It’s just over three years since I was licensed as Vicar of St Johns – time flies when you’re having fun! I suppose I really should stop introducing myself as the, ‘new’ Vicar now.

Something that I’ve thought about often – but haven’t got round to doing yet – is a congregation- wide survey about our worship patterns – but it seems like now is a good time.

So over the next few weeks there will be opportunities for you to share your thoughts about our Sunday services. I’ll be asking you to reflect on; what you enjoy about our services, how you would like to see them change, whether you feel there are new things we should be doing and whether there are things we are doing that we ought to stop. You’ll also be asked to offer your views on practical issues such as service times, length, frequency, use of technology, hospitality and music.

We all see things differently and we all notice different things – and so your participation in this process will be really important and valuable. So please look out for the questionnaires which will be available later in the month – and please take some time to share your own views and your sense of where God might be leading us in the range of worship services that we run. In addition to questionnaires there will be opportunities for conversation about our services too.

Meeting together is a precious and essential part of being Christians.

Our hope is that all of our services bring glory to God and are engaging and accessible – both for those of us who presently come to church – and also for those who don’t.

So please pray that this process will bear much fruit and that we’ll hear God speaking clearly to us.

Yours in Christ,

World Day of Prayer

It has been agreed that the World Day of Prayer (formerly Women’s World Day of Prayer) will be held at St. John’s Church. The service will be on Friday 6th March at 2.30 pm.

You may be asking why we celebrate this event? The World Day of Prayer is the largest ecumenical movement in the world. This year’s service has been prepared by the women of Zimbabwe, a country which has suffered a great deal in the past.

The service will be based on the account in St. John’s Gospel of Jesus’ meeting with a sick man by the Pool of Bethesda, but the focus is on reconciliation, peace and love. How appropriate that we are also studying
this Gospel in our Sunday morning services.

Everyone is invited to attend the service. So let us ‘gird up our loins’ and have a good number of people from our church to support this event. Although the local World Day of Prayer committee will be partaking in the service and with the Town Mayor in attendance, we will still need plenty of practical support – in welcoming people and providing refreshments after the service.

So thank you everyone who is willing to serve God in this way. A reminder and more details will appear in our weekly news sheet nearer the time.

Hilary Lidstone

Confluence – the 2020 flower festival at Salisbury Cathedral

Planning for the flower festival, one of this year’s events to mark the 800th anniversary of the laying of Salisbury Cathedral’s foundation stone is well underway.

Entitled Confluence, it will take place from 15th to 20th September.

The launch of the festival was attended by more than 300 flower arrangers from across the diocese who will take part in creating the displays.

Michael Bowyer, director of flowers at Salisbury Cathedral and one of the festival’s designers, said: “The 2020 theme is movement and our designs will focus specifically on the fact that the cathedral sits at the confluence of five rivers. This summons up wonderful images of flowing shapes and gorgeous light and colour.”

The wholesaler, Southeast Flowers will be supplying more than 30,000 stems for the displays and the arrangers will take part in a series of workshops in the run-up to the festival.

The festival is part of a year-long programme of celebrations: there will be a light and sound show early in the year, an art exhibition featuring 20 works by artists such as Henry Moore and Grayson Perry, and a heritage trail.

Safe Sleep

Safe Sleep is a joint project between The Lantern, Julian House and Refresh (Churches of Weymouth and Portland) with 6 Weymouth Church venues.

The safeguarding of guests and volunteers has been the responsibility of trained staff. Numbers of guests this year are down, as the long term aim of the project is to rehouse them all.

We decided to commit to the four months, being involved one morning each week.

There are also others from St John’s Church taking part. Future commitment can be as much or as little as can be managed.

Being a volunteer is actually very rewarding and humbling, but also a learning experience. As well as getting on with the jobs like cooking porridge, toast, making drinks and washing up, it has been important to interact with the guests, if they want to. A change in circumstances can be all it takes to be in their position. We have been touched by the positive response of the community in donating food, taxi rides, Christmas presents, cooked evening meals and the prayers of Christians in Weymouth and Portland.

So far, being part of this project has made us aware of how fortunate we are to have a warm comfortable home with ample food available.

Sue and Frank Akerman

A little bit of church history

One of my general interests is local history. When I moved to Weymouth in June 2018 it wasn’t long before I headed to Weymouth Library, where there is a good collection of books on Dorset history.

One book I borrowed was ‘The Buildings of Old Weymouth’ (Part 2 Melcombe Regis & Westham) written by Eric Ricketts RIBA in 1976. (3 other volumes cover the rest of the Weymouth area) This book has some interesting information about our church.

It states for example how fortunate our town is, in the matter of the siting and design of major Victorian buildings, St. John’s Church designed by Talbot Bury being no exception. The church was built on elevated land between 1850 and 1854 at the bifurcation of the highway running north out of Melcombe. A sketch in the book shows an area of marsh with the church behind it. The book states that the church was designed and built with single gabled east and west transepts. However population growth soon necessitated extensions and both transepts and sanctuary were increased at a later date (1868). Talbot Bury employed the decorated Gothic style of the early 1300’s with a dominating south-west tower and spire, a focal point here for entering Dorchester Road and importantly the northward vista along the Esplanade.

The book mentions that the interior is impressive including the Holy Table and a superb reredos, which is the stone carved screen behind it. The reredos depicts a carving of the Good Shepherd which is appropriate for a ‘low church’.

In the opinion of the author of the book, the rows of dark stained pine pews detracted from the beauty of the nave. He believed the pews were essential to the ‘top-hatted and morning coated gentlemen and their spouses in their finery’ who attended Morning Prayer in their hundreds sitting in their private rented pews – how times have changed! A number of our existing congregation still remember the pews, as well as the preaching from the pulpit. The vicarage, now Hope House, was added in 1859.

More interesting information (especially architectural details) can be found on the Historic England web-site. (Search under Listed Buildings) Another account of St. John’s Church can be found in the ‘The Buildings of England’ series by Nikolaus Pevsner.

Mike Lidstone