Church Blog
News, Updates, Thoughts

The latest news, updates, and thoughts from Walbury Beacon Benefice.

Dear Friends
Last Sunday I was delighted to meet several new people at the 9.45 am
congregation in Kintbury. One of these was a sprightly 80-year-old, musician who
had been raised in Kintbury, visiting her past haunts with her daughter. After the
service, I had a very interesting conversation with her about church life. I valued her
insights on music, and worship, and her considerable passion for mission.
I had preached about defeating the devil but also about family. Being part of a
church can give people a warm feeling, a sense of belonging, and mutual support.
But there can also be a sense of belonging in being part of a congregation because it
feels comfortable and persists with old patterns and habits in an ever-changing
I also mentioned that as a church congregation, we can resemble families in less
positive ways. Hard to get into. Unwilling to adapt to new ways of doing things. And
mostly interested in taking care of ourselves.
The choice of music has always been a contentious area in the Church. Traditional
hymns due to their length, often explore God’s character and our relationship with
Him in greater depth than contemporary songs, which are not necessarily inaccurate,
but because contain few words. Plus, many contemporary songs are designed to stir
emotions and awaken a desire for God, and it doesn’t take theological depth to
accomplish this.
Recently Rowan Williams a Former Archbishop of Canterbury claimed that ‘Hymns
we sing today are 'primary school level’. He went on to say, “Many of the hymns
sung at weddings and funerals today are “bland” songs chosen because people
remember them from primary school” comparing them to “baby food”. But maybe
rather than criticise modern songs we should view them as an opportunity at times to
open the church doors a little wider so that those who are not so familiar with church
life can feel more comfortable. I would love to see and hear a worship band or
instrumentalists alongside the organ a few times a year.
Some churches have embraced new styles of worship music while others have held
firmly to the old way. In this Benefice, whilst we have hymn books published in the
80 or 90s the congregations are not averse to accommodating new hymns or even
worship songs if appropriate for the occasion. We just have to print the words and
practice the songs if they are not already known. Some songs like ‘In Christ Alone’,
or Stuart Townsend’s version of ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’, are already part of many
people's conscious, or unconscious musical repertoire. It was interesting to see how
the mix of hymns at the recent Rogation service was embraced.
I enjoy both styles and see a place for both in church services, after all the Psalms
speak often about “singing a new song”.
But I was not surprised when our visitor said that the church and worship in Kintbury
had not changed. I believe it is important and look for possible ways to bring both
traditional and contemporary music into services, without losing an atmosphere of
reverence and celebration.

Traditional hymns can inspire deep spiritual reflection and cerebral engagement with
God’s word through the theology they present in the lyrics and evoke memories of
the previous contexts in which they have been sung. At the same time,
contemporary songs can bring God’s presence into our lives in a fresh, relevant way
engaging with our emotions and our hearts.
There are some very good ‘new songs’ that could be included in our services without
alienating people who may feel uncomfortable with unfamiliar styles of music. We
can help people accept new songs by giving them some context and by explaining
why the song was chosen, what themes it contains, and how it relates to the sermon
topic. I think even introducing one of the Rogation hymns as ‘a bit funky’ helped to
still any objections.
I appreciate that different generations prefer different types of music and that
currently, our congregations are more comfortable singing traditional hymns, but
perhaps those less familiar with the church may enjoy listening to more modern
worship songs. I may want to nudge people into new directions on occasion but don’t
be alarmed, I am not planning a revolution! I love my traditional hymns.
As one website wisely commented: As church leaders, it is our job to ensure that all
people feel welcomed into our services regardless of their musical preferences. The
secret to bringing balance between traditional and contemporary music is to create a
mix of both styles in a way that appeals to all members of the congregation.
If you have any contemporary hymns or songs that you would particularly like to hear
us sing in Church, please let me know….. We may be able to produce the Walbury
Beacon top 10!

Love and prayers
Revd Annette

Alison Dean is being ordained at 2pm on Saturday 29th at the Cathedral and that anyone from the benefice is warmly invited to come and support her.  It would be a lovely opportunity to visit Oxford and soak in its history, as well as encourage Alison Dean on the start of her new journey with us.

