From Fr Ross:
John Knight was Rector of Calverton from 1640 to 1661, and “during his incumbency the Chapelry of Stony Stratford was dissevered from the ancient Parish of Calverton”.
So reads the entry on the list of Rectors of Calverton in All Saints Church. Until this point in history Stony Stratford was divided along the High Street and the ancient Manorial Benefices of Calverton and Wolverton both built chapels to vie for the travellers along Watling Street. Both chapels were successful and there is a long history attached to both chapels and the ground upon which they were built. However in the 17th Century it was decided by the Diocese to create a new parish of Stony Stratford and the later fire at the Chapelry of St Mary Magdalene was to lead to the rebuilding of St Giles and the enlargement of the Parish of Stony Stratford. In the 19th century Wolverton again built a Chapelry under the patronage of St Mary the Virgin in the south part of the growing town which at that point still remained with Wolverton Parish. This Chapelry subsequently became a parish in its own right, but then in 1967 following the fire at St Giles the Diocese, after much debate, decided to close St Mary the Virgin and restore St Giles while rehallowing it under the patronage of “St Mary the Virgin & St Giles” but the Parish Church quickly became known simply as St Mary & St Giles.
Time moves on and with the impending development within Calverton Parish what was once “dissevered” is now once again made whole. As from the 1st January 2012 the individual parishes of Calverton, All Saints & Stony Stratford, St Mary & St Giles are integrated as one Ecclesiastical Parish with two Parish Churches and one Parochial Church Council. This parish, which is once again made whole, will be known as: “The Parish of Stony Stratford with Calverton”. The ancient title of “Rector” will be preserved and that of “Vicar” cease. People often ask what the difference is between a Rector and Vicar, and in terms of the Freehold of the Benefice there is no difference. However, essentially the title “Rector” belongs to the original parishes that were created with the emergence of the Christian Faith. The title “vicar” tended to be applied to those Incumbents who had parishes that had been carved out of ancient manorial Benefices (as locally) or where the parish had been founded by a monastery and a priest served there under the authority of the Abbot. The scheme, to effect the merger of our Parishes as one, is so worded as to maintain the Freehold of the present Incumbent of these Parishes (namely myself). However, after I retire, leave or whatever, the Freehold will disappear and the new Parish Priest will be on a system called “Common Tenure” as with all other parishes – effectively this is a form of licence rather than the Freehold.
Meetings will be held early in January to effect changes to Bank Accounts, and a little later to elect 2 Churchwardens for each Church and then to elect the new combined PCC. This clearly, will be a busy period and your prayers and encouragement would be much appreciated.
This “making whole” of our parishes is a time of opportunity for us all. For the last forty four years the two parishes have been linked and for the last fourteen held in plurality. Now, we can work together as one integrated and whole parish for the spread of the Gospel in what is a challenging time for us all as the parish population grows from approximately 8,000 to around 24,500 over the next ten years. In such a situation we need each other, but more importantly we need the grace of God to be with us as we grow together and as we reach out together in his name.
It would be very easy just to see this merger as a way of reducing meetings and paperwork. While it does do that it is not the prime reason. The prime reason is to free us to engage in mission and to pool our resources. We face change to geographical landscape of our united parish that we can barefly imagine at this stage, but we also face the change and challenge that comes with new people. The ancient Parish of Calverton built a Chapel to welcome new people (both visitors and those who stayed) and that Chapel which grew into a Parish Church continues to see that as a huge part of its mission (as it always has done – encouraged by its outstanding incumbents). So the two parishes have a history of seeing Worship and Mission at the centre of their life. This must continue to be so. Over the next ten years and possibly more, many, many new people (families and individuals) will come among us. They must continue to find within us the warmth of Christian love within the firm foundation of the Faith of the Church. I rediscovered something written by St Benedict recently: “Love without dogma is empty. Dogma without love is cruel.” He was, of course, echoing many other spiritual writers who have said similar things, but in a world that at times seems devoid of a spiritual compass people do need parish churches where the faith is taught and believed, but also where there is love and forgiveness. Our formerly dissevered parishes have always had a tradition of firm faith and pastoral sensitivity and this must continue to be so.
Please pray for our Parish and for the Churchwardens, Treasurers, Secretaries and I as we deal with all the practical matters that the merger entails. But also pray for each other that every one of us will be firm in faith, hope and love.