About Parish Pump
See lower down this page for 'Why has the Church withdrawn its support?'
and also for "What next for Parish Pump?"
PARISH PUMP is produced by a host of terrific volunteers to keep each other (in this Land of the Twelve Churches) informed and (hopefuly!) entertained. Although it has thrived under several different production systems, there has always been a significant church presence in the magazine. This is partly because many of that 'host of terrific volunteers' have mostly been church members, and partly because in a rural area like ours (and quite separately from religious allegiance), the physical presence of our many church buildings has for centuries had a strong cultural and social influence on us all, and therefore on what we think we should be telling each other about. Churches (like village halls, schools, shops, small businesses, farms, and pubs), have provided the cement and certainty in our village lives. One hopes that this may continue. We shall see...
On 28th June 1995, HM the Queen approved the formation of the Shill Valley & Broadshire Benefice to comprise the parishes of Alvescot, Black Bourton, Broadwell with Kelmscott, Broughton Poggs with Filkins, Holwell, Kencot, Langford, LIttle Faringdon, Shilton and Westwell.
Such an apparently gargantuan amalgamation of ten parishes with 12 churches, and a total of 15 villages and hamlets, prompted a correspondent to write mournfully to The Times that the Church of England must be in desperate straits.
Although these 'desperate straits' have led, among other things, to a split in the benefice, here we are nearly 25 years later... Still with 12 churches, varying from medieval to Victorian, open and standing proudly in our 15 villages dotting the northern bank of the Upper Thames in 'The Land of the Twelve Churches'.
If you enjoy reading PARISH PUMP, the magazine for 'The Land of the 12 Churches', do please consider donating £10 towards its costs (for details of how to pay, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org), and do please come and see us... We have not only the 12 beautiful churches to explore, but other great things to see and do (and great pubs too!)
The Land of the Twelve Churches
There have no doubt been church and village magazines since Caxton was a lad, but before these last few years of desk-top publishing, they were painstakingly typed and gestetnered or similar.
One such was 'The Broadshire LInk' which, for a decade or so, detailed the goings-on in the villages that made up the Broadshire Benefice of parishes.
In April 1985, a two page tail-piece appeared for the first time, a rag-bag of jokes and puzzles called... Yes you guessed it: 'The Parish Pump'.
After the two benefices were amalgamated (see above), a new joint magazine replaced the Broadshire Link and the Shill Valley magazine, and the name chosen was... (Again you've guessed!) 'The Parish Pump'.
The Vicar at the time, Fr Richard Harrison, thought that a successful community-based magazine would help weave the different 'strands of parish tradition and practice' into a new coherent and hopeful Benefice of Shill Valley & Broadshire.
Successive editors, with their armies of essential contributors, distributors, and (of course) readers have sought to do just that, and the Parish Pump is still here!
Where we came from: here are three copies of The Broadshire LInk from 1985, including April's issue, which contains the very first mention of 'The Parish Pump'. It is interesting to see how things have changed and also, for that matter, stayed the same.
Just click on the title of which ever issue you would like to read...
The masthead of the very first 'Parish Pump' included as an 'extra' in the April 1985 issue of The Broadshire LInk.
To past editors and others... Ros A, Jane B, Gill C, Lin E, David G, Nick G, Ellie M, Karen S, Liz S (and anyone else I have missed out), and to all our correspondents, and to all our distributors and all our advertisers, and to all our readers... Thank you all.
Where has the Church gone?
In April 2020, Harry MacInnes wrote that he and Margot Hodson would be using other means of communicating with the Land of The Twelve Churches, and we have run their message in Parish Pump ever since. Here is further explanation...
Dear readers of Parish Pump
We have been asked so many times recently: 'what has happened to the Church? Why has the Shill Valley & Broadshire benefice withdrawn support from Parish Pump?', that it seems easiest to write this, rather than answer all the questions individually.
The last ‘Rector’s letter’ was supplied on 10th March 2020 (for the April issue). In mid-April, Harry (MacInnes, the Rector) emailed that he and Margot (Hodson, the Associate Vicar) would no longer be contributing anything to Parish Pump, and on 30th April 2020, Harry resigned as a director of Benefice Together Ltd (the company that produces the magazine.) I have not heard substantially from Harry since mid-May 2020.