Since moving to West Berkshire some seventeen years ago, I have often enjoyed exploring on foot the beautiful hills and villages which are home to you, rambling along the Wayfarer’s Walk and the Kennet and Avon canal.  It never once crossed my mind that I would be joining you here at Walbury Beacon as curate, after my ordination at the end of June.  But God is indeed a God of surprises, and this is a surprise that I am delighted to embrace!

By means of introduction….I live in Thatcham with my husband Mike.  My roots are in the Midlands, but I moved south in the 1980s to do a degree in Fine Art at the University of Reading.  Fifteen years ago, I retrained as a counsellor, and since then have been counselling in a variety of settings including university, drug and alcohol services, and a family counselling service.  I also have a private practice, which I will be continuing part time alongside my curacy.   I have a real concern to see individuals – and their families and communities – flourish and grow into all that God has created and called them to be.   There is much in life that can wound us, and get in the way of this, and ‘Jesus’ intention is to give us “life in its fulness”.  Part of our faith journey, I believe, is working out what that might mean for each of us, and I count it a privilege to walk alongside others who are asking that question.

My own faith journey began in childhood, with some twists and turns along the way.  I have worshipped in a variety of churches and traditions and this has given me an appreciation of the richness of different expressions of prayer and worship, the differences which reflect, I believe, the creativity of God.   As I have a love of the outdoors and often find it easier to pray outside and up in the hills, I find Celtic liturgy, such as that of the Northumbria Community, a particularly engaging way to worship.   Over the years much of my involvement in the life of the church has focused around small groups, and building relationships that stimulate spiritual growth and emotional well-being.  I have a particular passion for reading the Bible with others, chewing it over to see what it has to say to us, wondering about how God wants to speak through it, and how it might make a real difference to how we do life. 

When I join you in the summer, I am really looking forward to getting to know you and your communities, your shared life of faith, and hearing about what makes you ‘tick’.  Do expect that I will be hanging around wanting to hear your stories over a cuppa, or even taking a stroll with you!

To those of you I have already met, thank you for making me feel so welcome.



Combe Accounts following APCM

St Swithuns Church Accounts 2023



APCM Report to Follow

Inkpen Accounts 2023




Monday 17th April 2023, 7:00 pm, Saint Mary’s Church/Room

23 parishioners were present with the Rev’d Canon Annette Shannon (Rector) in the chair.
The Vestry meeting opened with prayer.

One nomination for Churchwarden had been received:
Gillian Guy: proposed by Olivia Whitworth and seconded by Bridin Warner

There being no other proposals, Gill Guy was duly elected as Churchwarden for the year.  She thanked the meeting for its confidence in her, and support during the previous year saying that she would continue to do her best to carry out the duties of churchwarden for the benefit of the church and parish, and adding that it would be good to have a second churchwarden to share the load.

The Vestry meeting closed at 7:08.

The Annual Parochial Church Meeting opened immediately following the preceding.

23 parishioners were present with the Rev’d Canon Annette Shannon (Rector) in the chair.
Elections & Appointments
 -             Deanery Synod (2 members of the laity for a 3-year period) 
The previous representatives having resigned, and with no new nominations, Jenny Veasey agreed to take the role for the forthcoming year.
 -             PCC (up to 11 members of the laity, elected annually; 2 members may be co-opted by PCC)
 The current PCC agreed to re-election en bloc.
 -             Independent Financial Examiner – Appointment deferred.
 -             Electoral Roll Officer – Post vacant. 
Minutes of the APCM held on 22/05/2022
-              These were accepted with no matters arising.
The Annual Report with final accounts for the year 2022 was presented.  
A comprehensive report from the Treasurer provided commentary and explanation.  
The accounts were accepted with especial thanks to Pauline for her work on keeping the finances in good order;
There were no queries; points raised and general comments from those present included: 
-              thanks and congratulations to Rev’d Annette for her first months in post;  Annette commented on the trials and joys of being in a new benefice, and the problems of trying to learn so many names, faces and country lanes in a very short time;
-              the appointment of the new WBB administrator;
-              thanks to the churchwarden, PCC and Sidespersons for their contributions to the life of the church and parish during the year;
-              the state of the church heating and the need for planning ahead for replacement in the fairly near future;
-              ongoing issues with the main sound system, hearing loop and malfunctions during services; 
-              grant for new portable system to be used for outside events and services;
-              updates on the forthcoming vesting of St Mary’s Church Hamstead Marshall, implications for parish and parishioners, and the planned merger of the parish with that of Kintbury with Avington; date, details currently dependent on procedures of Church Commissioners; name to be decided;
-              current Sunday service patterns to be retained with some possible reductions / festival amendments until the arrival of the new HfD priest;
-              a question about ministry with children and families similarly deferred until forthcoming ministry and pastoral changes had been absorbed.
There being no further matters for discussion the meeting closed with The Grace at 8:10 

