The Congregation of St Michaels and local leaders of Bishop’s Stortford were asked to six questions about the town and church communities to enable the church to look at itself and discern areas of strength and weakness. The results are as follows, with the highest response first where appropriate (numbers in brackets indicated numbers of responses).
Please can you tell me of the time when you were most proud to be associated with Bishop’s Stortford? What was special about it?
- Probably the Passion Play and the Carnival. (4)
- When, in 1974, the B/S football team won the amateur cup final at Wembley and paraded through the town on an open top bus. The whole team came out to see them and there was a great sense of pride and great community spirit (Bishop’s Stortford was much smaller and friendlier then). (2)
- The forty year fight against Stansted Airport and its expansion. (2)
- Whenever I hear of or speak to someone who aspires to live in B/S.
- To join with the Civic Trust and local tradespeople to object to the Henderson Plan.
- Being beaten at Lords in the Cricket Final in early 1980s.
- As it has been my birthplace and home, I have always faced a sense of pride in the town (especially in childhood when we had special National Savings weeks in support of the War effort – i.e. Warship week, etc., raising large sums of money in support of the national effort).
- A very nice market on Thursdays and Saturdays.
- Two decent cinemas.
- Lots of parking places.
- Many single shops.
- Walk of Witness.
- Company at Christmas.
- WCC opening – a lot of hard-work and heart-ache brought to fruition.
- The generosity of the people when faced with a disaster or need.
- Confirmation Services / Advent Services.
- I am very proud of the young people of Bishop’s Stortford – and all that they achieve. Many examples can be seen in the local newspaper.
- Visits to Wembley and Lords with our football and cricket teams. Also, whenever my club is collecting for charities from the generous local public.
- Difficult to answer this one – I would rather say that many small events make it special from packed remembrance services, to the fun of the carnival and charity concerts.
- Relationship between St Michael’s church and school.
- Difficult to decide between managing the Bishop’s Stortford Swimming Team to win Herts Trophy, being elected a councillor and my year as mayor.
- Being the mayor and taking communion at All Saints and my civic service at St James. Kneeling before God in my chain was awesome. Visiting lots of voluntary organisations.
- 1988/89 and 2005/6 when I was elected town mayor.
- Collecting donations for victims of the tsunami.
Comment on the results to question 1:
When you think about your role in making a positive difference in Bishop’s Stortford, what has been the high point for you?
- When I ran a Cub Scout pack. Taking part in the St George’s Day services and parades.
- Thirty years service to Scouting – especially when I was Bishop’s Stortford District Cub Scout Leader.
- The opportunity to work with a Christian based youth organisation, the Boys Brigade, based at St Michael’s in the late 1940s and personally connected with it since 1951.
- When the ‘vicar and churchwardens’ were able to provide a focal point for local residents to oppose the licensing hours of the Boar’s Head. The subsequent closure has had a positive impact on the town centre and re-opening again in a different form exactly the outcome the local community wanted.
- Membership of musical societies.
- Taking part in the Bishop’s Stortford Carnival a few years ago as part of a local Friends of the Earth Group – dressed as a penguin (with R as a penguin and children as polar bears) to draw attention to FoE’s Climate Change campaign.
- Forming 26 years ago of the U3A, many of the founder members were, are, from ours and other churches.
- Involvement with many local voluntary organisations.
- Helping with the ‘Big Clean’.
- Inviting the elderly people to Company at Christmas.
- By being a friendly and open person I can hopefully break down some barriers.
- The social contribution of our young people to those less fortunate than themselves.
- The many events my club organises for the youth of our town and the support we give to local charities and other deserving causes.
- Working with the elderly community – sharing their memories of the town, bringing the past to life for the younger generation whilst actively supporting the older population.
- Recognition of the school’s quality – Artsmark Awards, Ofsted Outstanding, Parent’s positive comments, and Pupils’ achievements.
- Becoming mayor and meeting so many unsung heroes giving their time so generously.
- Being the mayor and a local councillor. Working with people enabling them to move on in life.
- Working with people enabling them to move on in life.
Comment on the results to question 2:
What are the three strengths of Bishop’s Stortford that you would not want to lose as it moves on into the future?
