A Community Lunch

Following the success of the Open Day / Autumn Fair in September and the inaugural “Widford Talks” event in October (report here), Kerry Holt and her team brought us a Community Lunch in November.

The food was delicious and hot, and catered for both meat-eaters and vegetarians, and what a joy it was to sit in comfort with friends and neighbours in a church decorated for Remembrance Day – a wonderful cornucopia of poppies, leaves and seed heads.

Over thirty lunches were served. Friends were simply asked to give what they could afford, and a profit of £190 was donated to church funds.  Only two days earlier, I attended Michael McAdam’s funeral at St Andrew’s Church, Much Hadham, where the caterers there were busy setting out the “funereal feast” of tea, coffee, wine and food within the church itself, and where once again we were able to share food and memories in the company of our friends and neighbours.  It would seem we are not the only village combining our religious and secular requirements to the benefit of all.

Eyes and ears open now to catch mention of the next Community Event at our glorious village church, as we bid a warm welcome to 2024.*

Frances Luck
This is an edited and abbreviated version of an article which appears in the Widford Magazine.

*Before 2023 is out, we have Carols by Candlelight (Sunday 17th at 6:30pm in church), Carols on the Green (Friday 22nd at 7:30pm with the Salvation Army Band) and our Christmas Day Celebration (10:30am in church). All are welcome!

The Inaugural Widford Talk

With no village shop, Public House or village clubs there are few occasions when people can meet and enjoy good company whilst welcoming newcomers.  The Coronation Party was a splendid example of how much pleasure such events can spread, but Coronations do not occur very often.  The Church is seeking to create more opportunities for socialising by offering Open Days and Community lunches and a series of interesting talks by local experts.

On Friday October 27th our Honorary Archivist, Frances Luck, a long-term resident in the village, gave the inaugural talk, not only about the history of the village and the church, but a little of her own family history.  She has lived in this village since the 1960s.  She recalled a village with little car traffic, a village shop, a garage, a sweet shop, a school and three Public Houses.  Oddly, even in those quiet days there was a less-frequent bus service than our present one!  She walked us, in our mind’s eye, slowly through the village, pointing out houses of interest and buildings which have changed beyond recognition, and she told us of worthy citizens and long-gone pastimes such as the Garden Club, the Young Wives Club, the Youth Club and village dances.  Do you know how many Land Army girls were billeted in the village? How many ex-prisoners of war decided to marry local girls and remain in England? Or to which hill the villagers all flocked in the snow to go sledging?

It was a truly fascinating presentation.  Before the talk, the audience (of some forty people) enjoyed a box supper with either tea, coffee or a warming alcoholic drink.  The church was beautifully decorated with autumn foliage and despite it being a rather chilly evening, a good time was had by all.

Do watch out for the next talk…

With thanks to JB and the Widford Magazine for the article.

A Different Harvest

A priest once told me that their suggestions for the Harvest Festival service they had been asked to lead (in a church without their own priest) had been dismissed out of hand with the phrase, “No, we have always done this.” He had then gently reminded the parish that the thing they had “always done” was something he had introduced there only three years earlier! It’s true that traditions take remarkably little time to develop, and that development tends to be accompanied with a fast-growing reluctance to change. Many people tend to live by the motto “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” but this fails to accept that further improvement might be possible.

This year’s Harvest Supper perhaps illustrates this well. The event has been part of Widford’s social calendar for years and has seen little change; its tried and tested format has proven very successful in terms of gathering and entertaining a crowd and raising funds for the church. However, this year, the event underwent a thorough examination and by separating the critical ingredients from the detail, new possibilities presented themselves. The undisputed requirements were good food, the opportunity for conversation and the provision of some kind of entertainment. The details – what food should be served and what kind of entertainment should be put on – were carefully reviewed. And some changes were made.

And what a good night was had by all. There was still a raffle (many thanks to all those who had contributed gifts) and the singing of parts of the traditional Harvest Hymns, but the menu included pulled pork and corn on the cob for the first time. In another first, the seating arrangements were also modified so that the side room was used for tables – largely to facilitate conversation (which can be harder in the large main hall because of the noise) – and the main hall set out with a wide open space for dancing.

Food, glorious food!

A barn dance had been advertised, but in the end, the provider recommended that line dancing would suit our event better (it’s more inclusive for singles and those whose partners don’t like to dance). It was loads of fun. We learned three dances and a whole load of new terminology (most of which I’ve now forgotten). It was a little bit like dipping our toes in the shallows of what is the deep and wide lake of line dancing – we were all very grateful that our instructor didn’t play the fastest music she kept threatening!

