Annual Report 2021

Administrative Information

The Church of St. Thomas is situated in St. Thomas’ Circle, Werneth, Oldham OL8 1SF. The correspondence address is St. Paul’s Vicarage, 55 Belgrave Road, Oldham OL8 1LU.

The parish is in the Deanery of Oldham and Ashton, in the Diocese of Manchester.

The parish forms part of the United Benefice of Oldham and Werneth. It forms part of a Mission Partnership with the parish of St. Paul, Oldham. It was part of a Mission Unit with St. Paul, Oldham, Holy Trinity, Coldhurst, St Stephen & All Martyrs, Oldham, and Oldham Parish Church until November. From November it has been part of a Mission Community with the above parishes, and also Christ Church, Chadderton, and St. Mary, Balderstone.

The Parochial Church Council (PCC) is a charity excepted from registration with the Charity Commission.

The Parish Bank Account is with NatWest. The Insurers of the Parish are EIG.

The Parish

The parish contains a variety of property which includes owner occupier, rented, council houses, apartments and sheltered housing. There are terraced houses, a legacy of the cotton industry, and a mix of semi and detached houses.

New homes have been built in the parish.

With regards to the Index of Multiple Deprivation, the parish straddles 4 LSOAs. A "Lower Super Output Area" is the smallest geographical unit for which demographic data is produced. Oldham 035D is ranked 528, and Oldham O35G is ranked 1,154 out of 32,844 LSOAs across the country. In the 1.6% and 3.5% most deprived, respectively. Both of these LSOAs are within 50 metres walk of the church.

There is a disproportionate mix of religious and ethnic communities in the parish: British, Asian, and Eastern European. The parish is rated as having the highest ethnic diversity (i.e. highest proportion who are not White British) within the Diocese of Manchester at 89%. Many of these are South Asian. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that many people of African and Eastern European origin are moving into the parish.

There are a number of schools in the Parish: St. Thomas, Werneth (CE) Primary School, St. Patrick's (RC) Primary School, Werneth Primary School, as well as Hulme Kindergarten.

Vicar's Report

This has been another strange and difficult year.

While there have been many challenges for us as individuals, and as a church community, nevertheless we have slowly been moving forward in a number of areas, and there are signs of growth and life in the church community.

Things to celebrate

  • We have never had so many children in the congregation, and it has been wonderful to see them getting so involved in leading services on a Sunday morning.
  • Community use of the church building is slowly, but surely, increasing. At the time of writing, we host: Xanadu Dance Troupe, Oldham Camera Club, English Classes, our Farsi/Dari discussion Group, and an Action Together Community Worker, based at St. Thomas on a Thursday. Staff from St. Thomas' School are also using the church to play table-tennis at lunch time, as part of their health and well-being.
  • Recent numbers have been boosted by Iranian asylum seekers from a local hotel, who also take advantage of the English class and discussion group. We still look forward to the return of some of our regular church members.
  • This has also been reflected with increased attendance at the Wednesday morning Eucharist.
  • We have established a regular pattern of services, a new "mode" of worshipping since Covid-19, with music which is both more traditional and more modern, more accessible, and more diverse, reflecting the increasing diversity of our worshipping community.
  • At the time of writing it is lovely to see so many of the bulbs we planted in the Autumn flowering. This is a real sign of life in the local community - and a sign of our commitment to the environment, and to developing a diverse ecology in the church grounds. We hope that the nesting boxes will be made good use of. Our thanks to all involved, and for the grant money received.
  • It was very special to be able to host "Experience Christmas" in December, and to see so many children from local schools come to experience something of the meaning of Christmas. Thanks to Richard and the team.
  • We have managed to improve the church fabric: we have replaced the fluorescent tubes in the vestries with LEDs, and are planning, shortly, to replace our spots with LEDs.
  • Finally, of course, it's been a great joy to have Revd. Cath Hewison ministering among us as curate, and to share all the gifts she has brought.

