P.A.S.T. Trust
The Palmer, Alcock, Sharp & Tindall Trust (2012)

Late 'The Traditional Church of England in Ashford' (Founded 2003)

“That even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away; to cleave to those which shall abide”

TO DONATE TO THE TRUST, PLEASE SEE BELOW

FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN: C.J. COOPER ESQ. FGMS

 
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The TCEA Founder (now the PAST Trust) in the pulpit of the old Ashford Parish Church shortly before the project of destruction began.
Who are we?
We are a group of individuals committed to the restoration and beautifying of the historical fabric of Ashford Parish Church, Kent as we knew her. Especially our aim is to replace a central block of the original solid-oak Ashford Pews (installed 1879) in the Nave of the building and to return the fine Hoptonwood Stone & Marble Pulpit to its original position, as well as permanently removing the Nave dais to reopen the central-aisle of the building for proper processions.
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                                                                    The Church as she was.                                                  The Arts Centre Nave, devoid of pews & encumbered  with a Nave stage/dais
Why? What happened?
Unfortunately a very 'dark' group of individuals caused mayhem in the management of this church in the late 1990s.  It all began when first the fine male voice choir
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The fine huge Ashford Choir  in the late 1970's outside Canterbury Cathedral, and in 1981 outside the Parish Church.  Within 10 years it had been destroyed.
 was effectively disbanded and turned into a mixed organisation.  Certain individuals of the congregation then hampered the good work of the former (and the last who ever can be) Vicar of Ashford, and then in 1999 the evildoers obtained a Licence to remove the front pews in the Nave and introduce a horrible Nave Altar which severed the glorious central aisle and spoiled the view of the beautiful High Altar.  Years of in-fighting and mismanagement followed, and when the last ever Vicar retired in 2002, the way was clear (or so they thought) to implement their wicked ideas of heritage-hating and destruction of the Anglo-Catholic traditions of the building, namely by applying for the removal of the solid carved oak pews which filled the Nave of the church, gave the impression of order and space, and also to move the fine Hoptonwood Stone & Marble Pulpit which was the last finished work of the famous Architect, John Loughborough Pearson.
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The relocated pulpit, hemmed-in by the ugly gallery.
Was the application successful?
Unfortunately, following a bitter battle with the Church of England trendies and their sycophants on one side (including the staunch support of the Bishop of Dover, Trevor Willmott and the Priest in Charge, Colin Preece, and reportedly of "the whole Parochial Church Council of St Mary the Virgin Ashford), and on the other side an alliance of Catholic Traditionalists and heritage preservation organisations (most particularly Christopher J. Cooper FGMS - a parishioner who purchased a house by the church with the sole aim of halting the proposed vandalism - and the Victorian Society), the modernising heritage-haters won the day (by Faculty sealed by the Commissary General of the Ecclesiastical Court of Canterbury) and the church was closed, the pews ripped-out and the wonderful 1897 Pulpit (a gift of the Elliott family to the church to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee) was moved to a position quite unsuitable for it to be appreciated or seen as it properly should be.

Why on earth was this done - and was it costly?
It depends if you think that an approximate cost of £2 million is costly?  If you wonder where it came from - well it came, in the main, from you (the taxpayer).  The interesting thing is that it was always claimed by the church that the money was ringfenced and could only be spent on that project, but a letter obtained from the CLG stated very clearly that the money was NOT ringfenced, and thus it might have been possible to spend it on keeping the town Court open or on more policing.  But as usual, ordinary citizens are not consulted over how their money is spent!  As to why it was done, there were a few agendas on the table:

The National Church of England
For years (since the late 1950s) there has been an obsession in the National CofE to destroy our Liturgy (the language and doctrine we learn and repeat in our church services), enshrined as it was in the 1662 Revision of the Book of Common Prayer.  To cut a long story short, the formats used in the majority of churches today are banal and trite, but worse still, they tend toward heresy.  The Ten Commandments have become merely the Ten Suggestions.  The XXXIX Articles of Religion, agreed upon in 1562 by a conference of Bishops (and which Clergy had to assent to until quite recently) have been abandoned in favour of 'free thought'.  Pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV and you will often see the sad soap-opera of a divided Church of England playing out.  The ruin of Ashford Church is merely another example of mindless CofE national-obsessing over pandering to secularism - or worse, multiculturalism - whilst cheerfully denying the truths which their Clergy promised to teach as a condition of their ordination.  So the destruction of the interior of Ashford Church is something of which the Bishop of Dover and the Diocese of Canterbury are thoroughly proud.  Make no mistake on that!!  It is a particular kind of syncretism which first destroys the LITURGY and then turns to destroying the church BUILDING, which let us remember is actually GOD'S HOUSE and not theirs to tamper with.  We are merely custodians of these wonderful buildings and trifling with them will unquestionably invoke the wrath of the Almighty upon the transgressors when they come before the Judgment Seat.  The Central CofE having been the author of its own decline is now desperate to offload the Parishes which it has encouraged unorthodox church members to destroy, and this is just what happened at Ashford.  The Central CofE is only too happy to support a project which they hope will offload the financial responsibility from them of a church which is failing because of their own failure to support it.

The Local people of Ashford 'Church'
There are still a few good Churchpeople remaining amongst our number at this building, but we are vastly outnumbered by the ignorant and foolish who are so very proud of the irreperable damage which has been inflicted upon the building.  Everything about the current furnishing of the building tells you all you need to know about the characters of these individuals.  Dazzling bright lights; most irreverent.  Currently 89 metal-framed chairs which look like they came off the reject-shelf at IKEA. The few pews remaining in the Morning Chapels have been placed on double-height platforms making them inaccessible for the elderly (meaning that the Chapels are not currently used at the 8am Communion).  If you want to know why the ignorant and foolish were so desperate to remove the Nave pews, it is because they hate everything about the Victorians - thrift, decency, hard-work and the notion that they should labour duly for their own reward....this lot would much rather take taxpayers money for their heretical project than raise their own funds!

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Ridiculous and ugly double-height pew-platforms in the North-East Morning Chapel - yet another unfit-for-purpose waste of money

And there are other agendas by both these groups and agendas by the Ashford Borough Council including someone attempting to gain a knighthood for his part in the project etc
What it all amounts to though is that one of the finest Parish Church interiors in the South East has been reduced to a joke, with a disgusting Concert-Hall style tacky Nave, with nasty chairs, a revolting stage/dais which can have a wrinkly 1960's drug-abuser drawling some heretical number of satanic pop music on a Saturday night, then an Altar set-up in exactly the same spot just hours later on a Sunday morning!!  It is a travesty for built heritage and a travesty for Catholic Heritage.