Precisely because of the difficulties there had been under previous editors, when I returned to edit Parish Pump in 2018, we established a proper limited company, Benefice Together Ltd, with four directors. The express reason was to provide a bulwark against individual ‘rogue directors’ (whether the editor or anyone else!)
Bluntly, if Harry did not like Parish Pump’s editorial policy or style or anything else about it, he had every opportunity to take responsibility, enlist the support of the other two directors, change the editorial policy or get rid of me, and put Parish Pump back on his chosen path. He did not do that, but instead resigned.
Harry and I have agreed very affably about many things, and disagreed about some others. So far as I know, all the latter have been resolved or could be, and if there are any outstanding matters, I am quite happy to discuss them.
Meanwhile, Parish Pump, and I personally, remain as committed as ever to extolling the Church of England in all its village glory. I have often quoted Joan Edwards' magic poem: 'I love the village parish church, the humble graves and rhyming verses to those who made it what it is and haunt its precincts still…'
It is what Edwards calls 'The sense of always being there' that allows churches to occupy a unique position in almost every village; and Parish Pump tries vigorously to applaud the army of excellent priests, churchwardens, PCC members, and others who keep these fires burning.
It is the benefice management’s withdrawal of support from Parish Pump that has caused us to make changes, and more are now inevitable to ‘fill the gaps’. I might add that this has entailed a deal of extra work, and I cannot deny that I have been somewhat disappointed after (what I always thought was perceived as) the worthwhile development of Parish Pump over the last twenty years.
Of course, it is perfectly fine if the Church prefers to speak only to itself, through a ‘membership email’ and the YouTube film service/interviews. The YouTube films have been better and better made and the makers deserve congratulations, but the viewing figures do not anything like match those for the pre-coronavirus real congregations. And magazines can most certainly reach parts that email cannot.
Above all, if not put squarely in the context of the wider community (as Parish Pump has always sought to place it) the Church will inevitably wither even quicker than it has been.
At the moment, in collaboration with my remaining director colleague, I will continue to produce Parish Pump, and it would be good to hear that the Parishes will continue to collate and send their news, and, of course, deliver the magazine.
I gave Harry advance sight of this statement, but did not hear from him. Parish Pump would, of course, love to return to a more constructive relationship with the benefices in 'The Land of the Twelve Churches'.
(1st October 2020, and small update 2nd October)
What next for Parish Pump?
Dear readers of Parish Pump (Part 2)
Firstly, thank you for reading as far as this... For it's only a local magazine, for goodness sake! And yet, gratifyingly, some readers do care, so as we come to the end of this (extraordinary) year, it seems a good time to take stock and decide how to proceed.
Originally, the idea was that both church and community gained by having news, views, and ideas combined within one magazine. This is why village correspondents have tended to be ‘church oriented’, and why most distribution has been arranged by the church in each parish.
But the terrain has changed. Gradually (at least the larger) villages are performing the event calendar and promotion functions on their individual village websites, and this trend will continue. Some villages also have village newsletters. From Filkins with the St Filica News as well as one of the longer established village websites, to Black Bourton with its just launched and very handsome website which combines village and church news.
A second reason is that the SV&B Benefice has withdrawn from Parish Pump (see above), and prefers to talk to itself through a somewhat ‘quirky’ website, and weekly emails to church members, and the breakaway BB benefice doesn’t (at the moment at least) want anything to do with the past.
However, we are very pleased to say that the parishes have kept the faith, and helped us keep Parish Pump lively, and relevant, and (important) delivered! We have probably had more kind comments from readers in the last few months than at any time in the last few years. That is at least in part a tribute to the resilience of the church in the parishes.
We have also consciously tried to improve the visual quality, eg with photographs etc. At the same time, we have launched this Parish Pump website, where back copies can be read, and there is lots of other news and views. After only a few months, we have 2000 website readers who have, between them, visited the site many thousand times. They come from both our villages, and elsewhere in the country and abroad, with many having family ties here or having used to live here themselves.
We could become a wholly online magazine… It would certainly be easier for us, but there seems will still to be a demand at present, at least from some readers, for printed paper.
(Parish Pump does keep the faith with paper, and has three new books in preparation: a collation of Angela’s recipes from Parish Pump, a book of photographs of the churches in ‘The Land of the Twelve Churches’ in the Time of Corona, and book of postcards of Witney. All three books should appear in the new year.)
However, in view of the trends and changes above, Parish Pump needs to change too.
