1. Today I am due to present seven candidates for Confirmation, all from the Abbey, to the Bishop of Sherborne, at a 10.00 am service at Holy Trinity, Weymouth. They are Sarah Boswall, Sue Bradshaw, Victoria Drury and her chorister son Oscar, Andrew Henderson, Tom Spenlove-Brown and Mark Whyte. I am very grateful to the Vicar of Holy Trinity, Canon Andrew Gough, for being so welcoming to our Sherborne contingent. Please pray for them, and for all this morning’s candidates.
Next year we will be due an Abbey Confirmation which, by tradition, we share with Anglican candidates from Leweston School. The latter are prepared by the School’s honorary Anglican Chaplain, The Reverend Lesley McCreadie. Lesley was due back yesterday from the Parish Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella, and at staff meeting tomorrow I will ask her to get cracking on setting a date for the Confirmation, as we need to find a date and time which will suit the Bishop, the School and the Abbey.
2. Tomorrow, Monday 20 May, will see the Annual General Meeting of The Friends of Sherborne Abbey. It begins with Choral Evensong in the Abbey at 6.00 pm, to which all are most warmly invited.
Throughout our recent Music Festival, leaflets about the Friends were available in all the Abbey pews, and many disappeared. I hope that, like homing pigeons, many are now returning, with details of new members of this vital part of our operation, and their subscriptions. Do you love the Abbey and all it stands for? Are you a member of the Friends? If the answer to the first question is YES and the answer to the second question is NO, might I politely suggest that you have a little thinking to do?!
3. Ascension Day this year falls on Thursday 30 May. It is the pivotal Feast between Easter and Pentecost. Indeed, the latter doesn’t make sense without it. So I hope you will want to celebrate the Ascension of Christ with us. There are two opportunities to do so. There will be the 12 noon Holy Communion (Book of Common Prayer) in the Lady Chapel. Then comes the Parish Sung Eucharist with the Abbey Choir at 7.00 pm. I do hope you will be at one or the other. In addition, weather permitting, the Abbey Choir will be welcoming Ascension Day by singing from the top of the tower at 7.00 am – and then consuming a huge breakfast courtesy of Sherborne School.
4. I am delighted that our Lent Project has raised slightly over £6,000, for the Diocesan Mothers’ Union Away from it all holiday scheme, which provides holidays in Sidmouth for families desperately in need of a break, but unable to afford one, and for USPG’s work with the Anglican Diocese of Colombo to support Sri Lankan tea plantation workers in the key areas of education and healthcare. I very much hope to be able to present the cheques at the Parish Eucharist next Sunday, 26 May.
5. A reminder that a Presentation Fund is now open for Paul Ellis, who will retire as the Abbey’s Director of Music at the end of the academic year (31 August). I have told Paul that it would be a shame formally to mark his retirement at the end of August itself as the Choir will still be in recess, and many people will be away. We therefore have agreed that we will make the weekend of 6th-7th July the official marking of his retirement. The Choir will give its customary end-of-year concert in the Abbey on the Saturday at 7.30 pm. They will sing under Paul’s direction for the last time at Evensong on the Sunday. That is when I hope to make a Presentation to Paul, to express our gratitude to him for his magnificent contribution to Abbey music and worship. You can send or deliver your gift to the Parish Office. Cheques should be made payable to Sherborne Abbey, and either on the envelope or in an accompanying note should be clearly marked Paul Ellis Presentation. Please note that Gift Aid does not apply in these circumstances.
6. A Presentation Fund is also open for Philip Prout, who will be retiring as Church Hall Manager at the end of July. Please follow the procedures set out above but this time make sure your contribution is clearly marked Philip Prout Presentation. We don’t want to get the two presentations into a muddle!
7. Finding a successor to Phil as Church Hall Manager is now a priority. It is not a full-time job (and he has indicated that he would like to retain the role of Manager of the Abbey Shop in the Close). But it is a thoroughly practical job which involves dealing with all those individuals and organisations which want to book the Hall (with their manifold demands) as well as ensuring that the Hall and its facilities are always in immaculate condition. Sometimes, it has to be said, our users do not always help us with this. So a long fuse, diplomatic skills and considerable stamina are required.
That having been said, this paid position might well suit someone who is not frightened of hard work, and who can be flexible about working hours. If you are interested, please apply in writing to the Parish Office and include a copy of your CV. Please mark your application for the attention of the Rector. Phil is happy to have informal conversations about his role. Equally, I would be delighted to hear from anyone who would like a similar conversation with me.
8. Some time ago I wrote about Brightly Shining, an illustrated poetry anthology by The Sherborne Library Poets in aid of Julia’s House, our Dorset children’s hospice. There is something in it for everyone. It is still available from the Abbey Shop. It costs only £4.50 and every penny goes straight to Julia’s House as the printing has been paid for by the poets. It is an ideal small gift, especially for someone who is housebound or in hospital. Should the Shop have run out of copies, please telephone Shirley Fry on (01935) 389124.