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The vile new dais/staging. The old and new parts of the building work against each other 'like chalk and cheese'
So what can be done?
Most fortunately, and by the Grace of God we have managed to purchase a quantity of the old church pews.  The church deliberately sold the pews to individuals who they hoped would cut them up and in any case would keep them away from the town and they would be thus lost forever. This was despite repeated offers from October 2010 onward from the TCEA (now the PAST Trust) offering to settle upon a mutually agreeable price - we had something like £10,000 in mind - for the full set of Nave Pews.  In fact the Nave pews were all sold for the outrageously paltry sum of £2000 by the Parochial Church Council: a disgraceful action by a registered Charity, which we believe calls their suitability as administrators of a Charity seriously into question.
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Example of damaged/incomplete pew-ends recovered and which will need restoration
Still, happily, thanks to information which came to light in March 2012, enough pews were discovered and purchased (and are now safely in storage) to enable a re-pewing of a central area of the Nave at some juncture.  However, these pews will require new platforms (as sadly the original platforms were viciously ripped-up and discarded)
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A quantity of ripped-up pew platforms outside the church shortly after the start of the evil project
and most of them are in pieces so will need skilled reconstruction and the 16' pews will require new seats as the old seat parts were used by the previous purchaser to make tables.  Petitioning for a faculty (permission to reintroduce the pews to the Nave of the church) also carries a cost and so we need to raise funding toward this, as well as covering the £1680 already spent on rescuing the pews we now have in storage. We also plan the works to include the resiting of the Pulpit to its original position and the permanent removal of the current fixed Nave dais which obstructs the central aisle and prevents proper processions.  Once we have raised enough toward all of this, we will also be looking to raise a further £10,000 in order to restore the fine Carrillon in the belltower which has been out of order since 2002 and which when working plays tunes on the bells at 12, 3, 6 & 9 of the clock.

YOU CAN HELP - Please donate in the following ways:

Send a cheque to
"The PAST Trust"
Goose & Gridiron
6 Church Yard Passage
Ashford
Kent
TN23 1QL
(Cash may be delivered if by hand but please ensure that it is securely sealed in a padded envelope)

OR you can donate by PAYPAL

To do this, please mark your payment as "FOR THE PAST FUND - TO RESTORE ASHFORD AS A PARISH CHURCH"

and send payment to this email address (@ removed here to stop spammers, but you know how to write it): saveashfordchurch at yahoo.co.uk

Please also email us (at that address) if you would like to be included on the roll of PAST Trust members to receive an annual set of accounts of funds raised and to be a part of the decision-making process as regards the restoration of Ashford's mediaeval former Parish Church to its former glory and as a Parish Church once more over the coming decades.

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ARCHIVE MATERIAL APPENDED BELOW FROM THE SAVE THE CHURCH SITE 2009

********** LAST UPDATED 21st DECEMBER 2009 **********


Official "SAVE THE CHURCH" leaflet.  Please feel free to copy and distribute as many as you wish - objections can no longer be lodged; last date for objections was 28/11/09.

Questions & Answers - answers to some points made by those petitioning for the reordering project in order to try and justify it, followed by points raised in 2006 at a debate on the subject


THE FACULTY HAS NOW BEEN APPLIED FOR TO CARRY OUT WORKS TO REORDER ASHFORD PARISH CHURCH.  THIS WOULD ALTER THE VERY NATURE OF THE BUILDING FOR EVER  

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THE END RESULT AS PREDICTED BY THE ARCHITECTS, IF REORDERING WENT AHEAD

Comparison between photographs of the church in the 1970's, 2009, & computer generated images of how Ashford Parish Church would look if the plans were agreed

CLICK THIS LINK(pdf file) TO SEE THE APPLICATION NOTICE. N.B. In our opinion, the wording of 'Schedule of Works' on the Notice is very euphemistic.  Please note that what is truly & actually proposed is as follows:

+ Remove all pews from the Nave(keeping only a handful as examples and placing these at the edges of the church) and sell the rest off (they wouldn't get much for them especially as the bases are set into the floor so those would have to be sawn off flat if removed, and most of the pews are far too long to be suitable for normal home furnishing).  It cost £1200 to purchase these pews in 1879 - the same amount today according to an online currency calculator would be £57,972!!  What a waste of perfectly good furniture - which would last hundreds of years more - their removal would be!  How long would chairs last?  Pews also seat more persons for the area they occupy.

+ Move the pulpit (the last piece of furniture to be designed by the famous architect of Truro Cathedral, John Loughborough Pearson and installed in 1897 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, paid for by Mr Robert Elliott and Miss Harriett Elliott and arguably now the most precious piece of furniture in the church) several 'feet' across to the South side of the South West tower pillar: basically it would be very much obscured then when viewed from the West entrance, would impair the view of the St Francis Transept from the Nave South aisle, and would not fit properly against the flat side of the south-west pillar as it does currently around the inside of the north-west pillar.  We also believe that it is also highly unlikely that it would be used again for its intended purpose (to preach sermons to the parishioners).  There is also an issue with the likelihood of the pulpit being damaged - it is of massive proportions and moving it would be very risky.  Moving the pulpit seems to be the most controversial issue of the project to many people.

+ Build what would effectively become a permanent dais/stage under the tower space and projecting into the main body of the church, which would be used for performances, and they also want to seat the choir on it in purpose built choir stalls, so I understand.  This dais and associated clutter would obscure the view of the beautiful chancel, rood screen and high altar and blight the view of this space from the main body of the church.

+ The church has a church hall which is quite capable of supporting more radical style services and smaller concerts which are inappropriate for performance in a church.  Larger concerts require a purpose built Arts Centre - not the church, and we are told of a 2500 strong petition to this effect; ie people want a proper Arts Centre, not an Arts Centre in a church. 

Our contention is that the changes proposed are MUCH too radical and will destroy the very atmosphere, nature and heritage/traditions of the building.  We are supported in this view by the VICTORIAN SOCIETY.  

 Design and access statement for new toilet extension, ALSO including letter from the Victorian Society strongly objecting to proposals to move the pulpit and remove the pews

N.B. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT, BECAUSE ASHFORD CHURCH WAS FORTUNATE TO HAVE GENEROUS WEALTHY BENEFACTORS IN THE PAST, THERE ARE SEVERAL RESTRICTED BEQUESTS SO THAT, UNLIKE THE VAST MAJORITY OF CHURCHES, THERE ARE RESTRICTED FUNDS HELD FOR THE UPKEEP OF THE FABRIC OF THE BUILDING IN PERPETUITY, SO THIS CONSIDERABLY EASES THE BURDEN FOR THIS CHURCH; IT HAS ALSO MANAGED TO USE THE RESTRICTED FABRIC FUNDS TO PAY PART OF THE COSTS TOWARDS HEATING THE BUILDING - KEEPING THE CHURCH AT A REASONABLE TEMPERATURE CONSTITUTES HELPING TO PRESERVE THE FABRIC FROM DETERIORATION AND THUS THE FUND CAN BE USED IN PART TO PAY FOR THE HEATING.