Challenges ahead

  • We anticipate being very low on funds when May comes, and the balance of the reorder will be due, after the rectification period. However, without the one-off payments due to the reorder, we would have turned a small surplus in 2021.
  • In the long term, the building needs attention: we need a program to repoint the church; we need to prevent the draft (gale) that blows through the front door of the church. We hope, in the medium term, to be able to install a ground source heat pump in order to reduce our gas bill, and reduce our carbon emissions.

Once again, I would like to thank you all for your continued support, your commitment and your courage over the last 12 months. I am confident that, together and by the grace of God, we can continue to move forward, in time, renewed in faith, hope and love.

Revd. Nick Andrewes

PCC Object

The Parochial Church Council has the responsibility, according to law:

To cooperate with the minister in promoting in the parish the whole mission of the church, pastoral, evangelistic, social, and ecumenical.

PCC Structure & Governance

The method of appointment of PCC members is broadly as set out in the Church Representation Rules, with one exception: Church Wardens may be elected for an unlimited number of consecutive periods of office. The Hon. Assistant Priest is also an ex-officio member of the PCC.

Thus the PCC currently consists of 9 elected members, depending on numbers on the Electoral Roll. Thus 4 were elected in 2012 (when there were more numbers on the role); 3 each year. In addition, there are ex officio members: 3 Deanery Synod Representatives; 2 Church Wardens, the Vicar, and the Hon. Assistant Priest.

All who attend Church are encouraged to register on the Electoral Roll and stand for election to the PCC.

PCC Membership

Vicar:
Revd. Nick Andrewes (Chair)
Curate:
Revd. Cath Hewison
Churchwardens:
Mr. Najib Ahmadi, Mr. Hakim Touhidi (until May, then vacant)
Deanery Synod Representatives:
Mr. Jonathan Shaw and Mrs. Maureen Yarwood (until November, then vacant)
PCC MEMBERS
(2 years to serve):
Mr. Hakim Touhidi (Daniel), Dr. Graham Lees, and Mrs. Kathleen Lees
PCC MEMBERS:
(1 years to serve):
Miss. Mary Fairhurst, Ms. Mercy Ekhoesuehi and Mrs. Janet Campbell
PCC MEMBERS:
(0 years to serve):
Mr. Gordon Lees
Safeguarding Officer:
Miss Beverley Hogg (to July) Mercy Ekhoesuehi (from July)
Independent Examiner:
Mr. Keith Witter

Church Attendance

Data for 2020 and 2021 are less than accurate due to Covid-19.

In 2020 services were alternating with St. Paul's Church, and the data does not help in determining a trend.

We have moved to recording "Average Weekly Attendance" and "Usual Sunday Attendance" in line with the Church of England.

YEAR
2021
2020
2019
2018
2017
2016
Average Weekly Attendance - Adults
28
15
38
46
38
38
Average Weekly Attendance - Children
12
4
6
5
3
3
Usual Sunday Attendance - Adults
-
-
34
37
38
Usual Sunday Attendance - Children
-
-
6
3
3
-

Electoral Roll

The number of people on the Parish Electoral Roll is now 54.

Michael Albrow

PCC (Minute) Secretary's Report

St Thomas’ Church re-opened for worship in the Church on 21st March 2021 with seating socially distanced. Website services continued for those unable to attend Church. The children stayed in Church and used sketchbooks to draw or write about the “talk”. Sunday School in the vestry has just restarted (March 2022) with 3 leaders and 5 assistants. Mercy Ekhoesuehi has worked hard as our Safeguarding Officer.

In August it was good to meet and picnic outside on an Uppermill walk and in Alexandra Park. Refreshments are now being served after the service and so we have more opportunities to get to know each other.

October saw candidates from St Thomas’ and St Paul’s being confirmed by the Bishop of Middleton – a happy occasion.

