It was a great honour for Fr. Robert to be appointed by Bishop Jonathan as his representative in the Diocese of Gloucester – on a zoom call during Lockdown! The traditional catholic constituency in terms of parishes is modest comprising of All Saints, Cheltenham (Fr. Robert Wright), and Ss Phillip & James, Up Hatherley, (Fr. Mark Catherall SSC).
Both Fr Mark and Fr. Robert had not been long in their respective posts at the onset of the first Lockdown, and have worked collaboratively and developed a great friendship,and co operation over matters of mutual concern for our parishes, and those in our care. The ‘season of Corona-tide’ has been a challenging one for us as parish priests, and in addition to learning much about livestreaming, and risk assessing, we both re-opened our Churches at the earliest opportunity in 2020, and remained open for worship in the third lockdown of 2021 (as did some others, including the other parishes of North Cheltenham Team Ministry, of which All Saints is a part.)
Since the greater part of the last two years has centred on survival and maintenance in the context of the problematisation of routine activity by Corona restrictions, it is only now that we can begin to think about consolidation and growth.
At All Saints we have had a small but encouraging number of new people join us since reopening, and at Up Hatherley, Fr Mark has organised a series of Sunday evening Lenten healing services, with invited speakers; including a mental health nurse, a speech therapist, and a hospital chaplain, to reflect on some aspect of how their work relates to Christ’s ministry of healing.
All Saints and Up Hatherley are also joining forces for Easter Day – The early morning Easter Vigil and Mass will be at Up Hatherley, and the 10.30 Solemn Mass will be at All Saints, and the expectation is that the two congregations will come together for these services. As we journey through the year, we look forward to a pilgrimage to Walsingham in May. Last October, Fr Robert, and Fr. Mark co-led the NCTM pilgrimage to the Shrine, and we were joined by folk from Up Hatherley – a precedent which we both intend to build on in future years. Other planned events include a pilgrimage to the site of St Kenelm’s well in Winchcombe and a fundraising double decker bus jaunt around Cotswold villages. There are also plans to re-start the Cell of Our Lady of Walsingham, to provide a focus for Marian devotion in our parishes and in the wider area.
Fr Mark and Fr Robert are deeply grateful to a number of retired clergy who provide assistance in our parishes, and to the Revd. Deacon Jennifer Wood, based at All Saints.
Fr. Robert Wright, Bishops Representative, Gloucester March 2022