Services in St. Mary’s, Burton Bradstock


We are having to change the service plan for the valley, but not by much. When the Revd Bob Thorn first arrived, the Revd Anthony Ashwell had already devised a service plan, which went into effect with minor changes. This is the one we have been working with for the past couple of years. It was arranged in anticipation of Anthony becoming Rurual Dean, and having two Sundays a month in the Bride Valley, with the others out and about in the Deanery. When the Revd Jean Thorn came onto the rota, we were for a time in the luxurious position of having three priests to cover a rota devised for two.


Mike Read continues to be an invaluable part of our service rota, and he has been joined on it by the Revd Ryder Rogers. It is because of the gift of Ryder and Heather to us that during the course of last year we set up a 9.30 am family service at Burton Bradstock. During the course of this year Swyre has changed from having two services a month to having four.


For the past year and more we have been anticipating Anthony leaving us, to enjoy a well earned retirement. This means that the service plan he devised will once again be service by two priests, namely Jean and Bob.  Jean’s pattern of work is that she is on the service plan for two Sundays a month, just as Anthony was from the beginning, and so we are to all intents and appearances back to square one. I have noted before, and at this year’s Annual Meetings that Anthony has very wisely advised that we begin to plan a pattern of services without him from October. The alternative would be to change in August and September, the holiday months, revert to how we are now for October to December, and then make a final change to a new pattern in January when he retires. Better, he suggested, to make one change and to have him in reserve as it were for a few months to fill in if we were to come a cropper.


Anthony’s plan was an attempt to keep things going, using the priests to take as many services of Holy Communion as was reasonable and using Mike to the maximum. It was recognised at the time that it had something of the stability of a house of cards about it. During the last months PCCs, and latterly the Team Council, consideration was given as to whether Jean and Bob should continue according to Anthony’s original plan, taking services of Holy Communion, or whether Parishes would accept fewer services of Holy Communion if Bob and Jean were to be available for other forms of worship, such as family services and the like. One way and another we have ended up doing a little bit of both, with the help of Mike and Ryder stepping in to lead services of Holy Communion by extension.


One of the reasons why we have any choice in this matter at all is because over the last year we have been training and introducing Lay Worship leaders. There are five of them. They have been taking services at the rate of one each month, and so have been putting back into the plan almost but not quite the number of services that Anthony will be taking from it when he goes. As we have been looking at the new plans, it becomes clear to us that they are now an integral and necessary part of the way we will operate.


Some of the Parishes in the Bride Valley have not changed their service pattern at all. Others have changed the time of a service or from a Holy Communion to a Word service. What follows is by way of an explanation of what is happening in Burton Bradstock.


We start with a couple of rules of thumb. The first of these is that there should be a service of Holy Communion in the Parish Church every Sunday. The second is that regular services at regular times of day are better than having services at particular times on particular Sundays of the month. If services are regular, people can go to Church in the confidence that there will be a service. They will not have to muse as to whether today is the third or fourth Sunday in the month. This is important for holiday makers, and for those who attend Church occasionally or perhaps on the spur of a moment.


Having said all of this, I begin by noting the exception that proves the rule; being the 8.00 am Holy Communion services on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month.


The 9.30 am family service continues having, as it has since it started, a service of Holy Communion once a month. This is so that parents who attend get a chance to receive Communion, and thereby give an invaluable witness to their children.


This means that the 11.00 am service will be of a new pattern, having only one service of Holy Communion, on the 2nd Sunday of the month. When the family service started being a weekly one, the former family service at 11.00 am was necessarily dropped. This meant that there was a spare slot, and for want of a ready alternative a service of Morning Prayer according to the BCP (Book of Common Prayer) was put in as a replacement. This has not proved to be a well attended service. People do turn out for the long established Morning Prayer service on the third Sunday of the month, but not for the additional one which appeared on the 1st Sunday.


Over the past months, services of the Word have been developed using the resources of Common Worship. Word services are anything that is not a service of Holy Communion, a Baptism or any other sacramental service. Common Worship is a plan of options for worship first published in 2000 to replace the Alternative Service Book. Using Common Worship we can tailor services to suit our needs. The staff team and then the Team Council have looked at services prepared by the Rector. They vary according to seasons, there being one for Ordinary Time, one for Festivals (for the most part Christmas and Easter) and one for penitential seasons (being Advent and Lent) These three are multiplied by two to count for Morning and Evening services: a total of six. These are not designed to replace services of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the BCP. They are to establish a pattern across the Bride Valley of worship for those Word services which are not BCP. There are family services for instance which in some Parishes may or may not have children at them. This means that those taking them have had to get into the habit of preparing two services, and then using the one of them that suits best on the day. Again, when we have nine people taking services, multiplied by the number of Churches that use Word services that are not BCP, the potential for muddle and misunderstanding increases. The point of having such a number of service booklets is that we do not have to have “either / or” alternatives printed; there is no hopping from one part of the book to another. They are designed to be simple, accessible and with a large enough print for convenience. They are also cheap to produce, which means that in the fullness of time we can alter them as we wish, and print something else without too much expense. They can also be used with a certain amount of versatility to be both the basis of a children’s service and a more formal form of worship.  It is these services that will be used at the 11.00 am services at Burton Bradstock on the first and fourth Sundays.


Having said all of which, this is how the services have been devised up until Christmas. If everyone hates the pattern we can try to adapt it to suit people better. However, the thing to note will be the service patterns accompanying this letter. It is all very well to want something, but it will not do if we are thereby robbing someone else. As things stand, Bob and Mike operate on all Sundays of the month. Jean moves to the Sundays that Anthony has been in the valley, namely the first and the third, and Ryder remains taking services on the first and the third, but with some flexibility. The lay worship leaders take a service each a month, but on occasion will stand to and take a second.

Revd Bob Thorn