The annual report of the Parochial Church Council for 2020
This Report has been drawn up in accordance with the Charities Act 2011.
St. Mary’s Barnard Castle with Whorlton Parochial Church Council (PCC) has the responsibility of co-operating with the incumbent, The Revd Canon Alec Harding, in promoting in the ecclesiastical parish, the whole mission of the church, pastoral, evangelistic, social and ecumenical.
The PCC is committed to enabling as many people as possible to worship and develop their faith in Jesus Christ through our parish life. Through its overview of worship and prayer, mission and outreach work, provision for developing discipleship and pastoral care the PCC acts to enable as many people as possible to be involved in the life of the parish. Services and worship put faith into practice through prayer, reflection on scripture, music and sacrament. Social activities seek to develop the community, and our use of our buildings encourages contact with the community and resources a wide range of community groups.
4.1 Worship and prayer
The year 2020 will be remembered for the Covid 19 pandemic that affected every country of the world and threatened to overwhelm the economies and infrastructure of even the wealthiest of nations. From March 2020 the life of our community was constrained by Government restrictions, the fear of infection and the effects of the virus witnessed in increased deaths, hospital admissions, the closure of schools and businesses and moving in and out of ‘lockdown’
i) From March 2020 all churches across the country were closed for public worship. This unprecedented step was taken to show the solidarity of the Church of England with the whole nation in lockdown. From this decision flowed a rapid upskilling of clergy and congregations in using digital media and communication to connect with worshippers. Lent, Holy Week and Easter all moved ‘online’, major festivals came and went without the church being able to gather until an easing of restrictions re-opened the church doors in August. Patterns of worship compliant with Covid restrictions were created only to be suspended again in November (relaxed a few weeks later) and then in December
ii) Decision making, in the initial throws of the pandemic fell to the clergy as the Church Council was unable to meet physically. Steps were taken to move Wednesday and Sunday worship onto the Zoom platform. This was chosen as it enabled participation by other voices in the leading of worship as opposed to the option of ‘livestreaming’ worship which only permitted taking part in worship as an observer.
iii) Revd Judith Walker Hutchinson and David Walker celebrated Holy Communion online each week from their home, recording the celebration and uploading it for those who wished to receive ‘spiritual communion’.
iv) Books of prayers were printed and distributed to Care Home residents (under strict lockdown for many months) and via those distributing food parcels to those ‘shielding’ and unable to access shops.
v) The church Facebook page advertised nationally produced prayer resources, the Freephone telephone hymns and prayers being most welcome.
vi) As the lockdown progressed and digital competence increased the Zoom congregation grew. Our Readers joined in giving short ‘reflections’ at Zoom services. Clergy sermons were uploaded each week to FaceBook. Every service needed to be created on PowerPoint as screen sharing enabled participation.
vii) The summer easing of lockdown enabled short services to take place in church. Those who had not been able to access digital worship were the first invited back to church before a system was created to enable wider attendance. Both churches had to complete risk assessments to enable ‘social distancing’ and ‘Track and Trace’ monitoring. At Barnard Castle words projected onto the drop-down screen replaced the use of service books.
viii) Services at Whorlton moved to 4.00 pm once a month. Recorded music enhanced our services at Whorlton.
ix) The pews in Barnard Castle church were moved to one side enabling loose chairs to be placed at distance from one another. The church was opened for private prayer and arrangements for quarantining and cleaning chairs used each day by visitors created.
x) Online worship continued alongside public worship in church. By using both the church and Parish Hall at Barnard Castle the congregation (split into 8 Saints groups) were divided between 4 physical acts of worship on Sunday mornings: a move made to ensure that even if every member of the saints groups attended worship there would always be room to welcome visitors. Services were restricted in length, rotas between attendance in church/in the hall were created, clergy preached one another’s sermons (as a means of ensuring every member of the congregation was united in worship), and (until Revd Cliff was priested) communion from one building was taken to the next for people to receive communion by extension. The prior division of the congregation occasioned by a preference for Traditional Language/ modern language/ said or sung services had to be placed to one side. Saints groups included members from the church’s mix of congregations. Orders of service used both modern/ Traditional language.
xi) Diocesan ordinations were postponed from Peter-tide to Michaelmas. Barnard Castle hosted one of 4 ordination services in the diocese. Our curate was ordained by the Bishop of Durham at a service with just 30 people present. the service however was Livestreamed: the first service to be so from the parish. Sarah’s first celebrations of communion took place in both churches: the Barnard Castle Saints’ groups merging to form larger congregations in the church building.