Line Dancing in progress

Thanks go to all who played their part in rethinking the event and producing such a wonderful evening for the village. If you didn’t come this year, do make a plan to come next. It won’t be the same, but you can guarantee that the essential ingredients will be in place – the best of the traditional core with a flexible fringe so that it remains fresh and continues to help build up the common life of our changing community.

Do keep an eye out for other events on the calendar like the new “Widford Talks” and our upcoming Community Lunch – you can sign up for news updates here.

Images from Facebook posts, incl. stills from videos – thanks to those who shared.

Open Day 2023

It was one of the hottest days of the year, but very pleasant in the shade and inside the cool church for this special event in the church grounds. There were lunches, teas, coffee, cake, Pimm’s and much more to be enjoyed, stalls to browse overlooking the Ash Valley, and face-painting, duck-catching and other amusements for the children. Handbells were rung by a shortened team inside the church at 2pm and at 4pm the new tower bell ropes and sallies were dedicated in a brief service and all six bells rang out in celebration.

As with many of Widford’s community events, it was wonderful to see people of all ages gathering together, and it was very special not only to be able to welcome and make the acquaintance of new villagers for the first time, but also to provide the opportunity for families who have been in the village a little longer to meet one another for the first time.

Thanks go to all involved for organising such a delightful day, overseeing provisions, giving tours and ringing bells (including those who set up the day before and cleared up the day after!).

Thanks to GD, whose article in the Village Magazine has been extensively plagiarised for this post.
Photo: Open Church by Mark Dunstan.

A Celebration of Service

When children are learning to speak, one of the first things they are taught to say is “Thank you.” They forget, of course. Frequently. But one hopes that eventually, expressions of gratitude will come quickly and freely. In life, there are countless situations in which other people will do or say something kind to us; honouring those precious gifts with thanks is the very least we can do.

This year for our “Patronal Festival”*, we are saying, “Thank you”. As a community, we benefit from the extraordinary gift made centuries ago to the village of the church building. As a community, we benefit from the time and talents, finances and labour of our neighbours who maintain it, its grounds and its ministry in many different ways. Not long ago, it was estimated that almost 20% of village residents were giving time each year to support this beautiful place and to ensure it would remain beautiful into the next generation.

So we are saying, “Thank you.” To those who unlock the church door each day so visitors can enter (and who lock it again at night for safekeeping). To those who sweep and dust and clean and polish, especially in light of the extra work they did in the pandemic’s worst period. To those whose creativity with flowers brings additional beauty week by week but especially at festival celebrations. To those who provide music for our worship – organists, choir and bellringers – and at other times for concerts and special occasions. To those who prepare refreshments Sunday by Sunday, and more food and drink at Christmas, Harvest and, of course, the Safari Supper. To the contractors and volunteers who tend the churchyards, their grassed areas, hedges and trees. To the organisers, administrators and trustees who manage the events and ensure the premises are safe and accessible. To all the people who attend our services and events, building relationships with one another and nurturing community spirit. To all those who have made financial donations which enable the PCC to maintain the premises and proclaim the good news of Jesus afresh to every generation. And to God, who has given us the hope of eternal life, even though we so often let him down.

Our service is on 25th June and starts at 4pm. Everyone is welcome, including children. It will include some well known hymns so we can have a really good sing together (a great, if somewhat neglected community activity). We will praise God for the blessings he has given us and pray to God that he would bless all of our wonderful volunteers and our community as a whole. (And worry not – nobody will be asked to stand at the front or speak!) There will be a short talk helping us to consider what Jesus said about service. Afterwards, we will share refreshments and conversation. We do hope that many people would come so that together we can say the biggest “Thank you!”

* Patronal Festival: Our church bears the name of St John the Baptist.
We celebrate each year on the Sunday nearest his feast day – 24th June.

Harvest Challenge 2022

As we gear up for our Harvest Celebration in support of the Bishop’s Harvest Appeal this year, I thought it would be good to hear from TEARFund, whose project in Mozambique we will be supporting. When I contacted them, they invited me to run a week-long challenge within the church in the run up to our Harvest Service. It’s called the “Changing the Climate Challenge.” I figured it was something worthwhile we could do, so here below is a video to explain a little about what I hope you will be doing over the next six days.

Let's Change the Climate Promo Film.mp4 from Tearfund on Vimeo.

The video and more information about the challenge can be found on the TEARFund website at this link, including the daily challenges and Bible reflections.

I hope you will consider joining me in prayer and action over the coming week and look forward to seeing many of you at the Harvest Supper on Saturday and the Festival Service on Sunday.

Mark Dunstan

The Way of the Cross 2022

We are delighted to welcome, once again, the choir from the church of St John the Baptist, Great Amwell, who will lead us through a moving selection of hymns and anthems as we listen once again to the story of Christ’s Passion and reflect on how it addresses us today.