Kintbury with avington annual report 2023

HM PCC Accounts 31st Dec 23

HM PCC Accounts 2nd April 24

How will you vote?

Dear Friends,

I wonder how you responded to the news of the general election announcement from the rather damp Rishi Sunak. When I was 18 it was an election year and I was awed at being able to vote for the first time. Six of us organized a sleepover so we could stay up through the night with drinks and nibbles, excited to watch the results as they were announced. Sadly I am no longer so interested.

Last Sunday, in this heightened political backdrop, we celebrated the Trinity in Church so I pondered how to relate the two things in my mind. Fortunately, a Facebook post from a former colleague, Joe Hawes, the Dean of Edmundsbury, gave me an idea as he linked The Trinity with the theory of political Interdependence.  This is when intensive transactions flow freely between individuals, communities, and countries.  The transactions can be money, goods, resources, and information that flow across borders, house to house, and through communities.  When the flow is stable with an equal dependence, sensitivity, and equity of vulnerability there is potential for mutual flourishing.  However, when there is an imbalance, and one is more dependent on the other, there is the risk of one party being substantially disadvantaged by the actions of another. This is when insensitivity, misuse of power, and manipulation can enter the relationship causing asymmetry, suffering, and toxicity.

In the Godhead of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is a model of a perfect flow of mutuality, equity, and sensitivity, and also the foundation of all good and life-giving relationships. We can apply that model by asking which of our political parties best reflects equity, interdependence, mutuality, and vulnerability through their policies and their interactions with others. Neither will be perfect but it should help us to recognise the party which will draw us closer to God and help to build His kingdom.

If you are still struggling with how to approach the election and want some pointers, I encourage you to look at the new election preparation resources on the site below which aim to help Christian voters think, act, and pray before they vote. The material includes an interactive quiz to help you discover the policies that are most important to you as prepare to vote.

