Back in July 2017 I wrote an article announcing that the Parochial Church Councils of Henfield, Shermanbury and Woodmancote had all voted to merge the parishes, thereby agreeing that a new Church of England Parish of Henfield, Shermanburyand Woodmancote would come into being in January 2018. Unfortunately, some delays in the legal paperwork, meant that it wasn’t possible to complete the merger on the 1st January last year. I, together with the PCC’s, therefore decided that the best thing to do was to move the date back to the 1st January 2019. So, on January 1st the scheme proposed by the Diocese of Chichester, for a new Parish of Henfield, Shermanbury and Woodmancote became legally binding.

The merger means that the Church of England Churches of which I am Vicar and Rector now have just one parish, run by one council with representation from each church. This will make the governance of our churches more streamlined and therefore more effective without the need for unnecessary committee meetings making for a better use of resources. For most people living in our villages essentially not much changes and most people won’t notice any difference at all. Each church will retain its unique identity and if you live in the ecclesiastical parish of Henfield, Shermanbury and Woodmancote you are still legally entitled to be married, have your children christened, and have a funeral service in whichever
of the three churches is your preference.

There will be just one change that most people will notice when they look at our service calendar which relates to St. Peter’s Woodmancote. At this Church the service times have changed so that on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month they will be held at 8.30am service which will be a prayerful, said celebration of Holy Communion. On the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month the service will be held at 11.15am. On the 2nd Sunday there will be modern service of Holy Communion with hymns and a sermon and on the 4th Sunday the service will be Morning Prayer (Matins) with hymns and a short sermon. There will continue to be a quiet said Evensong service each Wednesday at 5.30pm at Woodmancote.

These changes at Woodmancote mean that each Sunday there will be a service at 8.30am, 10am and 11.15am somewhere in the parish, either shared across all 3 churches, or at Henfield and Woodmancote, which means that, should it be necessary I can take all the services. I have been committed to a pattern of Sunday services that provide a mix of the traditional, Book of Common Prayer services, and those using the more modern material from the Common Worship service book. The proposed pattern, which will be reviewed in December, has an equal number of more traditional services to those that are more modern and in Henfield also have provision for children. This means there really should be something for everyone each week at a time that is convenient even if that is in a church that you might not have visited before.

In St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he writes asking that his fellow Christians might be gentle and patient with each other and, ‘bear with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’ (Ephesians 4: 2-3) And he goes onto say that Christ gave each of us gifts to build up the Church, the body of Christ, until we are united in faith and in knowledge. The merging of the three parishes will I pray, be an opportunity for people, no matter which church they prefer to worship in, to feel they are part of something bigger, united in a vision to learn, live, and share God’s love in new ways.
Revd Paul Doick
photo: Barry Chaston