Changing Times

Few of us welcome change especially if we are broadly content with our lot. But often it cannot be evaded and we must, as they say, “make the best of it.” So it was that in the autumn of 1999 the parish magazine carried a farewell letter from the Vicar, the Revd Keith Denerley and his wife Jane. To many people it seemed incredible that it was fourteen years since they began their labours in our vineyard and in neighbouring Trellech. They brought to us a quiet certainty about heavenly things and, one suspects, a kindly humour at the panorama in little of life in the villages. Those who know them best love them most – they moved on retirement to English Bicknor – and there are still some around who say “well, of course, it was different when the Denerleys were here.” Of course it was but the implied criticism is rarely justifiable. Change is a sign of life and not inevitably of deterioration.

The opportunity to test this truth came when it was announced that Mr. Denerley’s successor would be a woman – something which in the year 2000 required and received reassessments by many of those in the two parishes who found the prospect novel, shall we say. It was into this unprecedented situation that the Revd Sandra Howells and her husband John found themselves introduced. The new Vicar’s first letter to her parishioners was a warm invitation to make themselves known to her and to remember that she regarded herself as come primarily to serve.

Since her induction in Trellech church in February, 2000 – an impressive gathering of clergy and laity filling that large and evocative building – there have been numerous changes in church life, some responding to economic pressure, others to the perceived needs of parishioners whose loyalties are increasingly numerous and diverse and no longer confined to the village where they live. In common with many parishes, experiments – some successful, others abortive – have sought to reflect the changes encountered in social and personal life.

The Vicar was later joined by the Revd Janet Bone as Curate – newly ordained but long an active member of the parish laity as Reader. Together they seek to meet the day-to-day demands of parish work and to manage the activities of the parish of Trellech and Penallt. This came into being in 2007 in the hope of making better use of lay resources; in the process the single parish – divided in 1887 – was recreated. The first step had been taken in 1985 when Keith Denerley was appointed Vicar to both parishes (and Chaplain to Ty Mawr Covent). The merger under Sandra Howells was achieved in the face of resistance (sometimes born of misunderstanding and in spite of existing cooperation between members of the two congregations) which took time and patience to overcome. Few would now agree that formal change and the practical results ensuing have been the near-calamity some foresaw.

[from: Penallt Revisited]