St Oswald's Church, Sowerby, Thirsk, North Yorkshire

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Annual report 2021

Parochial Church Council of St Oswald's Sowerby
Annual Report for the year ended 31 December 2021

Incumbent: In vacancy until 30 July 2021. From 31 July, Revd David Biggs (Priest-in-Charge)

Assistant Priest: Revd Pauline Percy

Independent Examiner: Mr William Pearson ACA, FCCA

Bankers: HSBC

Independent Financial Advisor: Ellis Bates Group

Church Architect: David Beaumont



Administrative information

St Oswald's Church is situated in Sowerby in North Yorkshire. It is part of the Diocese of York within the Church of England. The current correspondence address is: 162 Front Street, Sowerby YO7 1JG

Members of the Parochial Church Council

Members of the PCC are either ex officio or elected by the Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM) in accordance with the Church Representation Rules. In 2021 the APCM was on 25 April 2021.

During the year the following served as members of the PCC:

Churchwardens (ex officio):
David Tucker (joint Vice Chair)
Simon Birkbeck (joint Vice Chair)

Priest-in-Charge (ex officio): From 31 July 2021 - Revd David Biggs

Assistant Priest (ex officio): Revd Pauline Percy

Reader: David Brooke

Children and Youth Worker: Pauline Alderson

Recognised Parish Assistants:
Cecily Rands
Helen Irving
Yvonne Bowling

Deanery Synod (ex officio):
Gayle Hartley
Sue Binns
Jill Drew

Elected Members from 25 April 2021

Retiring 2022:
Yvonne Bowling
Richard Halkyard
Andrew McCormack
Graham Merriam (Treasurer) (Standing Committee)

Retiring 2023
Helen Irving (Standing Committee)
David Brooke
Jane Jackson

Retiring 2024
Maureen Carr
Pauline Alderson (Standing Committee)
Morna Stoakley

Co-opted Member
Cecily Rands

Structure, governance and management

The Parochial Church Council (PCC) is a corporate body established by the Church of England. It operates under the Parochial Church Council Powers Measure. The PCC is registered as a separate charity with the Charity Commission.

The method of appointment of PCC members is set out in the Church Representation Rules. All Church attendees are encouraged to register on the Electoral Roll and stand for election to the PCC.

In normal circumstances the full PCC meets six times a year, or more as needed. (During the Covid-19 pandemic the PCC has often met using Zoom.) The PCC is supported by the Standing Committee, consisting of Church-wardens, Treasurer and Secretary and Children and Youth Worker. In addition, there are a few working groups which report to PCC. Our Deanery Synod Representatives attend meetings during the year and report back to the PCC.

Objectives of the PCC

St Oswald's PCC worked during the vacancy with the Area Dean the Rev Fiona Mayer-Jones (until 30 July 2021) and after that with the new Priest-In-Charge the Rev David Biggs in promoting in the ecclesiastical parish the whole mission of the church, pastoral, evangelistic, social and ecumenical. The PCC is also responsible for the management and maintenance of Sowerby Parochial Hall and Annexe. The Church, the Parochial Hall and the Annexe are normally well-used and valued community assets and a base for our service to members of the congregation and wider outreach to the parish as a whole. Sadly, during the pandemic, we have not been able to use the buildings to their normal extent.

Our Mission

At St Oswald's our Aims and Purposes are that we try to live out Jesus' call to love God and to love our neighbour.

Review of the year: Achievements and Performance

The year 2021 was dominated by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which continued throughout the year. In the early part of the year (from January to March) there were no services held in person in church. Subsequently almost all aspects of church fellowship, such as greeting each other, sitting together, the peace, taking communion and singing, were potential spreaders of the virus and were, therefore, largely limited during the year. A socially-distanced seating plan was implemented with the closure of alternate pews. The national response to the pandemic imposed restrictions on the normal freedoms of movement, association and worship and disrupted normal church life. Extensive advice was issued by the Diocese as the pandemic proceeded.

St Oswald's is normally open every day during daylight, but during the first half of the year was only open for private prayer on Mondays and Thursdays. When services resumed in late March, the socially distanced seating plan was implemented, no singing was allowed and all attending had to wear face coverings. Later in the year a small choir was permitted, pursuant to advice from the Diocese.