Electrical and lighting improvements have taken place during the year. Other work on the fabric inside the Church is ongoing particularly regarding flooring, heating, water ingress and draughts from the main doors. Outstanding issues outside include wall and gate damage and pointing. A fabric sub-committee has been appointed to assist with this. The Vicar, Nabjib Ahmadi, Gordon Lees and Graham Lees are members of this.

Autumn was time for a grand Bulb Planting working party – Graham Lees and Gina Andrewes coordinated the planting of a 1000 snowdrops, 1000 bluebells, 500 crocus, 300 anemones, 100 wild garlic, 50 tulips, 10 ferns and 4 clematis. They were enthusiastically assisted by many of our young men, ladies and children. We are already appreciating their beauty. Graham is continuing to work with our young men in clearing the compost and maintaining the grounds.

In November successful puppet making and flag workshops were held in Church and Gina and the children shared their puppet choir with us in December.

There has been increased use of the Church during the week and this has resulted in a welcome boost to Church funds. On 6th November a violin concert was held in the Church when students of Tory, who holds a Wednesday class here, entertained us.

In December church members from St Thomas’ and St Paul’s enabled children from 5 schools to interact with the “Christmas Experience”. Special thanks to Richard McEwan and his friend Michael Whitehead for organising this so effectively and for liaising with the 5 primary schools involved – Broadfield, Coppice, Werneth, Hulme and St Thomas’. Michael provided some beautiful tableaux for us and the 5 stations of the nativity story and “The Gift” station at the end provided opportunities for stillness and thought and for the children to take their craftwork home. The adult helpers were all impressed with the children’s responses and hope to do something like this again.

Kathy Lees

PCC Treasurer's Report

Parish share for 2021 was £8,000 which we paid in full.

Running expenses electricity, gas, water rates and insurance were slightly down on 2020 even though we made payment for 3 years water rates.

We made a large payment of £12,419 for the re-order, we now have one final payment of just over £5,000 to make in May.

Overall we do finish with a deficit of £8,523. Finances are now going to be very tight in 2022 as we have still to pay off the final amount for the re-order.

I would like to thank everyone who has set up standing orders to donate on a regular basis to church and also encourage anyone else if they would wish to use the envelope scheme that I have plenty of spare envelopes.

Janet Campbell

Sunday School

From January to Easter, Sunday School continued to meet through Zoom. To enable biblical based craft activities to take place, resource packs continued to be delivered to families from both St Paul’s and St Thomas’ churches. We had an adventurous time exploring the wonders of the book of Revelation.

The children have drawn a wide range of fabulous pictures, as part of the main service on a Sunday morning. A selection of these are displayed in the porch.

We hope to restart Sunday School in church shortly, and are making a number of preparations to do so. . .

A Family Worship and Beyond grant was awarded to St Paul's and St Thomas’ children and families. This fund has supported a Puppet Performance skills workshop held in November and acquiring a range of puppets. Unfortunately in December the Puppet Choir only performed at St Thomas’ due to some families (and puppets!) going down with Covid.

Gina Andrewes

Safeguarding

Firstly, many thanks to Bev who was Safeguarding Officer for so many years. The lot has fallen to me from the Summer.

In the first part of the year, Sunday School took place on Zoom - safely: every meeting was password protected, and only children from the two churches, and their parents, were able to access the meetings.

When we returned to church, the children made drawings, poems, and wrote - during the service and under the supervision of their parents.

We are now trying to set up a Sunday School. After such a gap, numbers of children, and volunteers have changed. I have spent time organising references and police checks. The policy has been reviewed in line with national guidance.

Mercy Ekhoesuehi

Deanery Synod

The Deanery Synod is a meeting of representatives from individual parishes in Oldham and Ashton Deanery. It is, among other things, a means by which local churches can raise concerns that may need consideration by the Diocese. It is also a means by which they may discuss, and vote on, issues of concern to the diocese and national Church.

