St Mary’s Hopesay is ancient for the most part, having been built in the 12th century with later medieval additions and with some more recent late Victorian refurbishments particularly in the chancel area. The church is well used and carefully looked after, is clean and welcoming and it has a good atmosphere, with a constant supply of flowers. Regular weekly use ensures that this welcome is kept up and the maintenance and repair of the church is looked after by an enthusiastic PCC.
Because it is situated in magnificent countryside between Hopesay Hill and a significant iron age fort, St Mary’s is also visited by many walkers and the PCC has a policy of keeping the door open throughout the day. When the first lockdown ended we made it possible for visitors to continue to visit for individual prayer in a safe and hygienic environment. Many visitors comment appreciatively on the setting of the church with its wild, rural graveyard which often has sheep grazing within it to keep the grass in trim. We were perhaps too famous for our unkempt rural style where the grass had to be held down to view the gravestones; nowadays enthusiastic PCC members work hard to keep the main surrounding graveyard and pathways in good trim. We adhere to a conservation mowing plan when keeping the paths clear.
The PCC has for many years maintained services at the Church every Sunday. Making this possible has in large part depended on the efforts of lay service leaders, as well as the involvement of retired priests living in the community, particularly for Holy Communion services.
The 3rd Sunday services are usually led by the Churchwardens with growing involvement from other members of the congregation. There is some flexibility in this respect as we have a Reader who is normally able to lead one service per month which may either be the first or the third. (The Reader, Sonia Phippard, organised and led about six successive Sunday services by means of Zoom during the lockdown period in 2020.) There are special festival services on Good Friday, at Easter, Harvest and Christmas, with Crib Services, Carol Services and Midnight Mass.
Pastoral Care and Community Outreach
In recent years there has been a noticeable increase in active participation of the congregation in worship at the church and in taking part and organising activities which raise the profile of the church’s mission in the community. One aspect of this, for example, has been holding occasional services at the Village Hall in Aston on Clun, which serves the whole parish. Members of the church have also been actively involved in a parish-led scheme set up at the beginning of lockdown to ensure that the most vulnerable parishioners had access to food and other supplies as they shielded or self-isolated.
Apart from paying close heed to the repair and maintenance requirements of the Quinquennial Report the PCC is keen to make improvements within and outside the church. We recently upgraded a formerly expensive and inefficient heating system and have restored running water to the church. Repairs to the roof of the lychgate have also been carried out. There are plans to make more of the space at the rear of the nave close to the entrance to the vestry for informal gatherings as well as for serving coffee and refreshments after services. One challenge in this respect is the awkward position of the Victorian font, installed in 1856, which is mostly redundant now since we brought back the original Saxon font from Bryn Church near Clun – where it spent a 100-year holiday – to its place inside the door.
Another project which is deemed increasingly necessary is the installation of a toilet for congregation and visitors. After various consultations and some research the PCC is currently evaluating the construction of an outside lavatory using a compost-based system.