Often the Victorians spoilt churches with so-called restorations on the cheap; not so at Ashford where no expense was spared!!  The project also appears (from viewing the documents) to be for a short-term (approx 2 years) stop-gap Arts Centre until a proper one is built.  We also believe that The Diocese of Canterbury might very well sell the Church Hall if the project to reorder the Church goes ahead.  The Hall was only built in the mid 1980's.  The cost of the reordering project currently proposed is projected to be around the £2 million mark - YES that's two million pounds!!!  Both the Diocese of Canterbury & Ashford Borough Council stand to make cost savings were the project permitted - their motive for supporting it - and each other.  A few moments thinking of the contribution of the Borough Council to the 'rape and pillage' of the roads and buildings of Ashford, especially in the 1970's should serve as warning enough that they are not to be trusted an inch; as also with the central hierarchy of the Church of England who plundered so much Church money in the money markets in the 1980's and who have outrageously sold off or seriously compromised so many of their old Vicarages & Rectories and in many cases replaced them with horrible modern 'boxes'.  Add to this backdrop, a congregation - many of whom have presided over and hastened the decline of the building and its number of worshippers through an onslaught of political correctness, arrogance and hatred of heritage and who now expect to be rewarded for bullying the previous Vicar, failing to evangelise in any meanigful way to the wider community, and dishonouring the inherited traditions of Ashford Parish Church by a project which (as they see it) does away with all distinctions of 'class' (ie Choir and Clergy in Chancel, congregation in Nave etc) which is a hang-on of some kind of strange 1960's moral vacuum of anti-authoritarianism and strange theological ideas with no proof of a need (merely that they WANT to do it because it suits their 'value' system such as it be) - and we believe that, put simply, here are merely old-fashioned class warriors and in all the above cases this has nothing to do with the good of the Church and everything to do with enforcing their own personal idea of utopia on a lovely historic church at any cost, a Church which, while it has changed through time, has simply been embellished and beautified - improved.  Could anyone argue that the current plans proposed would improve the aesthetic beauty of the building?  Rather, such plans would destroy all that, and with it any hope of rebuilding a large, happy and loving congregation.  A town of the proportions of Ashford needs all the seating it can get in its Parish Church - one might argue that currently there is too little in the way of seating for the big Civic services which should take place!  

We wish to look past all the above irrelevances and false prophesy to the real reason for the existence of this Church: to promote worship of the highest standard to the Glory of God: at the heart of the Civic life of an expanding town (as Maidstone All Saints certainly strives still to do) which may well one day be a City and Ashford Parish Church, a Cathedral.  Likewise we must aim to promote other activities based on sound teaching - real (pre- Bishop Robinson) theology - in the case of Ashford Parish Church, also very much in the Anglo-Catholic tradition as perpetuated here since at least 1888. 

  
N.B. It is worth noting that the Parish Churches of Hythe, Maidstone, Faversham and Folkestone have no such strange ideas to depart from being permanent and real churches, respecting sacred space.  There are no proposals to remove pews from any of these; in fact plans to remove the pews from Faversham (very similar to those here at Ashford) were - happily - thwarted a few years ago.
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THE ASHFORD MISSION 2009.


On Saturday 24th October the Prayer Book Society (Canterbury Diocese) held its first Mission Day, and the Parish chosen was Ashford.  Below are pictures which show a partial replacement of the pews which were removed in 1999; these were especially replaced for the Mission Day and the horrid Nave Altar and false flooring dispensed with, much improving the aesthetic beauty of the building.  Pictures are appended, with very many thanks to Mr D. Garland for taking the photographs:

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The front pew shown here was occupied by HM Queen Elizabeth II during the Jubilation service of 1970 celebrating the 500th Anniversary
of its founding, and a plaque was placed on the top shelf of this front runner.  The plaque is currently (1st Nov 2009) missing and we hope it will soon be replaced
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The Choir of the Ex-Collegiate Parish Church of All Saints Maidstone sang a splendid Evensong at 5pm on Mission Day.
Ashford has not had a Boys & Men choir since girls were introduced in 1987.  The singing at this Mission Day Evensong was without
doubt some of the finest service-singing Ashford Parish Church has heard for over twenty years.
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Official "SAVE THE CHURCH" leaflet.  Please feel free to copy and distribute as many as you wish.
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Ashford town looking from South Willesborough c. 1840 - the windmill stood at the top of Regents Place before being moved to Badlesmere


What did Canon Sharp (the most successful Vicar in living memory in terms of putting the Church at the heart of the Community and vastly increasing attendances, especially Communicants) have to say about our Parish Church and how it should be used??  Read below:
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A warm welcome to this site from the Founder:




I welcome you to this our webpage, dedicated to the preservation of the heritage of the beautiful building that is Ashford Parish Church.  Despite the fact I am pictured wearing a dog-collar, I wish to make it clear that I am not a Priest, nor am I ordained though I was sent on a vocation course to explore that purpose on the recommendation of the Bishop of Fulham a couple of years ago, and I am certainly being called in that direction - but not yet: for one thing, the campaign for preserving the wealth of heritage within this beautiful old church requires so much of my time that I would not be able to serve my people as a Priest elsewhere while this is all in progress!  I am, however, Secretary of the Canterbury Diocese of The Prayer Book Society, which campaigns to ensure the increasing use of the Central book of Services in the Church of England (used almost exclusively in the Church of England up until the 1960's, and now making a significant comeback), known as "The Book of Common Prayer (1662)"

The full collar as pictured above is a symbol of service and humility (this does not mean timidity!), of service to the community, and in an age where an Archbishop can cut his up to make a political statement, is it not therefore acceptable for a layman to be pictured wearing one and setting out a clear message regarding the preservation and pride we should take in both our inherited Established Church, and the Heritage of our Nation which all too many of our Church Leaders seem incapable of doing?  Yes, I do indeed look to Ordination one day, and to serve my Parish Church of Ashford, valuing and serving all my parishioners (there are a million ways in which someone, Christian or not can serve the church, and going to services is only one of those ways!) but until the dominant hierarchy of modernising leaders in the Church of England accept the value of the traditional Church that many people want: words and music of deep meaning, and a Priesthood who uphold the tradition of representing Christ & the Male Disciples whom He chose with the Order of Deaconesses representing the role Christ gave Mary Magdalen, then we must continue to as the Hymn says "wrestle and fight and pray, tread all the powers of darkness down and win the well fought day."

Not just about religion

I have introduced myself as a Christian - it is hard to think that I would have been involved with this church so closely since 2000 had I not been - but in the Church of England today you can find many examples of non-Christians masquerading as religious people (ie attending services!) in order to wield some kind of power.  Where the 8am Communion Service is preceded by near-silence and those in attendance expect a dignified service, the 10am by contrast has lots of jabbering going on prior to the service getting underway, and then a particularly unsavoury beginning where birthdays are announced, Happy Birthday is sung and then there is clapping, as though getting older were some kind of outstanding achievement.  We have also had to endure power-point presentations which obscure the view to the High Altar... the list of objectionable trendy nonsenses just go on and on.  The 10am service is more like a Sunday Social-club come drop-in centre than what should be a dignified Communion service and it is some of the persons who have masterminded this dumbing down charade who are (at least in terms of the protagonists at the church) behind the project contemplated at Ashford Parish Church.  Despite comments in the visitors book including "Your plans will spoil this church", falling attendance figures (250 Communicants
approx at Midnight Mass in 1985; this number is only those who received Holy Communion; there would have been more besides that, compared with only 150 persons - Communicant & non Communicant - altogether at all the Christmas Services in 2008) and many other clear signs that modernisation of the secular type which we have had to endure at Ashford Parish Church over the last few years is not the way forward: this is of no moment to those who are completely sure that they have all the answers, and will simply flatten anyone in their path.  It's starting to sound rather like Parliament isn't it?  Please read on......

My second point of 'it's not just about religion' is addressed to those of you now reading this who don't count yourself as 'religious'.  Maybe you never have had faith, maybe you had faith and lost it, maybe the ridiculous charade of dumbing-down in the Church of England for over 40 years has simply turned you right away from worshipping in your Parish Church wherever your own Parish Church may be; Ashford or elsewhere.  No matter what the reason may be - YOUR Parish Church is for YOU and that means it is as much your building as it is mine or anyone elses.  If you only darken its doors at Easter or Christmas, or less perhaps only for what we call 'hatches, matches & dispatches' (ie Christenings, Matrimony & Funerals) or perhaps not even for those, your view still counts.  You see, a Parish Church is there for all: poor & rich, male or female, those in health or those not.  It is especially there for the grand Civic occasions, with all the pomp & ceremony.  It is a beautiful building, and we want you to help us to keep it that way.  The Church is the one organisation that exists for the benefit of those who are NOT its members!