xii) The Autumn lockdown came suddenly. Once again churches were closed (though nationally faith leaders had argued that places of worship should be excluded from the blanket closure order as they had shown their ability to manage risks and their importance to supporting those serving the wider community). The importance of the church doors being open for those who wished to pray was highlighted by the instruction to lock them.
xiii) The experience of livestreaming worship from church at the ordination gave the PCC the push to authorise the introduction of WiFi into the church (overcoming huge technical problems caused by the thickness of the church walls to do so). In time, grants from the Town Council, the Diocesan Mission Fund and the Friends of St. Mary’s were used to improve the church’s capacity for Livestreaming as new equipment was purchased to improve sound and picture quality.
xiv) Harvest was marked by floral displays in church and a Livestreamed act of Collective Worship from Green Lane School complete with a brass quartet and a vintage tractor.
xv) All Soul’s-tide involved an afternoon event entitled ‘Forget me not’ in church to which those who had been bereaved were invited. Small trees around the church were offered as places to hang Remembrance labels and the clergy were on hand to pray with families. An All Soul’s service was Livestreamed: regulations permitting the choir (only) to be present. Forget me not prayers were distributed to Care Homes.
xvi) At short notice the Remembrance Day service had to be scaled back to just 5 people in church! Prayers had been issued to Care Home residents and made available for use at home. The ceremony was filmed and broadcast on FaceBook: at its heart was a display in the centre of the church built around the large ‘parade ground’ cross, the colours of the local uniformed organisations, wreaths, knitted poppies from the 2018 WW1 Remembrance commemorations, flower displays and poppies handmade by residents at the King’s Court Care Home.
xvii) Christingle too was Livestreamed. Technical difficulties threatened the event but these difficulties were overcome and viewers were treated to the sight of the vicar dressed in an inflatable Christingle suit. The event was supported and enabled by members of the choir – at that point allowed to sing church.
xviii) Christmas services were permitted in church but restrictions on numbers and singing in church saw a Carol service take place on Scar Top, Carol singing on ten occasions around the town and Carol singing on the Green at Whorlton.
xix) The annual Crib service was replaced by a filmed and uploaded service created with the help of the Castle Players. Families were invited to church to hang their own decorations on one of the church trees and to say prayers at the Crib.
xx) The Four o’clock service was a casualty of the pandemic. Socially distanced work with children being deemed well nigh impossible. As confidence grew in using digital means of communication the clergy (and Cranmer student Gillian Lunn on placement for 2 years) began to explore online Collective worship through Zoom (from church) and then over Facebook live (from home) to reconnect with young families. Plans to build on Christmas activities fell by the wayside as a third lockdown began after Christmas but 2021 began with a renewed commitment to engage with families.
xxi) The Annual Parochial Church Meeting was postponed from April 2020 because of the pandemic and eventually took place in church in mid October with (for the first time ever) some members of the congregation joining us virtually through Zoom. The Electoral Roll was reported to stand at 134.
xxii) Worshipping community: There are approximately 231 people (all ages) in the worshipping community.
xxiii) Occasional Offices: Covid 19 restrictions on numbers attending occasional offices changed throughout the year and drastically affected the number of services possible in our buildings.
4.2 Mission and outreach
i) The parish involvement with Partnership for Missional Church saw the year begin with a PCC Away Day which identified an ‘adaptive Missional Challenge’. This process of discernment led to the Steering Team (ST) seeking ways to discover and address (in partnership with ‘people of peace’) the fact that Barnard Castle has a high proportion of single occupancy households. The discernment could not have been more prescient as the pandemic highlighted the vulnerability and isolation of many in the community. Identifying the challenge just before ‘lockdown’ meant that the Steering Team lived with the frustration of seeing an issue but not having the means to address it. As lockdown eased, ST members engaged in conversation with leaders of the Teesdale Day Clubs who were buckling under the weight of trying to offer telephone support to their members. Conversations and relationships with Care Home activity leaders and the TCR Hub (which became the main source of community support over the period supported by Government and LA grants) helped the church to step into the public realm as ‘St. Mary’s’ even if our ‘offer’ was limited.
ii) Music: The community band and choir (under the leadership of the Director of Music) found ever more ingenious ways for maintaining purpose, friendship and community even when unable to meet physically (which was most of the year). A music video that drew together the collated recorded voices of choir members and the wider congregation was mastered and uploaded to YouTube and was a great encouragement as the shock of the first lockdown was felt. Zoom practices and get togethers, recordings collated and ‘mastered’ at home and (when possible) recordings made in church enabled local musicians’ voices to be heard at worship services alongside the ‘live’ playing of the organist. Recordings of favourite carols were uploaded to FaceBook over the 12 days of Christmas.
