimes the presence of a person who is more emotionally detached from the situation can be of more help.

This is a definition of ‘pastoral care’ and as you may know St Peters, St Johns and St Margaret’s all have a team of people who address this very important part of Ministry. The teams offer ‘listening’ and are also able to take Communion to the person in their home.

An effective pastoral carer is an expert ‘non expert’. The conversations she or he initiates are between two or more free and equal persons where there is no necessary assumption of ‘expertise’ as there is with a counsellor or therapist.

Pastoral care requires high levels of interpersonal skill focused in the free and equal relationship of friendship in which the carers intentions are formed in the interest of the patient or person, undergirded by a general motive of love and concern.

Because the nature of friendship is the mutual self disclosure of each person, pastoral care includes the skill by the carer of appropriately revealing him or herself as a person in the pastoral conversation. The value of this offer of friendship becomes important when the other person is interested to receive it.

Good pastoral care needs first recruiting members from all three congregations and then meeting regularly to share information re people in need and also sharing work that is going on in that group. In the Olive Branch we meet every month to keep up with the needs of the St Peter family. During the month everyone in the group has access to me to discuss visits or problems with someone they have been allocated at that monthly meeting. The Olive Branch is a daily ongoing group with its members alert to the needs of the community!

One of the most important elements of pastoral care is communication. Because we are a Parish and look at things in an overall way it would seem sensible that our pastoral work followed that same plan. Mike has therefore asked me to take a leadership role is pastoral oversight of the whole parish. In practice this means that I become the ‘hub of the wheel’! I shall be at pastoral group meetings at St Margaret’s and St Johns as well as St Peters. The leaders of these groups will keep me informed as to whom is being visited etc also which team member has been allocated for pastoral visiting. Having an overall view by me will also help Mike to have a good knowledge of pastoral care in the Parish. Hopefully the safety net will be stronger! Coming together also means that we can have some joint training!

Please DO keep telling us who needs this service -we can’t do it without you!

Rev Marion Pyke