With love

Revd. Annette

election preparation resources  


On Sunday we have the last of the four APCMs for the parishes in the Benefice; it is after coffee at
the 9.45 am service in Kintbury. It will be particularly important as it will be the first for the newly
formed parish of Kintbury with Avington and Hamstead Marshall!
These annual meetings must be held in every parish before the end of May. Having always been a
Rector of a multi-parish benefice I must confess that this time of year I am rather envious of vicars in
single-parish churches.
When I first started my faith journey elections for places on the parochial Church Council, even in
small villages were competitive. Leaders would have to be very creative and diplomatic in the way
they gathered nominations. Sadly, in most churches the village and even the regular congregations
view being present at the meeting as an ‘optional’ part of ‘being church’.
The APCM consists of two to three meetings, one to elect the churchwardens who can be anybody
from the parish as long as if they are “actual communicants, baptised and aged at least 18 years (in
some areas 21 years). In my previous benefice, I had a churchwarden who stayed in his local church
in the position of churchwarden for over 55 years. He had proudly been welcoming and saying
goodbye (sometimes rather hastily) to too many vicars but at least he will have found it more
difficult to forget me; I was his first female vicar and stayed for 11 years in post! In case I frighten off
any potential Churchwardens you are be re-elected on an annual basis, so you have an opportunity
to escape!
The APCM is also the opportunity for the parish to say thank you for all the work that churchwardens
and other officeholders of the church have undertaken as volunteers (so much of their work is
unseen)! And to support those who have generously offered to stand for the following year.
The election of churchwardens is the only business of the first meeting, and anyone who lives in the
parish can vote, whether they come to church or not. This is formally called the ‘Vestry Meeting’.
We are very fortunate to have two churchwardens in Combe, West Woodhay, and now Inkpen.
Kintbury is the only church where we only have one churchwarden although she is fortunate to have
an assistant, who having been a churchwarden in the past knows the challenges.
The second meeting is the actual APCM when members of the PCC (Parochial Church Council) are
elected. The number of PCC members a church can elect depends on the size of the parish. These
people meet several times a year to discuss the business side of the church: repairs and
maintenance of church and grounds and any other buildings the church has responsibility for;
expenditure, planning the church fairs, and ensuring that the church complies with current Diocesan
guidelines. This infrastructure enables all things to happen – the mission and worship.
Accounts are scrutinised, and reports are heard including a report on goods and ornaments of the
church – to make sure nothing has surreptitiously been removed from the building and sold on!
Some appointments are also made at this meeting: The representatives of the Deanery Synod, the
examiner for the accounts for the next year, and any additional sides people.
Some churches follow these two meetings with a third, the first PCC meeting of the year when
‘offices’ are filled: treasurer, secretary, vice chair. Other churches like Kintbury delay the first PCC
meeting, so they have some time to consider the best way to respond to changes in membership.
The apostle St Paul described the church as a body with every part vital with an important role to
play. It is the same with the church: everybody has a role to play. The APCM should be a celebration

of the life of the church, but it often feels as if it is something to be dreaded. There may be a
contentious issue to be discussed alongside the business. However, usually the most stressful part of
both the meeting and the lead-up to it, is trying to find people willing to stand for election and fill
the appointments.
According to St Paul, we all have different gifts and abilities given to us by God to be used in his
service and in supporting others in the life of the church. I am always inspired by the number and
variety of gifts that are evident in the parishes (although some keep them hidden)! We were taken
aback at Notrees when one of the residents revealed that as a child she would be part of a
gymnastics team that entertained the crowd at a very famous cricket club! Sadly, she is not in a
position now to backflip down the aisle to receive communion - but it did conjurer up a wonderful
image. It should be as simple as matching the person and their gift with the task ahead. But people
also need to be willing, and there aren’t many people willing enough to take on the responsibilities.
I am just very grateful for those who are! Thank you.
Loving God, we pray for our Churchwardens and Parochial Church members. We give thanks for
their commitment to your church and their communities, and we ask for your blessing on their
Love and prayers,
Revd. Annette