iii) Schools: Work in the local schools initially fell into abeyance as the lockdown placed severe restrictions on access to school buildings
iv) Care Homes: as the risk of infection spreading through Care Homes resulted in extreme lockdown restrictions, ministry in Care Homes was severely curtailed. Contact with residents was maintained through delivering paper materials and encouraging activity organisers to access online worship with residents.
v) The Parish Share offered to the diocese was held at £65000. Support for the USPG projects in Tanzania and Southern India was reaffirmed.
vi) The church budget faced a £15,000 shortfall as the pandemic prevented fundraising and restricted fee income and donations at services. A Gift Day took place in church in October with donations exceeding £23,000.
vii) Donations to the FoodBank continued to be received in church (when open) with goods being transported to The Hub to support the distribution effort based there.
4.3 Developing discipleship
i) As a follow up to the Diocesan Conference (October 2019) a study series based on ‘The Marks of a Disciple’ took place at the beginning of the year.
ii) A Lent series in church based on the Stations of the Cross was interrupted by the pandemic.
iii) A lectionary of readings and form of prayer was included in the parish magazine. Using materials that could be accessed online a 10 week study course (Reframe) produced by Regent’s College was conducted over zoom.
iv) A short series based on the work of Walter Brueggemann was also offered.
v) Dwelling in the Word (most appropriately using 2 Corinthians 4) was also offered into Advent.
4.4 Pastoral Care
Through its activities and social events the PCC seeks to create and support healthy relationships through which individuals can flourish both within and beyond the church.
i) Safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults: The PCC ensures that Safeguarding appears on all PCC agendas and PCC members are encouraged to bring any safeguarding concerns to meetings. The opportunity was taken to review the Parish’s record keeping for DBS certification and Training. Relevant compulsory training was offered to those requiring it with the majority of those to whom it applied taking the option to complete training online or on one of the Zoom courses offered by the Diocese. Physical training may be made available by the Diocese in 2021 for the remainder requiring it.
ii) ‘Health and Safety’ is a regular item on PCC agendas providing an opportunity to consider health and safety issues which may need attention.
iii) Telephone contact and visits (conducted at a distance) proved invaluable for those who could not access online services throughout the lockdown.
iv) The Pilgrim magazine (under the editorship of Mr Geoff Lowson) moved to being printed in colour.
4.5 Social Events
i) Most social events planned for the year were cancelled.
ii) DigVentures began the planned community outreach involved in the successful National Lottery Fund Bid but plans were postponed and then rescheduled for 2021 as the pandemic continued
iii) Bell ringing was only permitted for limited periods, using half the bells and under extreme Covid 19 restrictions. The team continued to meet throughout the year online using ‘the Ringing Room’ resource.
i) Churches Together: The Week of prayer for Christian Unity service was held at Barnard Castle Parish Church but other expected activities fell foul of the pandemic restrictions. In the course of the year Revd Beverley Hollings moved from Barnard Castle Methodist Church to be replaced by Revd Graham Cutler. Fr Ian Grieve (Roman Catholic) announced his retirement. Together, the churches delivered a Christmas card to every house in the town with messages from local Christian leaders. The idea and planning for this came through the parish from Revd Geoff Lowson.
ii) Deanery: The parish appoints three lay members to Deanery Synod. Elections to synod took place in the course of the year. Synod managed to overcome technical difficulties in the second half of the year to meet for mutual support and encouragement in addressing the strains of the pandemic. Agendas also included a visit by Revd Dr Alistair Prince (the DDO, Vocations Strategy Development Officer and Warden of Lay Ministries) and an introduction to the Diocesan Growth Team. Many members of the PCC joined deanery reps on a zoom session to learn about the ‘Guided Pledge Scheme’ which is being introduced across the diocese.
i) As the country entered lockdown in March 2020 major work on the church sponsored by the NLHF was threatened. Thankfully, our contractors were able to work safely throughout the spring and summer. Scaffolding surrounded the church tower, the west end of the church and was required inside the church along the length of the nave. Works included: repointing the tower and the west end of the church where cracks in the stonework threatened the west window; a close up window inspection of the west window; work to improve access to the belfry and onto the church tower roof; work in the clock room; remedial stonework and work on one of the south aisle windows and on the clerestory windows on the south side of the church; stonework around the window to the main church door; a drain survey and work on the drainage channel and manholes from the east end of the church to the south west corner.
