(Note from Revd Nathan: I’m on holiday but I thought it might help if I got this written up and posted before I left. I don’t want to interfere but you know – if I can help…)
The Trim Valley Benefice in the Diocese of Banburyshire
Benefice Profile 2018
Profile for the Trim Valley Benefice
Thank you for requesting information about the Trim Valley Benefice. If you need any more information please contact the Benefice Office. It’s not staffed but if someone is around they may read your letter instead of using it to light the fire. But I wouldn’t count on it. You could email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. But I’m not sure that’s a great idea as last time I looked the Wardens at Gt Tremlett were using it to harvest email addresses.
MISSION ACTION PLAN
The Benefice came together, or at least as well as it could, given the endless ongoing blood feuds, in 2013 to create a Mission Action Plan. There seems little point in listing the targets, as they all failed. But the point is that we tried.
Our priorities for the forthcoming year are:
- To continue to hold 5th Sunday “All Together” services that will be attended only by the people whose building it is being held in.
- To find a new vicar.
- To reach out to the people in the villages to show God’s love to them. Whereas we’ve spent the last 5 years mostly trying to drive the vicar to distraction.
We look forward to a new Spirit-filled, inspired, energetic minister. Who we will turn into a dried-out husk within about eighteen months.
Located between the foothills of the Cotswolds, the Northamptonshire uplands, and the start of the Mercian Plain in Warwickshire, this is God’s number one country for sheep worrying. Even those locals that don’t have dogs will chase livestock around the fields for a laugh on summer evenings.
Equally spaced between the M40, M1 and M5, frankly the communications are lousy. This may explain why the gene pool does not appear to have changed since the Middle Ages. We’re talking a place that still talks about the Civil War, and where people still remember the names of those relatives who died in the Black Death.
With a population of 106, rarely has a village been so badly named as “Great” Tremlett. The Vicarage is the only facility in the village apart from the school. The Village Green is covered in dog droppings. Don’t go out after dark if you can help it.
The village has 5 working farms. Though when I say “working”, basically don’t go traipsing along the public footpaths. The farmers spend a lot of time taking potshots at passers-by. You know how hikers normally wear brightly-coloured coats? Well, stick to camouflage.
The Parish Council spends all its time arguing about the one and only flower bed. Latest news is, it looks like begonias this year.
With a population of 2,500, Little Tremlett is far bigger than its “Great” namesake. This is a running joke in the valley. Frankly you can’t go half an hour without someone telling you this “interesting” fact.
The Village Hall is not to be confused with the Church Hall, which is next door to it. Another bloody joke. But at least you only get that one every day or two.
The village pub, the “Hanged Man”, is famous for its food. Which is inedible. But don’t complain. The chef is homicidal. Three times he’s skewered people out on the cricket pitch overnight.
Little Tremlett has a sub-Post Office and general stores, Tea Room (popular with hikers if they can avoid the farmers in Great Tremlett), and a shop selling small pieces of artwork crafted out of wine corks. Nobody knows how the last named keeps going. We think the owner may be blackmailing the local MP.
Grilsby on the Hill
Grilsby is, despite its name, actually located in a valley. Yeah, the third and last joke in the valley. Ha bloody ha. The long winter nights just fly by.
The “Quiet Woman” pub is a thriving social centre, providing the location for the local hunt, knitting circle and the Voodoo Club. The village pond is used for duckings on the 3rd Saturday in May.
The Reading Room doubles as a place for “Life Art” classes 5 days a week. As I say, there’s not much going on. They have to make their own entertainment.
Woodby is, as the name suggests, in a wood. In ancient times a centre of forestry trades, today it’s entirely inhabited by stockbrokers who drive their 4x4s down to Banbury Station to get the train to London. As a result it’s a burglar’s paradise. Utterly deserted during the day. On the bright side, it means they leave the lead on the church roof.
In the absence of a pub, cricket team or other local facilities, the main social activity is swinging.
Woodby Chapel End
The bit of Woodby up one end. With a chapel.