Both clergy and lay people from each parish attend. However at the moment, we have no representatives from St. Thomas'. This is a matter that we need to address.

This year, the Deanery of Oldham West ceased to exist, and we became a part of the much larger Deanery of Oldham and Ashton. Many parts of the Deanery - particularly in the Ashton area - are in interregnum, i.e. they are waiting for new clergy to be appointed. This is making life difficult for them.

We need to be very aware, as a parish, that we are being to asked to work more closely with local parishes in our Mission Community. While this is not a radical break from the way in which we have worked in the Mission Unit, we do need to be aware that collaborative work in this way is going to be important as we go forward. This should not be seen as a negative, but as a positive: how can we release energy by sharing our time, talents and resources? Again, this is not about undermining parish life, but undergirding and supporting it.

Already we are beginning to see the benefits of working in this way:

  • A number of asylum seekers were signposted to us from St. John, Failsworth. One of our regular attenders on a Thursday comes from Christchurch Chadderton.
  • The clergy in the Mission Community cover funerals (and baptisms), when needed, across each others' parishes, and also for Holy Trinity Bardsley and Woodhouses, while they are in interregnum.
  • It was encouraging to have a number of people from the Mission Community attend our vigils for Afghanistan and Creation towards the end of 2021.

I cannot say strongly enough, that it is up to us to make the Mission Community work. It is up to us to discern where we struggle and need support from outside. Equally, it is up to us to discern where we have something that we can offer or share with other parishes in the Mission Community.

Revd. Nick Andrewes

Planned Giving & Gift Aid

We have 18 regular Gift Aid donors and we can also reclaim gift aid from loose collections and anyone who uses the envelopes but does not pay tax themselves.

In 2021 we recovered £4,865 in tax, this really does help our finances.

Janet Campbell

Pastoral Care

Regrettably, COVID restrictions have limited the level of pastoral care we have been able to provide.

Care Home visits have resumed, with Nick and Cath, alternately, offering a Service of Holy Communion, across both the parish of St Paul and the parish of St Thomas, each Tuesday of the month.

  • The Coppice
  • Park Hills
  • Tree Tops
  • Chamber Mount

Likewise, Holy Communion at home is available, to those unable to attend a service in church due to infirmity.

We hope 'normal service' will resume as soon as possible.

Megan Locklin and Nick Andrewes

Mission Report

Children’s Society

Prior to leaving Oldham, Jonathan Shaw stepped down as our Children’s Society representative, a role joyfully undertaken by Mercy Ekhoesuehi assisted by her daughter Godswill.

Mercy and Godswill distributed home collecting boxes to the congregation. We held a rather lovely Carol and (socially distanced) Christingle service at Christmas, a highlight of which was the first outing of our young puppeteers who gave a rendition of the Christmas song ‘Little Donkey’. A retiring collection was held for the Children’s Society.

English Conversation Classes

Our Interserve Mission Partners for many years, Daniel and Mei Whetham teaching English in S.E. Asia, relocated to UK in 2020. They agreed to lead English conversation classes here at St. Thomas’s in the summer 2021. At that time, indoor meetings were not allowed, so classes were held outdoors in the church grounds, for which we were blessed with good weather. Classes moved indoors in the autumn, when Covid restrictions eased.

Kimbilio

Based on the Anglican cathedral in Lubumbashi D.R.Congo, Kimbilio works running a day centre and four homes for street children and seeks to reunite children with their family’s. In 2021 Kimbilio opened a primary school for former street children and children from poor families.

Michael Albrow

Stitch & Share

Given the Covid-19 situation, and other priorities, we were unable to run Stitch and Share at St. Thomas' this year.

We have been given permission to reallocate the balance of £1,356.72 towards Stitch and Share at St. Paul's.

We are waiting an answer to the question we have asked, about what do with the sewing machines and overlocker we have purchased.

Gina Andrewes & Auriel Hopkinson