My suggestion is that henceforth it is published every two months in hard copy rather than monthly, the magazine becomes more review and comment based. We can also put news and calendar events on the Parish Pump website, especially where villages/parishes wish to entice participants from other villages/parishes.
Please could I ask you all to let me know your views as soon as possible, ie before the end of 2020, for we would very much like to let readers and advertisers know what is happening: we need to keep their goodwill. Be as ruthless, honest, strident as you like… All views really are welcome.
(2nd December 2020)
This is the future of Parish Pump
Dear readers of Parish Pump (Part 3)
Again, thank you for reading this...
Taking into account the many ideas, suggestions and points we have received (and thank you everyone for each and all of them), Parish Pump will now be published every two months: February, April, June, August, October, and December.
Copy dates remain the 12th of the preceding months, and publication dates remain around the 1st of the relevant month. Contributions from all sources that might be of interest to our readers are welcomed from all quarters.
The largest number of comments about Parish Pump has been about the attitude of the Benefices in The Land of the Twelve Churches. Some (paraphrasing) simply say 'it really does not matter why the church has removed support from Parish Pump because it is irrelevant to most people. Just forget it, Parish Pump will be better off without the church.'
Others are genuinely puzzled. One such correspondent wrote recently:
"It seems that I am not the first to ask this question and I hope I will not be the last... It needs to be asked.
"I think it is most surprising as well as very disappointing that 'The Church' has removed itself from the Parish Pump, and this at a time when it could (and should?) - be giving more, not less time to the people of the Benefice.
"This has been a horrific year for some and a pretty awful one for most of us, when a word to show care, understanding and empathy as well as hope from this section in our midst, who were commissioned by Christ to 'Go OUT...' would have been sustaining.
"For The Church to attend more particularly to the website and to Zoom, while not wrong, does seem like ‘Preaching to the converted' while ignoring the needy. The Pump is the one - and perhaps the only - place for the Church to communicate with every one in these difficult days of Lockdown... and The Church choses to withdraw itself…?
"We all HOPE that life is improving and we all need a dose of HOPE. It IS around… as we gradually get released from the restraints that limit us and as we look out at the budding days of Spring and Summer and the wonders of Nature and as we begin to plan to see and be with our friends and loved ones once again. So while The Church is not in evidence, I am sure that, like me, many are grateful to our friends and neighbours in the Parishes for their efforts to keep the rest of us in touch and to give what care they have been able to give - as well as to Richard who has kept us in touch through The Pump.
"As for The Church? I would like to ask them to think again about what and to whom is their - is our - Christian Mission?"
This is sad to read, and all we can say is that if and when the Benefice wishes to discuss these matters with Parish Pump, we are ready.
In the meanwhile, Parish Pump will be published, and available to go through every letterbox in The Land of The Twelve Churches for as long as I, or someone else, is willing to produce it, and as long as we have our wonderful contributors and readers and advertisers in all our wonderful parishes.
That's it, folks... On we go together!
(6th April 2021)
Lots to report...
Dear readers of Parish Pump (Part 4!)
A great deal to report, but in the meantime... the immediate upshot of a somewhat tortuous path of negotiation with the Diocese was this (on the face of it) very gracious apology from the Bishop of Oxford and clergy, to two churchwardens and a PCC.
The text of the apology is set out below, and the entire background to this unedifying matter will be published here, when we bring this page up to date very soon...
So do please come back!
(5th December 2022)
From The Bishop of Oxford
The Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft
12 September 2022
I am writing on behalf of all clergy and other officers who played a part in the proposal to separate Black Bourton from The Shill Valley & Broadshire Benefice, which took effect in 2020.
We accept that the process did not run as smoothly as we would have wished to have been the case, at either Diocesan or Benefice level. While we believed the separation to have been appropriate, we acknowledge that this allowed some to conclude we did not fully take into account legitimate criticism of the scheme, nor alternative ideas for the Benefice.
Specifically, we are aware that this caused significant concern to members of Broughton Poggs with Filkins PCC and I understand that this played a large part in the churchwardens' and lay PCC members' subsequent disillusion and mass resignation during 2020.
Having seen the excellent report to the APCM in October 2020, this is all the more regrettable. I therefore apologise to all those affected.
We do hope that, with any necessary reconciliatory steps, we can now go forward in better heart.
With kind regards