‘Have leisure, and know that I am God’ a quotation from Psalm 46:10 The assistant Church Warden Liz and I visited Notrees this week to create coasters with the residents. We decorated felt-backed tiles using mandala stencils. Mandala images are tools for meditation, mindfulness, and healing. The repetitive circular designs focus attention and help to create a meditative and mindful state. The room was quiet as people focused on colouring intricate designs. I hope the residents found some sense of peace through the activity. I can testify that the placemats produced were all beautiful and unique and that we all seemed in good spirits after the activity. Sadly, we can often feel guilty taking time out for ourselves. It can feel rather self-indulgent. Even when we are part of a prayer group it does not always help us to find silence. It can be seen only as an opportunity to pray for others and rather selfish if we pray for ourselves. But it is important to stop driving yourself occasionally and to put yourself into the receiving position. It is essential if you want to be a gift to others. I think the ancients the Desert Fathers understood this much better than we do. As we head to Pentecost on Sunday when the apostles received the Holy Spirit, I would like to suggest some exercises that we could all practice to carve out a few minutes to be present. 1. Take a walk on your own somewhere quiet in the country. Walk slower than normal, and notice as much as you can of what is around you. The smells, the sounds, the sights. Take time to experience the details and the variety in the nature around you. When you have finished your walk, sit quietly, and let your inner silence take root. 2. Find a place where you will not be interrupted. Make sure you are comfortable. Hold your spine and head erect and your hands loosely on your lap. Let your mind become quiet and still. Be content just to be. If you find your attention wandering on to concerns, give them to God for a few minutes to hold. It may help to write these on a piece of paper and to physical place them to the side. Then use one of the following practices. • With your eyes closed, be aware of all the sounds you can hear; their quality, feel, variation, etc. Do not focus on what is making them; concentrate on the sounds and let them help you to focus in the present. • With eyes closed be aware of the sensation in the various parts of your body in turn, starting from your feet and moving up through your body. Then briefly be aware of your whole body as you sit quietly. Repeat this. The aim is to become more aware. • With eyes open, choose an object to look at as the focus of your attention. Become aware of its shape, colour, texture, and so on. Look at it as though you were going to draw it. • Find a small object to hold. Focus on the sensations of holding it. You may or may not be aware of God’s presence as you do these exercises. But be assured God is right here and when you are here you are always with Him, whether you are aware of God or not. The German Theologian Meiser Eckhart wrote, ‘The most beautiful thing which a person can say about God would be for that person to remain silent from the wisdom of an inner wealth. So be silent, and stop flapping your gums about God’. Please take ‘leisure’ time this week to prepare and notice the Holy Spirit all around and within you. And let me know how you got on! With love and prayer Revd. Annette



Having had a lifetime’s involvement in church music, one of the things the pandemic brought home to me, along with many others, was how important live music is to worship. Some people missed the opportunity of singing together as a community, others the opportunity of hearing or performing music in one form or another. Music can have a great impact on people’s experience in church, whether it is actively through the singing of hymns in a small parish church or more passively listening to choral evensong in one of our great cathedrals.

Whatever the context, musicians of all abilities have a vital role to play in the life of the church. Whilst most parish churches probably do not have the resources or expertise available at one of our cathedrals or choral institutions, that does not prevent music being performed in a sincere and reverent manner. Whatever the tradition, music is there to enhance the worship and is a wonderful vehicle for bringing people together.

I was lucky enough to be a chorister at the headquarters of the Royal School of Church Music when it was based at Addington Palace in Croydon and it was there that my interest in the organ was kindled. Later, teaching took me down to Devon where I was also organist at an Anglo-Catholic parish in Torquay for thirty years, with all the accompanying rituals and ceremonies. Consequently, over the years I have developed an interest in the liturgy and when Annette put out a call for more people to take an active role in leading services, I was open to the challenge.

It is a sign of the times that as a result of the shortage of clergy, lay people are becoming more and more involved in leading services where an ordained minister is not required to be present. This is particularly so in multi-church benefices like ours - even Annette cannot be in two places at once!

Becoming a commissioned worship leader has enabled me to utilise a lifetime of skills learnt in the classroom as well as in the choir stalls and on the organ bench. At Inkpen, I have the privilege of leading Compline every now and again, usually on the third Sunday of the month.

The ancient office of Compline in one form or another probably dates back to the 4th century and its place in the daily worship of Christian communities in the West can certainly be attributed to Saint Benedict in the 6th century. Derived from the Latin word completorium meaning completion, it is sometimes referred to as ‘Night Prayers’ and is a service of quietness and reflection at the end of the day. Much of Compline has stayed the same over the years, so when we come together to say it, we have the overwhelming sense of joining in with 1500 years of church history. Its poetry is beautiful and phrases such as ‘keep me as the apple of your eye’ have become firm favourites. Whilst most of the service is spoken, we sing the hymn Before the ending of the day to one of the old plainsong melodies, again establishing a link back to earlier times.

So if you feel on a Sunday evening you would like to step back from the hustle and bustle of life for 25 minutes or so, why not come along? Allow yourself some time for reflection and experience the tranquillity that our lovely church affords. Our next service of Compline will be on May 19th and you will be very welcome.

Christopher Sears