St Mary’s Church of England School in Great Tremlett provides education for all children to the age of 11. At which most of their parents pretend to live elsewhere to get them into the right secondary school. The school was rated as “Torpid” in the latest Ofsted reports. The school uses Great Tremlett Church for its assemblies. Although after that incident when they found the Major taking a shower under the leaky roof, a certain amount of encouragement is required.
Fundamentally, every church demands that they are the most important, and that they get the same services, at the same traditional times and dates, as they always did. This is most likely to cause a clerical state of nervous exhaustion at Harvest, which is generally regarded as the most important service – better attended than Easter or Christmas. Every parish wants Harvest on the same Sunday in September, and the vicar has to lead all of them.
The vicar will be supported by a retired minister, who used to be Rector of three of the parishes and lives in the benefice. You can imagine what a help he is. There is a Reader who, it has been proven at diocesan level, is a card-carrying Gnostic. But then she’s not much worse than many of the local clergy, so you know.
Occasional Offices happen occasionally. Funerals more than baptisms, and weddings surprisingly often before the baptisms. The high local shotgun ownership rate makes sure of that.
An incoming priest will no doubt want to rationalise the pattern of worship in the five parishes, which is best described as “crushing and relentless”. They won’t be allowed to.
St Mary, Great Tremlett
A small congregation (nobody is over 5’4″). Our worship could best be described as “Modern”, in the sense that the Modern era started round about the 16th Century.
There is a fine set of bells. Unfortunately the tower fell down around the time of the Great War and we’re still fund raising to repair it. So the bell Ringers just spend their weekly meetings in the Hanged Man. Like most other bell ringers, in other words.
St Jude, Little Tremlett
A congregation in the Liberal Catholic tradition, whatever that means. The congregation don’t know why they do what they do. The priest will be expected to wear the smelly, moth-eaten vestments that somebody’s auntie donated in 1932. Or the entire congregation will walk out.
There is a thriving Mothers’ Union. Albeit the overlap with the local Pagan group is probably greater than the vicar might like.
St Audrey, Grilsby on the Hill
The organ hasn’t worked since 1942. If you’re lucky you’ll get somebody playing a banjo. If unlucky, the entire congregation will bring their kazoos.
They use a form of worship based on their own modified edition of the Book of Common Prayer, which was suppressed for heresy in the 16th Century. The priest was burnt, but that didn’t put the congregation off. In fact, they get quite wistful about those days.
St Leodegarius, Woodby
Still using the ASB and “Songs of Living Water”, the worship at Woodby is like being trapped in an endless 1983. They were quite fond of Michael Foot, and their memories of Mrs Thatcher are one of the reasons why they never really take to women’s ministry.
Some aristocratic families are well-known Catholics. The Cholmondeley family of Woodby, on the other hand, are Methodists. That was why they set up the chapel at the end of the 19th Century. As numbers declined, they became part of an “Ecumenical Parish”. The last Methodist other than the Cholmondeleys themself has now died, but they still use the Methodist Hymn Book (1933).
The local clergy are running a book on when the last member of the congregation will die. But oddly, no matter how many pass on, they’re always replaced by vaguely similar-looking worshippers who, if questioned, will claim they’ve been regulars since their baptisms.
Each church insists on having its own PCC. Woodby also has its own ecumenical council, which nobody ever attends.
Joint meetings of the PCCs used to be held every six months. But we had to stop because of all the injuries.
Currently under review. The previous roll at Grilsby church was in any case fairly suspicious as Imelda, a sensitive and soft-hearted soul, hadn’t taken anybody off since the 60s. We had terrible trouble that time the intercessor confused the Electoral Roll with the prayers for the dead. But easily done.
There is a Bible Study group weekly. Albeit it’s used to spread sedition about the clergy.
Least said, soonest mended.
The Church Magazine comes out monthly or whenever the editor remembers. The weekly benefice notice sheet is invariably in the wrong font.
The monthly letters to the Church Magazine have been collated and published by The Bible Reading Fellowship or are available at a random price via Amazon. You will understand, reading the book, why the benefice is soon to be vacant.