The service is at Widford Church at 6:30pm on Palm Sunday, 10th April.

All are welcome.

You do not need to wear a mask, but you are welcome to do so if you would like.

A Harvest Celebration 2021

What a delight it was to see the creativity on display at Widford Church’s Harvest Festival celebration on Sunday. We thank God for the beauty of the flowers and for making human beings in his image – to be creative as he is.

The St Albans diocesan vision encourages us to Live God’s Love with generosity and joy, imagination and courage. The floral displays (see image gallery below) certainly demonstrated wonderful imagination, and the singing of the harvest hymns (skilfully accompanied by our guest organist) was full of joy. There wasn’t much cause for courage during our worship, but generosity was definitely in view as the congregation gave to support the Bishop of St Albans’ Harvest Appeal, Water is Life. More information on this appeal is available at this link.

Our reading was from the book of the prophet Isaiah:

For as the soil makes the young plant come up

and a garden causes seeds to grow,

so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness

and praise spring up before all nations.

Isaiah 61:11

We prayed with gratitude for all those involved in the food production, distribution and retail industries, and for the work of TEARFund and their partner churches in the Democratic Republic of Congo, bringing clean water to communities which are an hour’s walk from the nearest water source. If you would like to support this vital work, please visit our donations page, here.

Harvest Festival 2021

Our annual celebration of Harvest is coming up.

Widford Church

9:30am, 3rd October

As well as singing traditional harvest hymns and remembering the farmers in their year-round labours to provide food for our tables, we’re considering the blessing of water.  We take this for granted – we turn on a tap and it’s instantly there, purified and safe to drink.  But for many around the world, this is not the case.

The Bishop of St Albans’ Harvest Appeal this year, Water is Life, is supporting TEARFund and its partners working in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  Life in the DRC is tough.  With a history of civil war, widespread poverty and a cycle of conflict and displacement, communities struggle every day.  On top of this, more than 70 per cent of the DRC population use unsafe drinking water and so daily encounter the devastatingly high risk of cholera, a preventable disease.  The appeal will bring clean water to many more communities in the DRC, bringing with it transformation to daily lives and hope for the future.

If you would like to bring gifts of food, we would be pleased to receive these, too. Fresh fruit and veg will be auctioned at the end of the service (proceeds to the appeal). Packaged goods will be passed on to a local Foodbank.

Please join us to celebrate and to pray, to learn and to give.

Image provided by the Diocese of St Albans

Safari Supper 2021

All week, I watched the forecast with some trepidation.  On Thursday, the outlook was poor for Friday night.  “Should I put take a coat or an umbrella on Safari with me?” I wondered.

I needn’t have worried.  Friday evening proved to be overcast, but dry and warm – the gamble of holding the event in September instead of June had paid off.  As I approached my venue for starters, I could hear the noise of music and happy conversation emanating from the garden.  Some fellow travellers were already being treated to the generous hospitality which draws hardened explorers back year after year.  There were nibbles, fizz and conversations with old acquaintances as well as the all-important introductions to new friends that the Safari Supper does so well.

After a while, all the guests began to drift off to their different main course venues, where pre-ordered wine, sumptuous food and more new friends awaited.  At my table, we talked about paintings, land development and village friends current and long since departed.  We learned that hiring a skip may be the easy way to get rid of your rubbish, but if you have the patience and time to find them, there are folk who will gladly pay for what you are throwing out – even incomplete collections of odd screwdrivers and half-used tins of paint!  Seconds were served, and even thirds were available – such was the generosity of our hosts.  Maybe they were simply ensuring we had sufficient fuel to carry us to the Old Rectory where everyone was to gather for puddings.

As usual at our final venue, there was such a choice of desserts it was difficult to decide what to have, so, like many others, I had a couple of visits to the table, as well as engaging in more conversation with other folk whose paths had not crossed mine till then.  There was a great deal of chatting about food that had been consumed earlier in the evening and how lovely all the people were.  I was pleased to catch up with some villagers I’ve not seen since the last Safari Supper in 2019 and delighted to meet some brand-new people before the raffle was called and the live music began.  I am told that the last of the guests did not find their way home until the small hours, but I left the happy crowds behind at around 11pm, full of food and having enjoyed a very pleasant evening indeed.

Thanks were expressed publicly to those who organised the event and to all the hosts who still had clearing up to face.  I sincerely hope they all heard those thanks – the effort they had put in ought not be overlooked.  It was a truly wonderful evening, bringing the community together in a simple and delightful way.  Roll on next year…

Image by RD LH from Pixabay