Shame on many Churchgoers

It is a crying shame that so many churchgoers today don't have the courage that many of their non-churchgoing contemporaries do in standing up for what is right in a church building.  In the 1950's the Church of England was full of hope and promise.  It knew what is was doing, it had much variety in its expression, but common ties bound it together.  If you went to Ashford or Maidstone or Faversham or Folkestone Parish Churches, you could expect to find similar forms of worship.  Not that everything would be exactly uniform, but the ethos, the feeling behind matters was, in general, one of unity and an acceptance of the exacting way in which things would be carried out - with dignity, reverence, properly done.  Received pronunciation would be used, Hymns, tried and trusted, would be sung - led by a strong choir.... dignified church music tracing its way back through the ages.  But, especially over the last decade or so, many song books have appeared in churches full up with two types of music.  The first are songs, claimed to be modern and vibrant.  Usually this is completely untrue.  These are songs which were awful when they were dreamt up, were in fashion 20 or 30 years ago (they were inflicted on me at Primary School when they were, I suppose, modern), and now the only places being forced to sing (if that is the word) them are churches where the modernising agenda says "we'd better have a trite song with meaningless words" with no real thought as to why - just "we'd better do it".  The other type of music in these books are what at first sight you take to be the lovely old hymns..... until you start to sing them and realise that any triumphalism, references to spiritual fight, use of the word men or man, and frankly anything else which offends the tender sensibilities of the Politically-Correct elite have been airbrushed out!  If you were thinking of coming back to church, all this has probably rather put you off!!  Do not despair:

But there is hope for the future!!

Above I have briefly outlined a very few basic points as to what has gone wrong in the Church of England generally to try to give you the bigger picture.  Ashford Parish Church, in the main, held out against much of the above nonsense until around about 2001 - 2002.  But even before then, the cracks were appearing.  In the late 1980's, political-correctness first reared its ugly head, and the Church Choir which had always been male-only was made mixed.  As most churches have discovered, this is a recipe for disaster on several counts.  Girls & Boys voices do not blend well together, so musically mixing the sexes is unwise.  Most Cathedral choirs, if they have girls will keep them separate for this reason, and also for another even more practical reason.  What the do-gooder PC brigade just will not accept is that the very last thing most little boys want to do is to get up and sing in front of little girls!  Opening a boys choir to girls is the best way to get rid of your boys!!  Today, Ashford Choir is nothing like it once was.  Please view the pictures of the choir in the 1970's and 80's in the Choir history, below.  It was one of the finest in Kent up until the mid-1980's.  Now, not so (please don't take my word, but go along and listen to them yourself, and then compare with the two surviving male church Choirs in Kent - Hythe Parish Church (Evensong Choir) with whom I have sung for 19 years and the Collegiate Choir of All Saints Maidstone, with whom I have recently become a 'Dep', helping out with special services etc.  I was a member of Ashford Parish Church Choir from 2003 - 2005 when I was excluded for my stance of opposing the use of irreverent songs at services and I have no wish to rejoin it in its current state, having been in discussion with former members of the choir who sang with it before it was unwisely dumbed-down.  Some of the music it now sings is at best unwise, and at worst simply irreverent and poorly sung.

In 1999 a few pews were removed from the front of the Nave of the church, and so began the nonsense of the main 10am Communion Service being 'celebrated' under the tower space rather than where it should be at the High Altar.  The Altar which is used for this in fact belongs in the South Transept, as do the chairs which the choir now occupy at this service, squashed next to the pulpit.  This business of Nave Altars is sadly still a fashionable piece of dumbing-down, and we certainly want to banish it from Ashford.  Since about 2003 the pace of dumbing-down has accelerated as the leading lay-people in the church (those who shout the loudest and act rather as 'whips' do in Parliament) have brought in more strange practices, taking the church ever farther away from its Anglo-Catholic roots.  Incense is rarely if ever used now (it used to be in use on Feast Days) the excuse being that it irritates people's throats!  There are all sorts of banners hung from the pillars which look like they have come from a playgroup!  There is always a place for childrens artwork in church, but no, these banners are the adult's toys!!  They look just about as in keeping with this building as a red streak of paint brushed through an Old Master.  In about 2003 the grand lectern and its splendid steps,which had occupied the same place on the opposite side from the pulpit since being set up in the church in 1880 & 1882 respectively, were outrageously shovelled round to the other side of the pillar away from the main Nave arch so that they are now no longer a focal point and dodn't appear to be used - they prefer a horrible tacky modern reading desk.  This move was apparently to give extra space in this ludicrous Nave Altar area for an extra seat for a Curate!  There now seems to be a semi-permanent gantry shoved above the galleries near the front of the Nave which is a complete eyesore and along with all the other clutter which has been introduced into the church, thoroughly ruins what should be a dignified view of a building which (without said clutter) is a beautiful old church - Ashford's last surviving gem; preserved so far from lasting damage (the above issues which I hope go to show the lack of respect which those in authority at this Church attach to the building's heritage, can easily be reversed and the clutter dispensed with so long as we stop the pews being removed and other unwise major building works.)  And this is why I have said "There is hope".  Please, simply write to me either by email or by hand and post your letter through my door or send it by Royal Mail.  My address and email address can be found on the Official Campaign leaflet, on the link below.  If you can give lots of good reasons and make your replies as original as possible, that is excellent.  200 letters with the same few points on them do not hit home so much as 200 letters with varied reasoning and original ideas as to work which might be better undertaken.  One major point is that the church currently is in need of various aspects of restoration, and these are outlined on the campaign leaflet as below.  Please consider them.  Please also remember, however you send your objection to the re-ordering plans to me, you must put your address on the bottom of the letter or email so that the Chancellor of the Diocese (he will decide whether to allow or disallow the works, and I assure you, he is impartial) can see that you are a real person!!  Your letter will probably be acknowledged by letter from the Diocesan Registrar, but neither I nor anyone else will pass on your details to any third party unless you wish to become a Party Opponent (which you won't unless you explicitly state that you want to!)  In a nutshell, if we win and stop the plans occurring, i.e. removal of all the pews, building of a dais upon which the choir will sit (ridiculously the choir support this scheme - any sensible choir would be totally opposed.... there is one place for a proper choir to sit and that is in the Chancel choir stalls, which at Ashford are quite beautiful) and a serious reconstruction of the Choir and Vicar's Vestries (which at present, although not of a great age, nevertheless have a very old-world feel to them and anything other than sympathetic conservative repair would be very sad to see,) along with a number of other unspecified plans for the West End of the church.  It is possible that some of these proposed West-End plans will be useful and acceptable, and as soon as I have any details I will of course add them to this page.  The hope for the future of which I keep speaking is very simple:  If we keep the pews and keep the fixtures and fittings of the church as they now stand, the modernising elite with their fashionable ideas simply will not be able to put their plans into action, and this beautiful building will remain as an oasis of peace and a good Anglo-Catholic church for all time.  I want to thank you for reading thus far, and please do inspect the links.  Whoever you are, Christian or not, but clearly able to appreciate aesthetic beauty and realise the worth of preserving our glorious heritage and taking pride in the work of our forefathers, I thank you for reading this, and wish you every good wish, sending as I do my heartfelt thanks for your support.

