Church News

Dear Friends

There are people planning the ‘perfect’ Christmas – everything has to be just so - just right; with everyone in the correct place, doing the right thing, at the right time, receiving that present specially selected for them; with a table laid with seasonal delicacies; and the tree dripping with colour co-ordinated baubles! Ho, ho, ho…

TV commercials, life-style magazines and advertisers try to convince us that it is possible to have the ‘perfect’ Christmas. But in my experience, they are as rare as the goose’s golden eggs! Oh, yes they are…

So I am pleased that a certain company’s Christmas TV advert this year - the one with the dragon (St George might not have approved) isn’t about the ‘perfect’ Christmas, but rather things not going according to plan; the spirit of kindness and the prospect of redemption. [Who knew that Waitrose has theologians on its advertising team? Whoops - there are other supermarkets available for your Christmas fine fare.]

The first Christmas was far from ‘perfect’ – you would think that God might have made rather better arrangements! A young pregnant girl, having to go with her disgruntled fiancé to register for the census in a little outback town. Finding nowhere comfortable to stay, her waters break and they end up in a stable. And when the child arrives – so do a gang of smelly shepherds to find out what’s going on! It was far from a perfect Christmas for Mary, Joseph and Jesus!

This year, rather than worry about a ‘perfect’ Christmas, I am going to count my blessings – wherever they come from – kind words; smiles and hugs (yes, Neil, I’ve heard you); friendly faces; a warm fire; dodgy fairy lights; and tacky trinkets and whatever the season may offer. I hope you might count your blessings too and forgive a little imperfection.

God never promised perfection this side of heaven, but he did offer love, forgiveness and redemption – and I hope the little dragon, called Edgar, finds it … before St George finds him!

Have an imperfect but blessed and peaceful Christmas! And anyway, who cares about the sprouts …. ?

The Rev’d Canon John Swanton

01285 851309

Services at All Saints’ Church

Sunday 1st December: Advent Sunday

10am Parish Communion at Down Ampney

6pm Advent Carols at Coln St Aldwyns

 Thursday 5th December

5.00pm Christingle Service at Down Crucis

Saturday 7th December

6.00pm  Carols for All - with a ‘Splash of Red’ choir at Ampney Crucis

Sunday 8th Decembe: 2nd Sunday of Advent

10.00am Parish Communion with Carols at Driffield

Wednesday 11th December

3.45pm A Nativity – come along and join in! at Harnhill Church

Sunday 15th December: 3rd Sunday of Advent

10.00am Parish Communion at Ampney Crucis

4.00pm  Carol Service at Down Ampney

Sunday 22nd December: 4th Sunday of Advent

10.00am Parish Communion at Ampney St Peter

5.00pm Carol Service at Poulton

 Tuesday 24th December: CHRISTMAS EVE

3.00pm Crib Service at Down Ampney

5.00pm Carol Service at Ampney St Peter

11.15pm Midnight Communion at Poulton

 Wednesday 25th December: CHRISTMAS DAY

10am Family Communion at Ampney Crucis

10am Christmas Day Communion at Down Ampney

Sunday 29th December: First Sunday of Christmas

10.00am Parish Communion at Ampney St Peter

Coffee Morning

Not in December! Back in January.

The Down Ampney March, which was composed by Debbie Wiseman OBE and commissioned for this year’s Arnhem Service, is now being sought out by a number of bands!

The Director of Music for the RAF has asked for a copy of the music. He tells us “Each year we perform at the RAF church, St Clement Dane’s in London, and Westminster Abbey for the RAF Annual Service and Battle of Britain service respectively. I imagine that the March would be an excellent addition to the repertoire for these events and indeed our numerous ceremonial tasks.” He goes on to say, “I am keen that we celebrate and commemorate the many facets of our Service’s and the Armed Force’s history but with new works rather than relying on the expected traditional works.”

Let’s hope we hear it played at one of these national events! The Parachute Regiment Band have also asked for a copy. I hope we might get a recording at some time which we can share more widely and listen to it again!

The Rev’d Canon John Swanton

01285 – 851309

Caring for God’s Acre

Churchyards are special places where friends and relatives are buried in consecrated ground and people come to pay their respects and remember those whom they love but see no more.

The upkeep and maintenance of the open churchyard at All Saints’ Down Ampney is the responsibility of the Parochical Church Council (PCC) – which is made up of a group of volunteers who oversee the ministry of the church and its property. Down Ampney Parish Council (the civil authority) kindly provides the contractor to cut the grass.

A churchyard is not a private place in which anything is acceptable, but rather a place where many people have an interest in its appearance. The Church of England therefore has regulations about what is and is not permissible in a churchyard. These regulations are designed to help ensure that churchyards have a pleasing appearance, to allow the wild life to flourish, for the maintenance of the grounds and safety of those who look after them.

A copy of the Churchyard Regulations can be found in the church and are also available at

We recognise that churchyards should not be absolutely uniform, however standards have to be acceptable to the wide variety of people who come to mourn their own relatives. For this reason there are general principles which have to be applied and in Gloucestershire many of our churches – like the Grade I Listed All Saints’ Church - are of national importance and their surrounding churchyards deserve special care.

In English law, no one has the right to be buried in a churchyard, but there are eligibility criteria – i.e. people who live or die in the parish are eligible to be buried in a churchyard. When the Vicar or PCC agrees to a burial, the grave remains in the ownership of the church – unlike in local authority or private graveyards where a (usually 75 year) lease is entered into. In Gloucestershire there are rules about what type of unpolished stone can be used for a headstone or memorial plaque.

There are other regulations to do with flowers and ornaments, which we shall cover in next month’s edition of Down Ampney News.

These regulations are not to prevent people from mourning and remembering their loved ones, but rather to help maintain order and a seemly appearance to our churchyards for everyone who visit.

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