Around the Deaneries: Sonning

The November 2013 edition of the Door dedicated a whole page to the Sonning Deanery. Read the exciting selection of stories below:

Going for growth in Finchampstead

by Jo Duckles

THE Revd Julie Ramsbottom is in the process of taking over as Area Dean of Sonning, from the Revd Canon David Hodgson. Julie is in the privileged position of running two growing churches, St James’ Finchampstead and St Mary and St John, California.

With 270 people across her parishes attending the various services each Sunday, and people having to be turned down when they apply for tickets for some Christmas events, Julie has found attendance has been growing for years.

“Our next challenge is planning for the expansion of our ministry to encompass new residents. We are always planning for the next step,” says Julie. Within her patch is a ‘Strategic Development Location’, where new housing is expected. She is taking advice from Parish Development Advisers as well as Yvonne Morris, Diocesan Children’s Adviser as she plans for congregation growth.

Every week an 8am service is followed by family services and children’s activities. Julie says: “We have a wonderful manor house that is the St James’s Church Centre and virtually every room is used. We have children’s clubs at 9.30am and 11am for both services and there are usually 70 people at our family services and over 100 at our 11am services. “

Between the churches there are usually 270 worshippers each Sunday. “We are growing and I suspect that if we get numbers beyond 500 there will be a challenge because we just don’t know where else to put anybody.

“We have just started a growing leaders course which we have done a lot of work on. That will be the next stage because there is always something going on.

When she spoke to the Door Julie had just held a harvest service and was planning services for All Souls, Remembrance, and then moving on to Advent, Christingle and carols.

“Our Christingle is ticketed. We have a capacity of 700 and usually 770 to 800 people apply for tickets. We have a growing staff team and a good lay involvement.”

 When dreams come true


Children battle it out on inflatables.

IT took David Horrocks and the team from Arborfield six months of planning to put together the five-day summer holiday club that attracted 400 children.

There were 150 volunteer helpers who helped run the sports, and fairground stalls, crafts and inflatables. The club, that has been running every year for 50 years and is always based on Bible stories, focused on the story of Joseph and his technicolour dreamcoat.

David Horrocks, organiser, said: “We were hugely grateful to the headteacher Patrick Pritchett, and others at the Coombes CE Primary School who once again allowed us to run the club on their field, and to borrow so much of their equipment for the week as well. It’s very hard to imagine how we could ever do it without all the support we receive from the school, the Parish Council, and various others in the local community.”

Serving the poor in Uganda

Ann Potts prays with prisoners in Mityana.

Ann Potts prays with prisoners in Mityana.

Ann Potts, a licensed lay minister at St Sebastian’s Church in Wokingham, is pictured praying with prisoners in Mityana, Uganda. Ann first went to Uganda 10 years ago and has developed such a heart for the country she now visits three times a year, working with children, prisoners and people affected by HIV. She says: “I got involved straight away and found the people delightful. The need is so great out there so I just keep going and spend quite a lot of time there.”








A brand new school in Charvil

EXCITED four and five year olds have become the first children to have lessons at the Charvil CE Primary School. The school opened its doors in September and is part of the Piggott CE Academy, an academy that has been classed as outstanding by both Ofsted and the Church of England’s own Statutory Inspection of Anglican Schools.

Piggott staff and students escort Charvil pupils to a recent fun run.

Piggott staff and students escort Charvil pupils to a recent fun run.

Each year more children will join the school, which will provide education for up 210 pupils by 2019. Those pupils will then have the option of moving up to the Piggott School without going through the usual application process. Charvil is part of the Piggott Academy Trust. Headteacher Hilary Winter, said: “We already provide French and PE teachers who go out and work in the primary sector. I saw this as an extension of what we were already doing. The local authority was looking at ways of providing more primary schools because of a population growth in the area.”

Above: Students and staff from the Piggott CE Academy are pictured escorting the Charvil pupils to a recent fun run.






Stage Fright

CHILDREN are pictured performing as part of Stage Fright, a theatre organisation run as a Fresh Expression of church by the Revd Michael Johnson,, a youth worker at All Saints, Wokingham.Performance 14

The Wokingham based initiative runs theatre projects and group workshops for young people to explore life experiences and personal values. Themes of the performances include parables, miracles, Cambodia, Fairtrade and the empty tomb. The youth theatre meets every week on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at a youth centre in Wokingham. Parents pay what they can afford and some places are offered free, thanks to a supplementary grant from Sonning Deanery. Since 2009 Stage Fright has been running after school theatre clubs for children in years five and six. It also runs two summer residentials every August for children aged eight to 17 from all over the country.

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