Christopher J. Cooper; Ashford Church Yard, June 2009.

==============================================================================
The following links are intended to be an interesting historical archive of Ashford Parish Church, Kent, and ideas for the future mission of the Church to the town.


Parish Church Choir from the late 19th Century until the mid 1980's.

The Parish Church Archives.

Gallery of Vicars 1847 - 2002

Photographic and written history of some of the Parish Organisations over the last 100 years.

Nutfield Parish Church - case study of a Church where the Rector served there 50 years: 1955 - 2005 NB: sadly the Rector passed away in June 2009 aged 87 - RIP.

The Early History of Ashford by Robert Furley F.S.A. 1883 (pdf file).

Ashford Church History by Rev. James Bond; Vicar & Hasted's both c. 1830 (pdf file).



DUTIES/RESPONSIBILITES & PROPER ACTIONS OF CHURCHWARDENS:

Churchwarden.jpg



DUTIES/RESPONSIBILITIES & PROPER ACTIONS OF PCC's:

PCC.jpg



See item 4 above - when Mr Cooper was a member of the Church Council, he made many efforts to keep the Church faithful to its traditions but met with much hostility.  The wording of item 4 says it all.  We are supposed to 'bin' our heritage to include non-conformist attitudes.


ashfordchurchporchmar2nd1956.jpg
A new project above: to bring the mediaeval porch back to Ashford and fix it at the North door.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Service figures - a summary commencing 1888 up to 1892, then 1952 - 1994.

Canon Tindall Inducted as Vicar Jan 24th 1888

GOOD FRIDAY 1888

6:30am Special Service for Volunteers

9:45am Church Parade

10:30am Mattins, Ante Communion & Sermon

6:30pm Evensong & Sermon


EASTER DAY

Communicants:

7am Eucharist 110

8am Eucharist 250

10:30am Mattins/Holy Communion 142


Tue 18 Dec 1888 Handel’s Messiah performed by Choir. Collection to Choir Fund.


CHRISTMAS DAY

Communicants:

7am Eucharist 78

8am Choral Eucharist 180

11am Mattins/Holy Communion 50


Epiphany 1889 – Forge Lane Choir were received as Choristers and Rev. J. Parminter 'read himself in'.


Thu 28th Feb 1889 – Special 8pm Evensong at which on proposition of Dr Wilkes (Vicar's Warden), seconded by Mr T. Edwards (Peoples' Warden) the Vicar be asked to accept a brass cross, candlesticks and an Alms Dish which had been given to the church. These were at once put up in their respective places after Evensong. (These are still used)

Saturday 16th Mar Confirmation at 3pm by Archbishop of Canterbury. 239 candidates including 60 adults. Of the 239, 100 were from the rural surrounding parishes the rest from Ashford Parish Church.


Tue 16th Apr 8pm – Performance of the Passion music of “The Messiah” by the Choir. Collection to the Choir Fund


Sun 21 Apr Easter Day – Altogether there were over 700 Communicants and £23-17-4 in collections: to Choir Fund.


Three weddings took place on Easter Monday


Mon 8th July – No Evensong at Parish Church on account of the Consecration of Christ Church, South Ashford.


Tue 1 Oct at 3pm – Special Service for dedication of the Furley memorial windows


Thu Oct 24th – Archbishop’s visitation


CHRISTMAS DAY

Communicants:

7am Eucharist 123

8am Eucharist 222. 

10:30am Mat/HC 73

2 weddings, the first at 2:15pm


26th Dec – Weddings at 8:30 am & 12:15pm


6th Jan 1890 – Epiphany and first celebration as Priest by Rev J. Parminter


Sat 1 Mar – 3pm Confirmation by Archbishop of Canterbury. 175 in total of which 135 were from Ashford.


Tue 1 Apr - 8pm Concert: Mendelssohns “Christus” sung by the Choir


EASTER DAY 6th April

Communicants:

6am Eucharist 132

7am Eucharist 220

8am Eucharist 260

11am Mattins/Holy Communion 137 

Total collections £20-8-2 to Choir fund.

3pm Childrens' Service

4pm Litany

6:30pm Evensong

1890

Sunday 25th May – Mission Sunday


Communicants:

6am Eucharist 69

7am Eucharist 110

8am Eucharist 130

11am Mattins & Holy Communion 65

3pm Children’s Service

4pm Litany

6:30pm Evensong


Thu July 10th - Masonic & National Schools Special Service 2:30pm Raised £15-7-6


By July 1890, Sunday services were usually held at 7, 8, 11, 3 (Children’s service) & 6:30 (Evensong). Some weeks the 7am would be cancelled and replaced with a 4pm Litany. There was a 3pm Children’s service nearly every week. By September a “Sunday School Fund” had been set up.


Bible Classes were begun in December 1890


Tue 8th Dec – Spohr’s “Last Judgement” was sung by the Choir.


The year 1891 was a fairly quiet year, with service figures holding steady.


By 1892 there was a regular monthly cycle for services:


1st Sunday – Communion at 8, Matins & HC at 11, Children’s Service at 3, Evensong at 6:30pm

2nd Sunday – Communion at 7& 8 & Matins & HC at 11, Children’s Service at 3, Evensong at 6:30pm

3rd Sunday - Communion at 8, Matins & HC at 11, Children’s Service at 3, Litany at 4, Evensong at 6:30pm

4th Sunday - Communion at 8, Matins & HC at 11, Children’s Service at 3, Evensong at 6:30pm

No details were given as to what the schedule was on 5th Sundays!

Interestingly: Wed 21st Sept 1892 – No 11am service was held as there were no Communicants. Note in the service register says “A very wet & stormy morning”


9th October – A Harvest Festival Service was held for the first time

Communicants:

7am Eucharist 71

8am Eucharist 100

11am Mattins & Holy Communion 60

3pm Children’s Service

4pm Litany

6:30pm Evensong

Mon 31st Oct 1892 – 6pm Evensong, following which the Parish Room, Church Yard, was opened by the Bishop of Dover.

HOLY WEEK 1893

Monday: 5 services held

Tuesday: 5 services held

Wednesday: 6 services held

Maundy Thursday: 6 services held

Good Friday: 6 services held

Holy Saturday: 6 services held

Easter Day: 6am, 7am, 8am, (Communions) 11am,(Mattins) 3pm,(Children's) 4pm,(Litany) 6:30pm. (Evensong)

