‘O.K. I’ll try it, but if I get any references to the Vicar of Dibley that will be it!’. My initial reaction at Little Bytham PCC when the suggestion was made by one of the ladies that we should hold an Animal Service at Little Bytham. They all sat there grinning at me, as much interested in my personal reactions as to whether or not it would actually take place. In the event we did hold the service in Little Bytham churchyard on Sunday 30th July after the Group Communion Service.
The day was, like most of this summer seems to have been, very hot indeed. Bowls of water were set out by Mrs Hill in anticipation of a non-human congregation and we were not disappointed. Two ponies arrived with a week old calf, a rabbit and an assortment of dogs and cats. Everyone looked for some shade. Margaret Barton, the Lay Reader from Corby Glen who had preached at the Church service, looked on with a smile and remarked. ‘The Rector needn’t think he’s sharing this around the ministry team in the years to come’. Nice to feel supported by your staff isn’t it! Actually the service went well. Mrs Lewthwaite provided music on a keyboard and the human element sang quite well. The animals were reasonably well behaved, the ponies ate all the extra strong peppermints and a good time was had by all. We’ll look at it again next year and at who is going to take it!
Having mentioned Margaret Barton let me just give you a little news about her. She of course came under my authority when the Corby Glen parishes were added onto our Group. As a Lay Reader she has taken services in all our churches, but a couple of weeks ago she attended a Church of England selection board for the ordained ministry. She has been accepted and starts training in September on a three year course. When she completes this she will be ordained as a curate in our Group. Assuming we do not lose Ian Williams in the meantime for any reason it will mean we then have three priests for the Group. Good news indeed for the future and even for beyond my retirement when it comes if they don’t replace me quickly.
You don’t need me to tell you we are in the season of harvest, all the farmers have been busy, often late into the night. Harvest Festival comes up this month, it falls on Friday 29th September. It is always held on a Group basis, for which I am very thankful indeed. Some clergy take up to ten each year! This year ours is hosted by Little Bytham and the service take place at 7pm in St Medard’s church. There will be a Harvest Supper after the service in Little Bytham Village Hall and we hope the evening will be well supported. The service will be an informal service with all the well loved hymns.
I have been asked to conduct two blessings on civil marriages in September, and I have conducted others since I came here. It might therefore be helpful if I spell out marriage policy as we practise it in the Group. We do not conduct marriages in the churches of the Group where divorce is involved. This is not because I object to people trying again, nor is it because I consider second or subsequent marriages to be somehow second class. As a Church of England clergyman I am also a state registrar and I am bound by the law of marriage. I am allowed to exercise what is called conscience and not conduct marriages where divorce is involved, but I feel I must be consistent. Thus I must simply either marry all divorced people or none, I do not feel it is my place to try and judge who might be worthy and who not. I therefore take the position that, except when death ends a marriage, you only get married in church once. Couples who undertake second and subsequent marriages are welcome to come and offer their new relationship to God in a formal service of blessing.
The Rev. B.J. Bennett
Castle Bytham Rectory
Added : 22/12/11 : MG