- The ability of all Christians in B/S to come together and work for the community (CTBS) including sharing facilities (e.g. St Josephs hall used for Junior Church 1966; use of URC meeting rooms in 1970s). (6)
- Small enough town to maintain a feeling of overall community: where people want to shop, eat and live and bring up children. (5)
- Attractive old buildings / centre (4)
- (Independent) shops / market (4)
- The history: Preservation of Historic Buildings. (2)
- Good schools. (2)
- Market town atmosphere (2).
- Three Anglican churches, all very different, but independent. (2)
- Good car parking with no Sunday charge. (2)
- St Michaels
- Castle gardens
- Good mix of people. (2)
- A large number of clubs and societies.
- Still serves rural places and we must fight to preserve it as a country market town.
- The train service.
- Accessibility to the countryside.
- Rhodes Arts Centre.
- Christian Councillors.
- Opposition to becoming an airport-employee town.
- Fellowship and respect.
- Welcome and hospitality.
- The character of the town could be lost if expansion continues.
- The population is changing too – it feels as if many local residents are moving further into East Anglia.
- The designation ‘market town’.
- Travel connections, nationally and internationally.
- Excellent educational facilities.
- How the town marries old and new – the heart of the market town is maintained and its history, whilst offering a vibrant experience for those who live here.
- Solid foundations for young people – family life and good schools.
- A cohesive society despite a wide range of affluence or not.
- An attractive and well respected environment.
- Churches working together – voluntary sector. Even though we do have a transient population there is still a core of people who work for the best of Stortford.
- Its market town character.
- Community spirit: a feeling of belonging and a willingness to help.
- Pleasant environment.
- An ability to adapt.
Comment on the results to question 3:
Tell me of an outstanding moment when St Michael’s Church played a key role in Bishop’s Stortford or was engaged with the community, a moment when you thought “that is exactly what St Michael’s should be doing for the town”. What was special about it? What implication does your story have for the work we are doing?
- Churches Together: Shine, walk of witness, Company at Christmas (15)
- Art: 2000 Passion Play, Son et Lumiere, Rutter (12)
The Passion Play which involved members of all the churches. It reminded people what Easter and the Christian faith was all about. The involvement of members of St Michael’s church in the acting, production and staging of the Millennium Passion Play – special because it took place outdoors in several locations and attracted crowds and took the story of the Passion out to people. (7)
- Ministry to children: Tiny tots, HBW (6) and
Windhill Churches Centre and RC/Anglican link (6)
When the WCC was opened. It brought the people of two churches together who previously did not have much to do with each other (NB: Party). (3)
- Schools’ services and links (4) and
Holly Fayre (5)
- Welcome (3) and
Worship: Christmas Eve, Remembrance Day, Advent (3)
- Building: Visible spire, venue for concerts (2)
- Company on Sunday (1);
Parish Weekends (1);
Saturday Open Mornings (1);
Visiting the bereaved and dying people (1);
Remembrance Day (1);
Laying up of RAF association standard: the service meant a lot to the diminished membership who had made the decision to close the B/S branch – a cross section of older men and women not associated with the church. it indicates that our church is and should continue to be a focal point in the continuing history of the town.
- The annual remembrance Sunday service is always very special and is even more important in recent years.
- Again a small thing – bell ringing practice – or the sound of the bells – a regular reminder of the church and its role in the community.
- Hosting the Primary Schools’ Carol Concert – for many children this may be the only time they enter a church.
- Civic Service. To be honest, I do not think that the church is as integrated into local life as it should be.
- Opening of the new centre with St Joseph’s. To be honest, not sure what St Michael’s do within the town, apart from part of Churches Together.
- Having lived all my life in Bishop’s Stortford as a Christian, I have witnessed many celebrations and moments where St Michael’s has played a major role: the Queen’s coronation, many Scouts and Guides’ celebrations, the death of Diana. But having a parish church that overlooks the town for centuries is a constant reminder of God’s presence and the Christian message. The parish church has served and inspired the town’s residents throughout its history.
- This is a hard one to answer, mainly because you don’t should loud enough about the good things that you do for B/S. You should do. The community needs to know what you do for them and what they can do for you.
Comment on the results to question 4:
What are the three strengths of St Michael’s Church that you would like to keep as it develops its role in the town and engages with the community?
- Welcome (23): ‘open atmosphere’, ‘caring and support for those within and without’, ‘social events’, ‘focus on family – nobody’s left out’, ‘always open and open to all’.