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These few figures from the early days of Canon Tindall’s Ministry set the scene for a thriving church, which continued through Tindall’s Ministry, then on to Sopwith, Blackburne (who was also Chaplin to H.M. The King during his time at Ashford) & Sinclair. What will interest most people is the figures for services covering 1952 to 1994. The foregoing figures then, chart the Communicant numbers from the final years of Canon Bowen’s Ministry which were steady but not outstanding to the incoming of Canon Sharp, whose unbounded zeal and energy pushed the Communicant numbers up by several thousand per year on what they had previously been, and then to a slow decline in Communicants during the Ministries of Canon Wright and Canon Everett.  Let us be clear though that some of this decline was due to the destruction of the town centre by the ring-road, and a general decline in Church of England congregations. The slightly steeper decline in the early 1990’s can also be attributed to agitations by a few vociferous members of the church (who wanted to bring in some trendy ideas and in some cases suceeded) against the then Anglo-Catholic Vicar, Canon Everett. However, even in 1994 (the final year for which we have figures available, as more recent service Registers are not yet deposited in the County Archive) service figures were still reasonable and just about viable, although the once healthy funds were being eaten up at an alarming rate. The 1990’s was a time when the Church of England was encouraging its congregations to become more involved with running their church and SUPPORTING their Vicar more, but unfortunately this didn’t happen at Ashford, as the vociferous members of the congregation did not want to support and continue the inherited churchmanship which the Vicar was trying still to promote. 15 years later, it is clear that Communicant numbers have fallen much further, likely that collections are well down, and this church has seriously abandoned much of its Anglo-Catholic tradition. The unthinkable - plans to turn it into a multiple use building as it is no longer able to ‘pay its way’ have now been suggested and I think the Church of England would agree that, as our Parish Church now is, it is a drain on their resources, which is why they are so keen to embrace such a project and work with the Borough Coucnil in so doing. However, the decline in the church’s fortunes is directly linked to unpleasant attitudes amongst a few members of this church both in the more recent past and still today who have forced all sorts of strange egalitarian ideas on the rest of the congregation (and have been allowed to clutter the church on the one hand, and spoil the front of the Nave around the pulpit area by removing two pews(and their attractive carved fronts) from either side and moving the Lectern from prominent vision.  All this was done on a temporary licence, so if we stop the rest of the pews being removed, we can apply to have these items put back in their rightful places.  We also have to consider the fact that the main service (10am Sung Communion as it should be) especially is no longer a serious and reverent affair in the Anglo-Catholic tradition as it was until about the year 1999 when the front pews were ripped out and the charade of Nave Altar and Chairs for Choir began. There is also a complete failure by the church (as with many churches these days) to properly engage and evangelise in the Parish Community (of mainly English Christians) which it is supposed to serve and represent.  This Parish Church would also greatly benefit now from a staff of several ‘troubleshooting’ Curates – Ordinands of the Catholic Societies of the Church of England - to assist an Anglo-Catholic Vicar and return this church to its inherited tradition.


1952

CHRISTMAS DAY (Thursday 25th December)

Communicants:

6am Eucharist 48

7am Eucharist 135

8am Eucharist 127

10am Procession & Choral Eucharist 51

11am Mattins

12 Noon Communion 7

3:30pm Evensong & Carols


Sunday 28th December (Holy Innocents)

Communicants:

7am Eucharist 8

8am Eucharist 20*

10am Procession & Choral Eucharist 24*

11am Mattins*

2:30pm Children’s Service

6:30pm Evensong*

* = service led by the Vicar (Canon H. Duncan S. Bowen)

The above list shows the usual timings and number of Sunday services at this period.

On a normal Sunday, a total of about 100 Communicants.

6am Communions were also held on Festival Days only.


1953

EASTER DAY (Sunday April 5th)

Communicants                                                         Collection:

6am Eucharist 40                                                             7-11-5

7am Eucharist 106                                                         6-12-9

8am Eucharist 171                                                         9-7-9

10am Procession & Choral Eucharist 78                     14-1-8

11am Mattins                                                                 7-13-1

12 Noon Communion 18                                                 1-4-9

6:30pm Evensong, Sermon & Procession                 8-6-7

By mid 1953 numbers of Communicants had risen slightly – fluctuating between 120 & 150 on a normal (non-Festival) Sunday.

There were 307 Communicants on Whitsunday


REMEMBRANCE (Sunday 8th November)

Services:

7am Eucharist

8am Eucharist

8:45am Mattins

9:45am Choral Eucharist

10:50am Remembrance Day Service at the War Memorial

2:30pm Children’s Service

6:30pm Evensong


On the 1st Sunday in Advent the 10am service was Litany & Choral Eucharist.

On Christmas Eve at 6pm was Choral Evensong & Blessing of the Crib.


There were 365 Communicants in total on Christmas Day


The Church Carol Service was held on the Sunday AFTER Christmas


The last service at which Canon Bowen presided was Monday 14th February 1955 at 7am Holy Communion. His next appointment was as Dean of Bocking.


During the Interregnum the Rev’s G.C. Pownall and Cyril Munt (later Rector of St Martin’s Cheriton) as Curates took the services.


On Palm Sunday 1955 there were 158 Communicants altogether, and the 10am service began instead with a Procession from the Parish Hall to the Church at 9:45am, as still happens today.


On Wed April 13th (the Wednesday after Easter) at 7pm the Guild of Servants of the Sanctuary sang their Office in the Church


On Whit Sunday 1955 there were 263 Communicants altogether, and the 10am service also began instead with a Procession from the Parish Hall to the Church at 9:45am, and there was also a Procession at Evensong.


CANON N.M.G. SHARP WAS INDUCTED AS VICAR on June 2nd 1955. The collection that day realised £28-12-0 and this went to the Candidates Ordination Fund.
Canon Sharp’s first Churchwardens were Stephen P. Bartlett & R. Rabson.


Immediately the 10am service was moved to a 9:45am start time.


On Saturday 2nd July a special service for the Ashford School was held and Canon Harry Blackburne (a former Vicar of Ashford) was the Preacher at that service, and the Collection realised £35-14-11. Fred Palmer was server at the 8am Mattins & Communion service that morning.


Sunday September 18th was the dedication of the “Old Contemptibles” Standard at Evensong.


Wednesday September 21st there was a special Choral Evensong for the Feast of St Matthew.


In October the 9:45am Sunday start time had been moved back to 10am – obviously an experiment which had proved unsuccessful.


DEDICATION FESTIVAL (Sunday 2nd October) Total of 205 Communicants.


An unusual pattern since 1888, still continuing, was that there were more Communicants at the 8am said Communion service (105) than at the Sung 10am Communion (70) with 30 at the 7am said Communion service


HARVEST FESTIVAL (Sunday 9th October)

Communicants

7am Eucharist 38

8am Eucharist 90

10am Procession & Choral Eucharist 89

11am Mattins

6:30pm Evensong


By this time it was usual to have over 150 Communicants each Sunday.


On Christmas Eve, Midnight Mass was held in this churchfor the first time. This proved to be an extremely worthwhile experiment and has been held ever since – there were 304 Communicants and a Collection of 19-6-4!


CHRISTMAS DAY

Communicants                                             Collection:

7am Eucharist 94                                                 7-4-8

8am Eucharist 107                                             6-12-4

10am Procession & Sung Communion 54     8-4-0

11:15am Mattins & Sermon                             9-6-6

6pm Evensong (said)                                         - 7/6-


By the end of 1955 (remembering that Canon Sharp had only been inducted in June) there had been 1090 more Communions received than in 1954.

1955 Total Communions: 11,483

1956

PALM SUNDAY – there were a total of 443 Communicants this day compared with 158 the previous year. 314 of the 443 were at the 8am!


GOOD FRIDAY

Services:

8am Mattins

9:30am Litany & Ante Communion

10:30am Children’s Service

Noon – 3pm The Three Hours

6pm Evensong

7:30pm Music for Good Friday


WHITSUN – 408 Communicants this day.


By mid 1956 there were nearly 200 Communions on a normal Sunday.


