Since being appointed as the Incumbent of Wymondham Abbey, Mthr Catherine has laid out the vision for the parish on a number of occasions including on her appointment, at each APCM and the first meeting of every new PCC. The PCC have been happy to support this vision and have been progressively working towards it over the past 3 years.
The vision for Wymondham Abbey is to make the concept of ‘church’ something living, relevant and much bigger and inspiring than the buildings. Building up the people and the benefice showing how God is apparent and relevant in ordinary life. The Ministry is informed by a desire to offer through teaching and praxis the deeper way into God’s heart.
Over recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the Monastic Model of Christianity. Wymondham Abbey embraces the values and mission of this model to bring people to God, to help people to deepen their spiritual life with God and understand and live by the Gospel teachings.
The general principles include:
- Hospitality – to be considerate and hospitable to those who come to the Abbey and the Abbey grounds for recreation, as tourists, pilgrims’ and those who sometimes come for worship.
- Publicly Living Gospel imperatives – being unambiguous in our commitment to Our Lord
- Teaching and preaching the Gospel
- Prayer – reaching out to help and keeping in prayer those who are suffering in the town, in the worshipping community as well as those around the world
- Healing – offering wisdom in lives particular in respect of wellbeing
- Charitable works – to keep alert for needs in the community paying particular attention to the young and to the vulnerable
Returning to services coming out of lockdown
Wymondham Abbey will be looking to support and encourage a return to worship. We do not expect this to be fast. Since the National Church required churches to close in the first lockdown, relatively few people have attended even when permitted and most access worship and engagement through online services, social media, mail-outs and some activities in the church yard. Looking forward, it is unlikely congregations will return in the next 12 months. National Church Life Statistics show that when a congregation falls for whatever reason, it may be able to return to the status quo ante with two years of work but, in most cases, this does not happen and numbers lost do not return. For these reasons, congregations may remain smaller for at least two years. Patterns of life have changed and people will remain fearful. To this end Wymondham Abbey is looking at ways to engage people in worship, encouraging a return to services while providing ministry for those who remain anxious about attending church in person.
The plans includes:
- For the rest of this year we will, when possible, offer one worship service in the Abbey on Sundays. This service aims to imaginatively encompass the needs of all members of the church. All Cv19 provision in place will continue at least until Christmas 2021.
- The Sunday service will continue to be live streamed.
- Centering Prayer currently accessed via Zoom will be live streamed
- Evening prayer will be live streamed or on social media
- Develop Outside worship with welcoming short attractive services anyone can join in.
- Introduce Pilgrimage worship walks with prayer stations.
- When guidelines allow we will offer singing at services. The plan it to use a few different choirs. This is to avoid undue pressure on volunteers, to keep standards up and to broaden the pool of choristers to include more from the town who have not sung here before but might enjoy the opportunity.
- Building on the success and engagement via social media we shall continue to develop this. The more information we can share, the better people can understand what we are hoping to achieve and recognise the presence of God in all that we do.
The Covid pandemic has had a significant impact on our thinking and vision for Wymondham Abbey. Lockdowns have resulted in the deterioration of mental health in adults and children. The problems already present in young people before Covid have been exacerbated. Children in the West generally have too much academic pressure, too much social pressure to confrom, too much inducement to consumerism and not enough autonomy, not enough freedom to think, to contemplate and not enough simple joys. People have now been isolated in ways that were once unimaginable and this has impacted the lonely most significantly.
There has been an enormous financial fallout and many people have lost work. The biggest burden of financial contraction has been borne by the least affluent; a hugely disproportionate burden falling on the poor and marginal sections of the community.
These problems all exist within the community of the town of Wymondham. This has led to an increased momentum of the ministry team to aspire to meet and support people where they are and not expect them to come to meet us where we are – demonstrating Christian compassion and loving kindness.
We have come to see that the churchyard is even more valuable than we had once thought. During the pandemic, the increased use of the Abbey grounds by people from Wymondham and the engagement with the reflection spaces helped people understand that the Abbey is for everyone. When we way we are inclusive and active, we mean it, including the most vulnerable. We will encourage and continue to promote the Abbey grounds for use by local people as a place of belonging, recreation and exercise using signs and changing opportunities to notice God’s presence and Jesus’ teaching.
We will build on the positive engagement with the Abbey grounds to work to offer eco-outdoor experiences and spaces for the community. This will include exploring ways to offer access to animals for people to watch enjoy as well as being be part of wellbeing projects as people become involved and learning to care for God’s creation and beings.
We are looking at ways to work with the parish councillors and the Mayor to serve both the town of Wymondham and Spooner Row.
Ministry post lockdown
Children, Young People and families
Children have had to face an unprecedented amount of time in front of a screen. Even before Covid and lockdown, it has been well documented that prolonged screen use has a negative impact on communication, social skills and the mental health of children and young people. With the vast majority of school online, children’s emotional and spiritual well-being has been impacted, many have become subdued and are missing social interactions.
A series of initiatives to address this include:
- Nature walks – taking time to be together outside, slowing down to see and notice the beauty of God’s creation.
- Wellbeing initiatives – extending the work already carried out as part of the Happiness Project to more children
- Building a strong sense of community and shared experiences
- Resilience – building opportunities
- Summer programmes to include academic support, visit to alpacas, time to be
- When travel permits 4 day Pilgrimage to Holy Island (teens) and 3 day Spiritual camp at Ditchingham for families
- We are planning a choral outreach in the Summer (if allowed). We are currently seeking a grant for this.
- We will improve out provision for very young children
- Provide supportive opportunities for parents
There is a mental health crisis in our society and the need for this ministry has increased significantly. The time taken up by this ministry has increased from about 2% of minister’s time to about 40%. We have good skills among the team and would benefit from additional accredited training. We need to develop well understood protocols about what we can safely offer. We are seeking professional help for this.
End of life Ministry
The pandemic has meant the normal patterns of end of life care, death, funerals and grieving have been disrupted.
This has highlighted the importance of ministry for the dying, those nursing friends & relatives and the bereaved.
There are plans to develop an integrated ministry team to support those who are dying and for their relatives.
Also provide a bereavement pastoral support group
And a post Covid thanksgiving service.
Wymondham Abbey believes in the importance of education and works to providing interesting, motivating activities and learning opportunities, enabling people to put down technology and experience another side of life. These are designed to inspire and provide opportunities for people to learn and embrace teaching and explore their faith.
Abbey Scholar programme – a series of talks on history, Christianity, prayer traditions
Plans for a Holistic health wellbeing centre offering Art Activities, Aroma therapy, Massage, Yoga, Pottery, Weaving, Dance music
Deepening relations with God: Prayer life, the Contemplative tradition and Biblical teaching, Centreing prayer, Wisdom tradition
CALM project offering hospitality to this great initiative creatively supporting people with difficult diagnoses
Connecting with, deepening and encouraging the faith life of the worshiping community
Courses at Lent and Advent will be live streamed and use in person or zoom
Lockdown has demonstrated the need for internet access for all members of society. Ipad training is already planned for those who have never owned a computer
ECO Issues and ECO church
There is tremendous enthusiasm for Eco issues, especially within younger generations. Wymondham Abbey is committed to:
Being good stewards of the land we have been given – continue development of churchyard and protects its wildlife.
Be active for eco justice
Advocate for the welfare of all creatures and the planet
Advocate for human and animal rights and freedom of expression
Provide opportunities for people to experience the Glory of God in creation.
Extend eco considerations in all purchases as the PCC consider the budget
Include Eco advocacy groups stalls at all fairs and events –
Move to Paperless administration
The Benefice values and wishes to encourage, develop and respond to Lay leadership and Lay ministry in the church. There is a growing feeling that Lay ministry and leadership does not have a strong voice in the wider church. Recognising the calling, commitment and qualities of the laity, we want to be attentive to what God is asking of the benefice in our time
The Abbey Buildings
The latest Quinquennial report shows a long list of repairs and suggestions. The building’s most urgent repairs have been done and we are working through the list. Overall the building is in good repair. The Abbey is a listed building but the Abbey Hall and the church at Spooner Row is not.
We have steadily removed clutter from the Abbey and the Church is now warm, welcoming and peaceful. St Benedict’s is contemporary, comfortable and inviting. In addition to the main Abbey building we have the Abbey Hall which recently has also been decluttered and we are looking at the future use of this space. We hope to develop this as a Wellbeing centre and to welcome a broad section of the town to various activities throughout the week. We hope rentals will contribute to the Abbey’s revenue and ability to pay bills and ongoing costs but also leave money that can be spent on Mission to the town.
The maintenance of the buildings is overseen by the Wardens and the Fabric Officer. We are fortunate in our experienced Fabric officer. Inspection by the Wardens and fabric officer is continual and ongoing. We are driving down our carbon footprint with the introduction of LEDs and looking at greener methods of heating. The fabric officer has reviewed all contracts and renegotiated or changed suppliers where there is a cost benefit.
The Abbey is of interest to tourists and to pilgrims and we have used volunteers to provide the necessary welcome, protection for each other and for the Abbey, meeting our insurer’s conditions. It has never been possible to cover all the volunteer slots for 5 days a week. During the pandemic most have resigned. We want to enhance both the visitor and the volunteer experience. Volunteers sometimes felt cold and often, in the winter, had very few visitors or none at all during their shift. Bringing people in through St Benedict’s means the volunteers will be kept warm, safe and busy in part of the building with tea, coffee, toilets and a comfortable place to be.They will also manage the sale of tea, coffee and cake. The enhanced welcome will mean many more regular and casual visitors from the town. It will increase revenue and keep the Abbey worship space free of shoppers (this never worked well for volunteers or visitors). Our strong evidence is that the shop sells better when situated in the coffee area. This arrangement will allow the church to become a genuinely quiet place for private prayer, something the Abbey has been very sadly missing.
The sale of our tour pamphlets and guided tours will meet the tourists where their interest lies and they will be free to look inside the Abbey while being asked to be respectful and quiet. This will reduce a tension in the worshipping community. Our Tourist Information boards and materials have been updated and are excellent.
We expect to continue to be a destination for tourists but to become somewhere people come back to, knowing they will find a warm welcome here. The town will use the Abbey building regularly for coffee and hospitality, perhaps combined with an opportunity to say a prayer or light a candle. Votive candles will be included free with coffee or tea, thus encouraging people to light a candle (an overt encouragement to connect with God) in the Abbey before they go home.
We will keep the West Doors of the Abbey open and the glass doors locked during the week so that people walking past can see the Comper Reredos illuminated and the beauty of the Abbey. The all-day lighting of the reredos is made possible by our new, very efficient and cheap to run, low carbon lighting options.
Through good hospitality and a clear ethos we can welcome all-comers and encourage connections with the faith and with the ethos of the parish around sustainability, compassion, eco-justice and inclusion.
We have begun consultation to develop the area under the East tower and to put in a lift so that people can enjoy the view.
We hope to extend our work to signal that the Abbey is alive and welcoming. We have moved furniture so that the MU and the many Study groups we have in the Abbey can use St Margaret’s space for meetings. A small Altar will be added to that room so that it lends itself to use as a prayer space.
It is hoped that the Abbey will have a busy and varied programme and have plenty to offer and engage members of the Wymondham Community.
Over the last few years the spider diagram listed in the link has been very constructively dealt with and we are in a good position to take the vision forward as soon as lock down lifts. New lighting, roofing and a sound system as well as live streaming cameras have been installed. https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2018-12/ChurchBuild_Is-your-project-a-millstone-or-a-springboard.pdf
The persecuted Church
Building on active engagment ( London protest re freeing Boko Haram girls)
To Christians in Pakistan and Indonesia
Christians Persecuted in the UK
Ask PCC to take this on as an agenda item.
Keep the issues in front of people in Wymondham
- An immediate priority is to help the many people who will have been badly affected by the pandemic.
- To allow what has been learnt from the pandemic to encourage new and wiser approaches to life’s priorities.
- To offer helpful and positive reflection on the fragile nature of what we take for granted.
- To make the church viable and to ensure income will cover the Abbey’s ongoing costs (including parish share) as well as, very importantly, meet the need to develop and fund community support projects and
- worship. To build a financial buffer in case of emergencies.
- To keep the church here facing outwards into the town – rather than being too self-referential.
- To equip people to engage confidently with, and live out of, God’s wisdom.
- To offer accessible and appropriate theological and spiritual wisdom for the whole community, from people who worship at the Abbey to those who walk their dogs through the grounds.
- To speak clearly of faith and ethos and to encourage ethical living and promote the huge value of good community.
- To follow through with developing the benefice’s genuine openness and service to all.
- To develop new authentic ways of worship, particularly outside the building.
- To change our public stance so that there is a change in perceptions about lay leadership and lay vocations.