The St Oswald's weekly news-sheet and the monthly Saints Alive magazine, which had been circulated as paper copies, were very rapidly and effectively converted to email format, giving new opportunities for input. The news sheet was expanded to include reflections, prayers and internet links to hymns and songs in order to facilitate worship at home. Printed copies were delivered to those without internet access.

Later in the year, during the Autumn, we started to bring the services on-line using the Zoom video-conferencing service. This duly enabled members of the congregation to 'join' the service from home if they felt unable to attend in-person.

Funerals were able to take place with limited numbers of people attending throughout the year. Crematoria were similarly extremely restricted in how many people were allowed to attend. Grateful thanks are due to Rev Pauline Percy, Rev Sandra Howells and other visiting clergy for conducting these services during the vacancy and to John Kennedy for his commitment and service in the role of sexton, and to the sidespersons who assist.

Confirmations, baptisms and weddings were deferred in the early spring of 2021. Baptisms and Weddings began to be conducted again in late April 2021.

Youth work and work with children and families has always been a strength of St Oswald's, and this was very much the case during the pandemic. Pauline Alderson and Helen Irving, along with their supporting team, were responsible for maintaining and adapting this work to a very high degree, and even to increase contacts. This included making use of Zoom and delivering bags with craft materials, Bible stories and creative prayer resources for each youth and Kids Club member and for Messy Church families. Youth group continued to meet every week via Zoom up until Easter. They returned to meeting outdoors on the field at the Parochial Hall from April-July, continuing to meet in person from September.

In summer 2021 we were able to run an outdoor Holiday Club with limited numbers attending. Ongoing children's work had to be carefully considered during the remainder of the year. Outside services were held at Pentecost, Christingle and the Crib Service.

The Little Wonders toddler group began the year meeting on Zoom and using a private Facebook group for keeping in touch. Craft bags were provided for the children. In April, when outdoor gathering was permitted, Little Wonders began meeting in person again on the field next to the Parochial Hall. In June indoor sessions began in the Parochial Hall. The space in the hall enabled better social distancing and allowed more ventilation than was possible in church. Numbers at Little Wonders have continued to grow.

Open the Book returned to visiting schools in September, taking four Bible stories to Sowerby, Sessay & Keeble.

Godly Play was presented to Kids' club via Zoom twice a month until Easter, then on the field at the Parochial Hall until the school holidays. Since September we have continued to meet in the Godly Play Room. In February 2022 we returned to visiting schools once again.

Our long-standing Children's and Youth Worker, Pauline Alderson, decided to retire with effect from the end of 2021. We are extremely grateful to her for all the work she has undertaken in this role over the last ten years (and before that as a volunteer). We made the decision to replace her on a full-time basis and interviewed candidates in mid-December. Our new Children's and Youth Minister will commence work in early 2022.

A number of events which are both a means of contact with the wider parish and a source of income were impossible during 2021. The Daffodil Festival at Easter and the autumn Coffee Cakes and Crafts event both had to be cancelled. There was however an outdoor, socially distanced Summer Fair held on the Parochial Hall field on 14 August 2021.

A public service on Remembrance Sunday 14 November took place at the war memorial and the church was beautifully decorated with flowers and the outside walls with knitted and crocheted poppies. Many thanks to Barbara Thornton and her team for continuing to provide flower arrangements and to Kath Reynard for tending the outdoor planters.

The annual meetings took place using Zoom on 25 April 2021.

Giving, Mission and Community

We continued to support Jigsaw Kids Ministries in the Philippines through regular gifts to CMS (to support their mission partner Tim Lee) and to Jigsaw directly. This project was also adversely affected by Covid-19, and the support of churches in the UK was vital to their continuance. We were inspired to hear from Tim Lee at one of our Zoom services about the ways in which Jigsaw had responded and adapted during the pandemic to meet the needs of the community it serves.

We regularly support Thirsk Community Works in their service to the wider community. Our harvest gifts and occasional offerings on special services (e.g., Christmas) have been given to them. We have a box in church available for non-perishable food donations towards their food bank.