PATRONAL FESTIVAL – July 1st. At 6:30pm Evensong the Sermon was by the Archbishop of Canterbury.


MIDNIGHT MASS – 328 Communicants.


1956 Total Communions: 15,251 compared with 11,483 in 1955.


1957


EASTER DAY – There were 652 Communicants this day.


By mid 1957 there were usually over 200 Communicants on a normal Sunday.


WHITSUN (9th June) – There were 329 Communicants this day


DEDICATION FESTIVAL (6th October) - There were 246 Communicants this day


HARVEST FESTIVAL (13th October) - There were 244 Communicants this day.


1960


GOOD FRIDAY – 9:30 Litany followed by Sung Gospel & Ante Communion


HOLY SATURDAY – 6pm Evensong with Lighting of the Paschal Candle & Blessing of the Easter Garden


EASTER DAY - There were 691 Communicants this day. Mattins was said at 9:30 and a Children’s Church Family Service was held at 11:15am in its place.


Things now held firm through the 1960’s under Canon Sharp’s steady yet zealous Ministry. As can be seen, he was keen to try new ways, but always in a spirit of compromise toward the time-hallowed traditions of the church. If an idea didn’t work, he and his Wardens soon changed things back. It was this spirit - a special gift of his for lateral thinking and compromise - along with his ability to bring all classes of people 'with him' on matters, which won him such affection, and made this church quite possibly the strongest it ever had been in terms of support for Sunday services and support from those who might not want to attend services but still wanted to do 'their bit' for the church.


1971

By this time 6:30am Hospital Communions (at the William Harvey Hospital) were being held. The patttern of services on a Sunday was then:

Services:

7am Eucharist

8am Eucharist

10 am Choral Eucharist (with the Boy & Men Parish Church Choir)

11:30am Choral Mattins (with the girls from Ashford Girl’s School & Girls Choir)

6:30pm Sung/Choral Evensong (with the Boy & Men Parish Church Choir)


By this time too, a complete shift had been realised: Most Communicants now attended the 10am Service which came (as in most churches) to be viewed as the ‘main’ service of the day. It must be remembered though that this service was not at all as it is held today – it was a reverent and dignified Communion in the Anglo Catholic tradition, and because of the high standard of music (both in type & rendition) it attracted a strong following. This example which Canon Sharp left continued until the late 1990’s when trendy innovations were demanded by a few of the more vociferous members of the congregation.


EPIPHANY II (Sunday January 17th) – Epiphany Carol service at 6:30pm

Sunday January 31st (ordinary Sunday service figures taken at random)


6:30am Communion (at W.H. Hospital) 15

7:00am Communion 12

8:00 am Communion 85

10:00am Sung Communion 144.


Every Sunday there were always at least 200 Communions. Even on Low Sunday there were exactly 200 Communicants and just about 200 through Sundays in August too!


Canon Sharp retired in 1972 with distinction after an enormously successful Ministry. His retirement ‘bash’ was at 8pm on Friday 28th July – a Cheese & Wine Party at the Ashford School, which was crowded to capacity with many well-wishers who were going to miss their dear old Vicar.


Saturday 25th November 1972 – INDUCTION OF AUBREY WRIGHT AS VICAR. The service realised a Collection of £41.58½ to the Diocesan Ordination Curates Fund.

GOOD FRIDAY Apr 20th 1973

Services:

Mattins 9am

Litany & Ministry of the Word 9:30am             Collection: Mission to Jews


EASTER DAY 1973

Communicants:

7am Communion 29

8am Communion 84

10am Sung Eucharist 245

11:30am Family Service


1985


MIDNIGHT MASS: 250 Communicants


CHRISTMAS DAY 1985

Communicants:

8am Communion 28

10am Family Communions 60



Sunday December 29th

Communicants:

8am Communion 11

10am Sung Communion 80


1986


Sunday January 12th EPIPHANY

Communicants:

8am Communion 34

10am Solemn Choral Eucharist 124


Sunday February 9th at the 6:30pm Evensong the new work at the West End was Dedicated by the Bishop of Maidstone


Wednesday Feb 12th – ASH WEDNESDAY

Communicants:
7:30pm – Sung Communion 30


Occasionally there were still Ashford School Services held on Sundays at 11:30am


Saturday 26th July at 7:30pm there was a Festal Evensong.


1989


On Sunday 5th February there was a Christingle & Communion held at 10am – 115 Communicants


1990


On a regular Sunday:

Sunday January 28th

Communicants:

8am Communion 9

10am Sung Communion 90

6:30pm Evensong


Wed February 28th ASH WEDNESDAY

Communicants:

7:30pm – Sung Communion 30 (again!)


Saturday March 3rd at 3pm – Confirmation & Holy Communion by Bishop of Maidstone – Communicants: 75


At this time the 8am service varies between about 14 & 17 Communicants on a normal Sunday and the 10am service always has between 90 & 100 Communicants.


EASTER DAY 1990

Communicants:

8am Communion 41

10am Sung Communion 120

6:30pm Evensong


There were no real signs of increased communicant numbers on Whitsun or Trinity by this time.


On Sunday Oct 7th Canon Aubrey Wright (past Vicar) was a guest at the 10am Sung Communion service and preached.
The Register tells us that there were 100 Communicants and, unusually, also tells us that there were 170 souls present altogether.


December 24th MIDNIGHT MASS

200 Communicants present


CHRISTMAS DAY

Communicants:

8am Communion 45

10am Sung Communion 75


1991


Saturday March 2nd at 3pm was the Ashford School confirmation service in the church.


Saturday 23rd March at 7:30pm was the Church confirmation service at 7:30pm by the Bishop of Maidstone


28th March MAUNDY THURSDAY 7:30pm Sung Communion – 25 Communicants


29th March – GOOD FRIDAY

Services:

9:30 Mattins, Litany & Antecommunion

2pm Last Hour & Children’s event in the Church Hall


31st March – EASTER DAY

Communicants:

8am Communion 31

10am Sung Communion 100

4pm Choral Eucharist

6:30pm United Service at Centrepiece Church


By September 1991 the 8am service had between 14 & 18 Communicants and 10am usually 70 to 80.


CHRISTMAS EVE 1991

Unusually, the Register gives us attendances again as well as Communicant numbers, which is helpful:

Crib Service: 350 souls attended

MIDNIGHT MASS: 281 souls attended - 160 Communicants


CHRISTMAS DAY 1991

8am Communion 25 – all Communicants

10am Sung Communion 70 Communicants – 110 souls attended

6:30pm Evensong (said) – 4 attended


1992


February 2nd – FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION

Communicants:

8am Communion 17

10am Sung Eucharist & Christingle 106 (160 attended altogether)

6:30pm Evensong


1994


Saturday 18th June there was an 11am Men of Kent service and a wedding in the afternoon


Sunday 21st August

Communicants:

8am Communion 19

10am Sung Communion & Baptism 80

6:30pm Evensong


By this time, where our figures end, there were usually between 50 & 60 Communicants at the 10am service (the 80 shown above was probably due to the Baptism).

