By Gloria Benson, Holy Angels Community Projects Coordinator
Blessings to all readers as we slowly come out of the pandemic lockdown. Father Robin, Parish Priest for Holy Angels Catholic Church in Ash, spent the entire two lock downs live streaming Masses for his congregation on his own behind locked doors. He, along with our Deacon John Edwards, was more than pleased when we were allowed to open our doors for albeit, small numbers of attendees, while at the same time still live streaming for those Parishioners who were isolating or feeling vulnerable because of the high figures reported.
Holy Angels can currently accommodate up to about 70 people and in the coming weeks we are hoping to adjust the seating yet again to enable more Parishioners to attend the Masses as well as other sacraments like baptism, weddings and funerals. Our Youth and Confirmation Groups have, out of necessity, been conducted via Zoom and although it has served a purpose it really cannot replace our usual face to face meetings. The renewal of these meetings will be an absolute joy to the catechists leading these groups as well as getting all the social aspects of parish life to reawaken once again. Simple morning coffee will be a joyous occasion I am sure, and how amazing it will be to have music and singing again!
We must not under estimate the well-being effect of this pandemic on people reluctant to step out and back into our churches but we also must have complete and utter faith in the Holy Spirit knowing that if we ask he will act and walk beside us to gather in the lost and afraid. We are also very aware of local hardships with families and indeed if any Holy Angels Parishioners are experiencing acute hardship please do contact the parish office. Holy Angels is part of Churches Together in Ash, Ash Vale and Tongham and there are many outreach projects where we can point to help.
We will continue to adhere to strict Government guidelines of cleaning after services with church attendees sanitising their hands on the way in, wearing masks and signing in either on the track and trace barcode or physically filling in details. SO for those current Parishioners feeling a little nervous still you are INVITED to come and see and receive a warm hello and welcome and for those new to the Parish you are INVITED to come and see and again receive a warm hello and welcome.
Warmest greetings from the Reverend Keith Bristow and the Revd. Carol Monk. We would like to tell you a bit about the church here, which has enabled people to worship God and serve others, for about 800 years.
We are a friendly bunch from all walks of life and all ages. As well as our weekly services we always have lots of other things going on – from our daily pre-school to events for those of more mature years! We are very excited about welcoming back lots of groups to our fantastic Parish Centre, now that COVID restrictions are lifting. Our facilities are available for hire for children’s parties, dance groups, U3A, uniformed organisations, craft groups and much more. As a church we hold a Summer Fete and a Christmas Fayre, monthly soup lunches, social evenings, quiz nights and afternoon teas, to name but a few. Prayer groups and Bible studies help us to get to know God better, and become the people He wants us to be.
We welcome many families who bring their children to be Christened (Baptised), and sometimes adults ask to be Christened too – you’re never too old! We enjoy celebrating weddings with couples setting out on the adventure of married life. We also offer Blessings for those not married in church, and renewal of vows for those celebrating special anniversaries. On a sadder note, we can be there for people when a loved one dies. We conduct funerals in church or, if preferred, at the Crematorium, and we tailor each service to reflect all that the person meant to their family and friends. Every November we invite families to a service to remember and give thanks for them all. We also have a caring Pastoral Team of trained volunteers who offer support too. You don’t have to be a regular church member for us to share in these life events with you – just contact us and we can take it from there.
Our worship is centred around Holy Communion but we also have a more informal family service each month and other types of relaxed worship from time to time. Whether you have been a Christian for years, or just want to explore what it’s all about, you will quickly feel at home with us, just come as you are! We look forward to meeting you soon.
Here are some of the useful numbers you may need if you need support in Ash Vale. If you think we are missing a number please let us know.
St Mary’s, Ash Vale – 07863 311165 (Parish Administrator’s Mobile)
The Chapel, Ash Vale – 07730 609446 (Project Manager’s Mobile)
St Peter’s, Ash – 01252 331161
Holy Angels, Ash – 01252 321422
St Paul’s, Tongham – 01252 782790
Local help and support during the Covid-19 crisis:
Ash, Ash Vale & Ash Green Coronavirus Support group (volunteers doing shopping & prescription runs & emergency food parcels) – 07843 489796
Ash Parish Council – 01252 328 287
Ash Citizens Advice – 01252 315569 or 01252 314711
Ash Vale Health Centre – 01252 317551 (Out of hours phone 111, in an emergency dial 999)
Guildford Borough Council Covid-19 Community Helpline – 01483 444400
Community Wellbeing Team – 07769 642053 / 07901 513652
Safe & Settled Team – 01483 444476 for those needing help at home on arriving back from hospital or needing some help to manage at home.
If you need to talk to someone : national helplines
Samaritans (24/7 service) – 116 123 or text SHOUT 85258
National Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0808 2000 247 www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/ (run by Refuge) The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors – 0808 801 0327 The Mix, free information/support for under 25s in the UK – 0808 808 4994 National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428
The most exciting thing to happen this year (apart from vaccinations!) has been the start of the ramp building project. That isn’t to say that this has not been many months, or even years, in the planning. Only last summer we were busily examining bricks for compatibility with the clunch work of the church. (Phew – they match…). The ramp will make such a difference to wheelchair or pushchair users, in fact anyone who finds climbing stairs difficult. As part of the same project we are renovating the porch, with new glass doors and curtain heating to ensure a warm welcome – in both senses of the word!
We have carried out a considerable amount of fund-raising to finance the project, and people have been so generous, both in donations and in legacies and fund-raising, e.g. making cakes. (We do love cakes in Tongham.) Claire – our Vicar – was planning to do a sponsored sky-dive, and in fact may still do so.
Our builder, Richard Margetts, started work in December 2020, closely followed by Christmas, in quite horrendous weather – he has worked through rain, gales, snow and occasionally sunshine – and expects the work to be finished around Easter day, but as a back-up we are hoping to have an outdoor service to avoid using our shiny new ramp and porch. Or, more honestly, we are hoping to navigate any sudden changes of Governmental policy in the Lockdown restrictions by planning an outdoor service. Watch the website and Facebook for updates – because of course in Britain we can’t ignore the weather. But one way or another, whether online, outdoors, in church or maybe a mix of all three – we plan to be in action.
We are so looking forward to welcoming as many people as possible into our Church.