The Parochial Hall is a valued community asset. During the pandemic many of the activities there, both church-related and community bookings, ceased. The 100 Club which raises funds towards the running costs was able to continue and increased its contribution to the Hall's income.

Pastoral work

The disruption caused by the pandemic, including the postponement of some hospital operations and radical changes in GP and dental services, together with loneliness caused by being unable to have visitors or get out to socialise, contributed to a high level of anxiety and distress in the community. Our pastoral Recognised Parish Assistants (RPA), Cecily Rands and Yvonne Bowling continued their support of elderly and vulnerable people as far as the Coronavirus restrictions allowed.

The Mothers' Union remained in touch with members by letter. Meetings were not possible.

The Prayer Circle continued to operate throughout 2021 to support those in particular need of prayer. Many thanks to Jill Drew for coordinating this.

Farming chaplaincy

Yvonne Bowling continued her work as an assistant chaplain working under Rev Dianne Gamble to provide support to the farming community at the Auction Mart located in the parish.

Ecumenical relations

St Oswald's values the covenant with the Methodist Church, but the pandemic prevented most ecumenical activities, including the Easter and Harvest parish leaflet distribution. However, a joint Christmas card (with the Salvation Army) was distributed using the delivery team. The children and youth team have continued to work ecumenically and joint services were produced to celebrate Pentecost and Harvest.


Elizabeth Allen continues as our Safeguarding Officer. All PCC members are DBS checked and must complete a Confidential Declaration Form and complete an on-line safeguarding training course. St Oswald's PCC has complied with the duty under section 5 of the Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure 2016 (duty to have regard to House of Bishop's guidance on safeguarding children and vulnerable adults).

Financial review

2021 has been a challenging year. The PCC recognised early on that Covid-19 was likely to have a continued effect on various essential items of income - including lettings of the Parochial Hall. We were only able to pledge a reduced Freewill Offering (FWO) of £48,000 to York Diocese. Subsequent generous giving enabled us however to provide additional funds to the diocese resulting in a final FWO of £57,500. This was not far short of the amount pledged prior to Covid-19 back in 2019. Our portfolio, in medium to low-risk investments, was revalued upwards by £3,212 and we derived £1,166 dividend income. Our Hall net income improved from a loss of £4,972 in 2021 to a surplus of £64. Plate Collections and Fees for occasional services improved but still fell short of pre-Covid levels. The finances at the end of the year were on an even keel. Many thanks to Graham Merriam for the financial leadership he has given as treasurer throughout the year and to Gayle Hartley for all the detailed financial administration.

Reserves Policy

It is the PCC's intention to spend those Reserves that are Restricted on their defined purposes, in due course. Unrestricted Reserves include an amount that is Designated for the Parochial Hall and the PCC aims to safeguard these for an ongoing plan of refurbishment. The remainder of Unrestricted Reserves represent approximately three months income which the PCC feels is the minimum that it should aim to hold for normal levels of activity.

The Vacancy

An interview for the role of Priest-in-Charge (PIC) of this plurality was held in March 2021. Subsequent to this, the Revd. David Biggs was appointed as PIC, commencing on 31 July 2021.

The Vicarage remained unlet throughout the vacancy as estate agents failed to find a tenant. Improvements and repairs were made to the house (by the Diocese) before the new PIC began his ministry here.

During the vacancy, the Area Dean, Revd Fiona Mayer-Jones, provided frequent and valued support to the leadership team. We were very grateful also to the Revd Pauline Percy (Assistant Priest) and the Revd Sandra Howells (Retired Priest with Permission to Officiate) for their ministry to us.


Grateful thanks are expressed to all at St Oswald's who have worked so hard, sometimes in different ways from normal, and with so much dedication for the benefit of the church and wider community.

May we continue to love God and our neighbours near and far as we seek to serve Christ in this place.

We look forward to greater freedoms following the end of the restrictions caused by the pandemic but remember that our hope is always in Jesus Christ, our Saviour.

Approved by the PCC on 8 March 2022, and signed on their behalf.

David Tucker
Simon Birkbeck

Rev David Biggs

Annual report and accounts 2021 (PDF file)

Annual reports since 2004

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© 2021 The Parochial Church Council of the Ecclesiastical Parish of St Oswald Sowerby.
Registered charity number 1135485.