CONCLUSION:

What the figures from 1994 show, is that the decline in congregation numbers having reached a worrying state have simply continued to crisis point now at Ashford. From personally having attended a few 10am Sunday services (and these are usually on days when you would expect an increased congregation anyway) the total number of souls at the 10am is now about 60 which includes children, so the Communicant figure must be lower, in the 30’s or 40’s. This is of course not really sustainable. Rather than the proposal to go even more ‘middle-of-the-road’ and abandon our Anglo Catholic tradition entirely, (which means effectively giving up on the building as a church in any meaningful way, and making it pay its way by using it as an Arts Centre and Theatre which is not acceptable to the majority of people in this town) what we should be doing is getting right back to our roots of Solemn Choral Eucharist etc as a main foundation and Evensong and Mattins as introductory services to the un-churched) with a good strong choir to lead the Communion settings/canticles/anthems/hymns Communion settings should be of the standard of Darke in F or above and at least some sung Communion services should be proper BCP as written in the book and without deviation. We also need to bring back Mattins at least once monthly (and preferably more often), revive the holding of services on the actual Feast Days (eg Epiphany, Ash Wednesday etc, again with music of good standard, and publicise the services much better.


Evensong especially needs to be publicised much more widely – in Canon Tindall’s time this was a great event each Sunday described as ‘a great gathering for the people of the town’. We need to change the culture and attitude of people slopping about in front of those social menaces of television or computer games etc – or drinking in ale-houses or at home instead of coming to Evensong. Once the ‘penny has dropped’ and everybody wakes up to the potential this church has as a church and because of its internal furnishings, not in spite of them (whenever this happens, it WILL happen), the following changes should be effected forthwith:


Following placing the front pews (currently in the St Francis Transept) back in the Nave and removal of all the Nave clutter as well as replacing of Lectern in its historical position, thus returning the Nave Altar (which is actually a Credence Table) to the St Francis Transept along with the chairs, once again allowing this to be used for small weekday services of Morning & Evening Prayer:


At all Sunday services the congregation shall occupy the Nave, and the Ministers and Choir the Chancel as the building was thus designed – an accepted design until 1999. The High Altar shall be moved back hard against the East Wall to ensure that the Eastward position is maintained for Celebrating at all Communion Services and suitable riddle-posts and curtains obtained to properly rail the High Altar in at sides, as was.


Sundays:

8am – said service; congregation sitting in Nave. This will immediately encourage people to spread out and realise the amount of empty space which needs to be filled. Target within first year to increase congregation to a regular 30 souls. Lessons read at Lectern. Sermon from pulpit. Once numbers are up enough, thought should be given to reintroducing 7am Communion.


10am – Sung/Choral Communion; congregation in Nave as at present; at start, choir to process fully round church and up centre aisle into Choir stalls (as was the practice until c1999). No singing of Happy birthday or trivialities detracting from the reverence of the service. Notices to be read after the shaking of hands (if we must retain that) or else at the end of the service prior to the final Hymn. Processions to suitable Hymns at close of service on all Feast Days – service on any feast day would be Solemn Choral Eucharist. Target in first year to increase regular numbers at 10am service by minimum of 20 souls. Sermon. Sunday School would be scrapped in favour of afternoon Children’s Church (see below). Lessons read at Lectern. Sermon from pulpit.


11:15am Mattins – Preferably choir to remain after Sung/Choral Eucharist and sing Choral Mattins. In the event it is unlikely that one choir would do so, as no doubt they would feel nearly two hours in church such a commitment. Here, there would be advantage to having two separate choirs (boys & men and girls, women & men) who could alternate singing at the two Choral morning services and Evensong. Target for Mattins service: to attempt to encourage souls to remain after Communion for approx 30 minute Mattins service without sermon. Needs at least 30 attending on average to make it viable each week. Possibly to hold only on two Sundays a month (eg 2nd & 4th) Lessons read at Lectern. No sermon.


3pm – Children’s Church. Some weeks this would be in the Church Hall; others in the Church itself. To include the Incumbent walking the children round the building and explaining the functions. Lively speech and interesting stories to appeal to children, but always with an educational theme. On no account would these younger children be subjected to Computers at any time in their training; this would be for the older ones. Consideration to be given to arranging a special lunch (paid for by the church) before at least some of these events. Children’s church, as well as being good education for children into Godly ways also gives the parents a Sunday afternoon of rest. 20 children really necessary on a regular basis to supply enough of a feel-good factor to make the event a success. Must be held weekly. At 5pm the older children would come along to be instructed in the Catechism (ie to learn off by heart the Pater Noster, Commandments, both versions of the Creed and be taught the other answers to questions. They must be able to answer all these for themselves and understand them!! before being presented to the Bishop for Confirmation. The older children would be expected to attend Evensong and for their parents also to be encouraged to attend. Following Evensong, a light supper in the Church Hall and thereafter would follow lighthearted amusement and games for the older children at the Hall; teaching Christian social responsibility thereby and encouraging the children to enrol in Parish organisations (eg Bellringers and Choir. There would obviously be annual outings for the Junior and Senor branches of the Children’s Church – the potential for good which all this work for children (especially those from careless or deprived backgrounds) is priceless, as well as bringing along new generations of loyal Anglo-Catholics who will reverence, serve and appreciate the building and worship long after we are dead and gone.


6:30pm – Evensong. Here again, congregation in Nave; Ministers & Choir in Chancel. Lessons read at Lectern. Sermon from pulpit. Sermons to be geared towards the young people present but without alienating the older members of the current Evensong congregation. Gentle participation acceptable. Target within a year - as with 8am Communion - to have a regular base of 30 souls attending.


General rule to be observed in the church: Absolutely strictly no use of powerpoint presentations, screens or other modern clutter hung from pillars etc in an attempt to illustrate something in a sermon. Better to make the congregation work at picturing something in their minds eye than give it to them all ‘on a plate’ – make them work at imagination; this will make a better sermon of it! Visual aids and especially large screens distract the focus away from the High Altar and are extremely trendy ‘low church’ ideas which have no place in a church of the standing and Churchmanship of St Mary the Virgin, Ashford.


Weekdays:

A return to the practice of someone (either the Vicar or whoever else he may delegate) reading Morning & Evening Prayer daily in church. These services would be held in the St Francis Transept. Publicising of these services widely to the town, especially those who work in the town. There should also be a return to a very early Communion (7am) (held in either of the side chapels) on at least some weekdays to which those who work may come before commencing their daily round. Occasional ad-hoc Choral Eucharist or Evensong services on weekday evenings. All Feast Days marked with Choral Eucharist or Evensong.


Regular & diligent parish visiting is a must-do, especially for the Vicar and his staff. If the burden is too great for them to organise this alone, they should appoint suitable lay-persons under them to act as informers and immediately notify the clergymen if any person should need a visit.


Future plans would be to reunite Christchurch with the Parish Church and ensure a staff of one Vicar and several curates. Each Curate would have a Mission District and would be responsible for said District. With the will of the people, new Mission Churches could be built. All the large important gatherings would be at the Parish Church.


A final consideration is the need for a new ‘Church House’ club house – so we can provide social entertainment to people of the town and good sporting events also. By this, many men and women may be won to Christ who would otherwise not have been.


Many other ideas spring from the above initial ones, but this is just a basic guide to getting ‘the show back on the road’ for Ashford Parish Church. It is hoped that such plans will be properly considered and taken up as they will actually achieve results, though no doubt they are desperately unfashionable to current CofE thinking.


If some church members are unable to appreciate the beautiful building as it has been adorned and instead want to so seriously alter it, it would be better to close the church for the time being and wait for a people who appreciate it to emerge and restore it to its former glory rather than destroying the beauty of what is there now.