Work was monitored by the inspecting architect (Mr John Barnes) and proceeded without difficulty. Mr Robert Stenlake (church treasurer) acted as the main liaison between the contractors, the architect and the Heritage Lottery and deserves great thanks for his commitment to the project. The national lockdown of the churches actually enabled work to proceed without any inconvenience to the congregation – though the cleaning of the church after it had been filled with stone dust from the windows and the effects of the lockdown was a major enterprise.
WiFi was introduced to the church. The requirements of uploading ‘streamed services’ necessitated the installation of an aerial in the clock room to feed a hardwired signal to a router at west end of the church with care taken to ensure that wiring was ‘hidden’. Work then took place to improve the audio feed from the church PA through technical equipment based at the church west end.
ii) Barnard Castle Parish Hall: The Parish Hall is in the care of the Parish Hall Association under a lease from the PCC. For much of the year the Hall had to be shut but work to improve the Hall continued. The PHA and FOSMS financed the introduction of a PA and Loop system to the main hall, which proved invaluable when the church congregation was using the hall for church services. Work to preserve the Pittuck continued. The PHA paid for work on the west end of the hall roof to seal areas where water ingress threatened the mural. Once this has been completed, The Pittuck Mural Group paid Luke Jordan to complete the restoration of the mural. As the Hall’s landlords the PCC commissioned an asbestos survey of the hall.
iii) Church Car Park: an application to the Land registry to register PCC ownership of the land that forms the church carpark was successful. The car park was locked for a full 24 hours from 4.00pm on Christmas Day.
iv) Amen Corner: The PCC also sought to register ownership of the triangular area (currently planted with roses) that leads to the junction of Newgate and The Bank in the light of historical evidence to suggest that this land also belongs to the church. This second application is still being processed by the Land Registry.
i) Whorlton church: There were no major works carried out on Whorlton church in 2020 however, as the year ended, damp problems at the east end were identified that will be addressed in 2021.
ii) Whorlton Village Hall: The Village Hall is in the care of the Village Hall Association under a lease from the PCC. The PCC received a contribution to the costs incurred renewing the lease of the hall from the Village Hall Association.
Members of the PCC are either ex-officio, elected or co-opted by the Annual Parochial Church Meeting [APCM], in accordance with the Church Representation Rules. The number of elected positions, currently 12, is governed by the number on the electoral roll. At its Annual Meeting in 2020 a motion was passed that will come into effect in 2021:
The purpose of the motion is to better reflect the nature of lay involvement in the PCC, to recognise the difficulties of recruitment and to provide for continuity. The proposal came from one of 8 working parties commissioned to consider how the parish might emerge from the pandemic. (Finance, Governance, Pastoral Support, Children and families, Worship, Mission, Music, Communications)
As Charity Trustees PCC members are mindful of the Charity Commission’s Guidance on public benefit and, in particular, the specific guidance on charities for the advancement of religion. There are 17 members of the PCC
From the APCM in April the following served as members of the PCC:
Incumbent & Chairman:
Rev. Alec Harding
Rev. Sarah Cliff
Mr. Astley Fenwick
Mr David Walker
Mrs Sandra Sumner (first elected 2016 and co-opted 2020)
Mr Bob Ward (first elected 2018)
Mrs Joan Kemp Ambler (elected 2020)
Mr Roy Long (elected 2020)
Mrs Frances Stenlake (and Vice Chair of the PCC)
Mr David Walker
Mr David Walker
Mr Robert Stenlake (elected 2017)
Elected Members (up to 12 places)
The full PCC met 8 times in the year January to December 2020 with an average attendance of 76%. The PCC operated through a number of committees, which met from time to time between full PCC meetings and reported back at the PCC. These were:
8.1 Standing Committee: This is the only committee required by law. It has power to transact the business of the PCC meetings, subject to any directions given by the Council (e.g. authorise payments beyond those set in the PCC’s budget.) The Standing Committee is comprised of the Incumbent, churchwardens, treasurer and secretary.
8.3 Whorlton Committee: This committee looks after matters concerning the Whorlton area of the parish.
8.4 PMC Steering Team: The Steering Team is charged with leading the church through the Partnership for Missional Church process.
8.5 Windows on the World: This is a small working group charged with taking forward the successful application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for work on Barnard Castle Church and for monitoring progress.
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St. Mary’s is open for private prayer each weekday from 10.00am – 4.00pm