- Music (14): Choir and bells; recitals and concerts.
- Ecumenism (12): Churches Together, Anglican team, RC link.
- Diversity (11): Mix of ages, styles of worship, views and beliefs.
- School (9): Christmas and Easter services, St Michaels, visits; and
Outreach (9): Company on Sunday, Home Communion, Alpha, Elmhurst.
- Building (8): Beautiful, good location, tourist attraction, focal point; and
Windhill Churches Centre (8): ‘expands our activities’.
- Children (7): Tiny tots, crib service, HBW; and
(Eucharistic) Worship (7): ‘Good quality and diversity’; ‘10am – a service that unites’; ‘spiritual richness’.
- Clergy (6).
- Leadership (2): ‘throughout the church’;
Groups (2): Home groups and Mothers’ Union; and
Community (2): Focus point; and
Prayer (2): atmosphere; prayer for people; and
Social (2): Open mornings, bric-a-brac, coffee mornings; and
Fundraising (2): Charitable giving.
- Mission (1); Ministry Training (1); Friends (1); Strength of Christian witness (1); Street Pastors (1)
- Such a prominent position in the town.
- As a leader in coordinating the various churches and communities.
- Setting an example to all on Christian values.
- The warmth and openness of all associated with the church, its real community feel.
- Direct input and support for school assemblies.
- Providing the foundation governors with a Christian heart.
- Providing for youth (11-17 yrs) with a Christian group.
- Widen its appeal and support.
- New Hall.
- Remain as the parish church.
- Continue to work with the other parish churches, All Saints, Holy Trinity and St James, Thorley, and the other Christian denominations within the town to achieve a united Christian community.
Comment on the results to question 5:
It is 2015 and Bishop’s Stortford is thriving so well that the BBC have come to make a documentary about how this has been brought about. You are asked about the contribution that St Michael’s has made to that story of renewal. What will the film crew be photographing in Bishop’s Stortford to show how it is thriving? What one major thing did St Michael’s do to contribute to that renewal?
- They will be filming the twice-weekly ‘Company on Sunday’ meal – now also held on a Wednesday afternoon, at which the elderly and those living on their own come together for a community meal in the parish centre. It is staffed by St Michael’s volunteers with assistance from a team of over 50 young people aged between 16 and 20 who help on a rota basis. (2)
- Work with the elderly and needy (i.e. something like the Kings Arms Centre).
- The WCC could be opened everyday for soup and roll lunches (at a nominal price) for the whole community.
- St Michael’s could open an after-school drop-in-centre for teenagers or a lunch club for the needy of the town in the WCC.
- An adult HBW… or series of weekends… sited in our centre and on the green area in front.
- A drop-in where people can come to discuss personal issues related to Christianity and focussed in our centre.
- They will be photographing the new town centre development, in particular the walk-in Christian centre (staffed by volunteers from each of the churches) – St Michael’s spear-headed the development of this centre.
- Active member of Churches Together initiatives.
- The church as a hub of the community.
- Activities like SHINE.
- Bringing other churches in the town together.
- WCC (4)
- Schools (2)
- Walk of witness.
- The pro-active with schools and youth. The positive ecumenical stance and joined up planning employing youth workers to run clubs in schools, churches, etc. signposting to Christian Unions, Summer Camps, Spring Harvest, etc.
- Film the usual Sunday service with visiting guest clergy and the joint use parish hall. Film the church from other parts of the town showing how it dominates the town and reminds us of the town’s history, the part it has played in that role for centuries and the way it conveys the workmanship of Christians from its inception to the present day and continuing to provide faith through worship.
- Perhaps look at the wonderful new hall of St Michaels and St Josephs – a real sign of a thriving community and a wonderful structure.
- Not really aware… and yes, I do know that they successfully campaigned for a new parish centre, but it got off to a poor start originally wanting to build on the graveyard.
- There is a need to renew and adapt the community’s perception of faith. Religion is central to some cultures, & they are richer for it.
- A new school campus to replace the present two dilapidated high schools. St Michael’s showing support for those wishing to progress rather than according our town to stagnate.
- The choir in Jackson Square.
- Mentoring of young people from broken homes.
- Running a volunteer agency.
Comment on the results to question 6: