Our rector, Rev. Hilary Morgan, retired in April 2021 after nearly seven years service to the parish and Cagebrook Benefice as a whole. As we begin the process of appointing her successor, here is a brief account of life in the parish today.
The Allensmore Parish Community
Allensmore is a small rural parish with 566 residents living in about 230 houses at the time of the 2011 census. The parish comprises several hamlets including Allensmore (where St. Andrew’s is located), Cobhall Common, Winnal and Hungerstone. These settlements are interspersed with working farms and smaller groups of housing.
The Cagebrook Benefice has historically included small rural parishes grouped together; most recently, this has been a benefice of five parishes situated south-west of the city of Hereford: Eaton Bishop, Kingstone, Clehonger, Thruxton and our own parish of Allensmore. We are all part of the larger Abbeydore Deanery whose 2021 Deanery Pastoral Plan allows for partnerships to evolve between these parishes in the south west of the Deanery, under the leadership of the new Priest in Charge, to be appointed.
St Andrews – Our Church Life
St Andrew’s is a much-loved Grade II* listed building; whilst remnants of its 12th century Norman stonework still survive, the main part of the nave dates from the 14th century. The last Quinquennial Inspection (Q.I.) took place in September 2020; the architect’s report indicates that our medieval church is generally in good repair with the usual range of on-going maintenance issues associated with a building of this age.
The PCC have set up a broad working party of parishioners to begin work on delivering the priorities outlined in the Q.I. report. This includes not only progressing maintenance and refurbishment priorities (e.g. restoring the 19th century porch to its former glory using funds provided by generous legacies) but also development work to improve basic facilities at the church. Members of the group include several who worked through the process of preparing the Allensmore Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP). That NDP contains its own policy to protect the church and the village hall whilst supporting investment in improving facilities.
The church at Allensmore has been the focal point of the community for over eight centuries, its ancient stones bearing witness to the rich tapestry of people’s lives. Consequently, the building and its place in the community is inextricably linked to each generation of people that live in the parish. Whilst the congregation on Sundays is now relatively small (between 6-12 worshippers) there is a much wider band of helpers who support the building and work of the church; this has been important in ensuring that the finances of the parish remain on a healthy footing.
Before the Covid pandemic restrictions of 2020/21, monthly rambles and barbecues have been particularly successful in drawing different generations together. We walk the parish footpaths, then eat and drink Allensmore cider at various venues around our beautiful parish. The walkers are joined for the BBQ by other residents who simply turn up for the refreshments and social banter! This has had a very positive effect in the village, getting new residents and people from all walks of life, joining together to get to know each other.
We have a hard-working Parochial Church Council (PCC) of 7, comprising a mix of professions and backgrounds. As of early 2021, the majority of our normal activities are still on hold. Before the pandemic the team supported church and village life, as well as leading some services during the month. We are also blessed that a member of the PCC enriches services with live music. PCC members, along with a dedicated group of community volunteers, also help with the mowing, cleaning, flower arranging and annual tasks and projects. Clearing away the wood when two trees had to be felled in the churchyard is just another recent example with donations for wood going a good way towards the cost of felling the trees.
The Church is ALWAYS OPEN- and we encourage people to visit and spend time at St Andrew’s as it belongs to the village. The more people who pop in now and again, the better. With the largest enclosed public space in the parish, the nave has been the venue for a variety of events over recent years, jazz evenings, ceilidhs and Morris dancing etc. It is a great place to have a social gathering and hearing the music and social interaction between the generations brings St Andrew’s alive. With the aspiration of installing toilet and catering facilities, such events will be much easier to arrange.
The ring of 6 bells, (totally refurbished in 2005) are used on a regular basis. Our new tower captain has ‘inherited’ an enthusiastic band of ringers to keep this area of church life very much alive and heard. Practices take place every week and the bells are rung for special services whilst several of the ringers also ring at other local churches. The bells and their team of ringers is just one of the strengths of St Andrews church community.
St Andrew’s – Our Vision and Mission
When appointed the new Priest in Charge will need to work with all lay leaders and our own PCC to see what form of services we can offer together in future. Before the pandemic and the new Deanery Pastoral Plan comes into effect, the following services were held:
- Regular 4 services each month (lay leaders taking 2 of these – Morning and Evening Prayer)
- Evening Prayer is held in local homes during the winter (warmer than the church, as it is at present)
- Good tradition of Special Event and Festival services
- The church’s presence and mission in the community is demonstrated through the social and fund-raising events organised by the church.
Tending to the needs of others
- We feel we have a close-knit community and encourage one another to visit and help when we see or find a need.
- We also feel that our ever-open church is a demonstration to villagers and visitors alike that we and our church, are always available.
- We have a Prayer Board in St Andrew’s which is well used and prayers are built in to services in church
- There is a Food Bank collection point in St Andrew’s
- We support local and national charities.
St Andrews is fortunate that, with all usual fund raising events suspended during the pandemic, the Parish Giving Scheme, with its growing number of regular givers, plus our 100 club members, have enabled us to pay our bills.
We strive to be an open, inclusive, welcoming Christian community, which promotes and encourages the worship of God, both through involvement in St Andrew’s and through the many village activities we share fun taking part in. We are a very active church and a key part of the community and with the help, love and support of our new Priest in Charge we intend that we remain so.
The pandemic has given the church and its members the opportunity to help and serve our community in many ways but the enforced isolation during the pandemic has not helped. Welcoming new people to our parish as we would have liked is one such area we will be concentrating on once freed to do so.
The pandemic has shown the potential for using new technologies, such as Zoom, WhatsApp and YouTube, to conduct on-line services and to reach out to a much wider audience but we dearly miss the personal interactions we had pre pandemic. Once we are free from all restrictions, the pent-up energy released should present wonderful new opportunities to strengthen old and build new relationships.
We welcome the new Priest in Charge to join us in recognising these opportunities and share with us the joy of fulfilling them.
Exciting times ahead.
PCC April 2021