The whole Marches region up and down the Welsh border brims with energy and creativity. Straddling the beautiful Offa's Dyke path, Kington is full of walkers. And in the Autumn there is a Walking Festival with much feasting and exhausted relaxing. It is high time for worship with the skylarks on stunning Hergest Ridge, although we have had a baptism in the river recently. There are cyclists as well as a widely used Leisure Centre and a range of sports facilities appealing to all ages and capabilities including the local football team.
The town boasts an enviable Horticultural Society, the Kington History Society, the Nature Trust, a thriving branch of the Young Farmers, Kington Community Choir and troupes of players. Every September, the Kington Agricultural Society hosts the Kington Show, one of the largest one-day Agricultural Shows in the country. We have also embarked on a four year voyage of discovery through Kington Remembers, researching the part Kington and its parishes played in the Great War. And we mustn't forget the world famous Hergest Croft Gardens ten minutes walk from the church.
If you take seriously, as the writer of Ecclesiastes has it, that God put eternity in the hearts of men, then all these enthusiasms, young and old, working and Sabbath-resting, are embers waiting to be blown by the Spirit into life. Life in all its fullness, as our Lord promised.
In all but charter we are a Transition Town with an active group that plots resistance to consumer madness and resilience against climate-change disaster down at the Oxford Arms. To a Christian it strikes you as entirely comparable to the mission of the Church. Environmentalism is no more about a sandled huddle bewailing the plight of the world than Church is about declining congregations. The Kington Local Environmental and Energy Network backs sane and sustainable life in all its variety, from litter picking to apple pressing, from allotmenteering to community energy, from networking to promoting a functioning can-do Town Council. Several church members are in on all this too.
Culture in the Sticks?
We would soon complain if there were no more cakes and ale, but with so much to distract and feed the feverish mind we might endure it. There are four arts centres within 45 minutes of Kington with films, plays and streaming theatrical events from distant metropolises, while within the town itself there are an amateur operatic company, a town pantomime, while our church hosts choral events and concerts of an international standard. We have the Border Film Festival and Herefordshire Art week. The greatest literary festival in the world is just down the road at Hay-on-Wye. There's plenty going on so while good road links and bus services can take one far afield (our nearest rail service is at Leominster, approximately 15 miles to the east), there is really no reason to leave town!
Although we are urbe in rure as Thomas Hardy put it, and indeed far from the madding crowd, we hope we have convinced you that there is culture and life in plenty here. Here in the Kington Parishes we are eager and excited about the opportunities and challenges of sharing the good news of Christ with all in our communities. We value our engagement with all generations and peoples whoever or wherever they are. Our mission is to serve and welcome all members of our communities, both those who call this home and those who visit this beautiful part of the world. As our Rural Dean likes to say, “Feed the flock; foster the fringe.”
We have two lively, successful schools: Kington Primary School and Lady Hawkins’ School and Sixth Form. Here is a whole community of life – children, parents and teachers - where the Church as an institution currently makes a modest contribution. However, while neither school is faith based, both schools participate enthusiastically in traditional services (Harvest Festival, Christmas) and an annual service for the senior school to mark Foundress' Day. We would love to encourage and develop this willingness to worship. There are team members willing to support the schools in practical ways, for example with “Open the Book” and ethics discussion.
St. Mary's Church
REGULAR WORSHIP AT ST. MARY’S
At Kington there is a regular act of worship every Sunday at 10.00am. This is normally a Common Worship Order One Service of Holy Communion when we follow Christ’s command to “do this in remembrance of me”. We are fortunate to have the services of Philip Sell, our very fine organist and a talented choir to lead the music.
We also have teams of servers to assist in worship and a talented team of readers and intercessors, all of whom welcome new recruits.
On the third Sunday in the month, the communion is replaced by “Morning Praise”, a more informal act of worship, which is particularly suitable for families and children.
We have also recently established a well equipped children’s area at the top of the North Aisle with activities for children and parents who need some “time out”.
On the third Sunday there is a Communion Service at 4.00pm during the winter months and 6.30pm in the summer. This is a quieter more reflective service using the “Craigie Altar” in the North Aisle.
Choral Evensong and other services are held on an occasional basis.
The ambition behind all of our worship is that it should provide the best that we can to God in thanksgiving but that while it retains a sense of awe it should be welcoming and engaging.
Views of St. Mary's
The Church of St Mary the Virgin, Grade I listed, stands high on the hill overlooking Kington at its western edge and close to the site of Kington Castle, whose foundation dates from the reign of Henry 1 (1100-1135). The church's elegant 18th Century Lych Gate welcomes visitors approaching from the town.
The Norman tower houses a peal of six bells, which welcomes worshippers to services. The Church boasts some fine stained glass windows, mainly from the school of Clayton and Bell. The Church as a whole is well maintained and in a good state of repair. It is open for 365 days of the year, allowing visitors to enjoy the calm, peaceful atmosphere of a lovingly tended Church. The visitor's book is full of appreciative comments.
You will see in the detail in the Annex that we have a variety of services including a family service. A Family Service planning team meets monthly. If we could draw young parents into family services this would lead to involvement in youth work, non-existent at present. In addition annual festivals, such as Harvest Festival, are always well supported and reach out to a wider community. The Harvest Service is followed by a lunch in the Church, and the early Eucharist Service on Ascension Day is followed by breakfast in Church. The annual Carol Service by Candlelight and the Family Crib Service on Christmas Eve are always very well attended. The Church bells are rung every Sunday and visiting teams of campanologists are welcomed at other times.
Our choir leads the singing at the main service every Sunday as well as on special occasions. A popular service is the Wednesday Holy Communion held at Markwick Close Community Hall in the centre of the town. This has lay involvement. At The Garth and Kington Court residential care homes the clergy lead regular
Communion Services and carry out home visits. Currently there are 116 on the Church electoral roll. Two retired members of the clergy regularly assist in worship, both on Sundays and weekdays. We have a SSM minister and a lay reader. There is wide lay contribution to services.
We have an excellent and supportive Sacristan. On a fifth Sunday in the month the five churches in the benefice take it in turns to hold a joint Group Service; another opportunity to bring our rural parishes together! On Remembrance Sunday, St Mary’s and the Baptist Church take it in turns to host a Remembrance Service, following the service at the War Memorial. Meanwhile, “Churches Together” further links us to our fellow worshippers in the Catholic, Baptist and other independent congregations inthe area and we join in several joint services in the town such as the Women’s World Day of Prayer, the Good Friday Walk of Witness, Pentecost Praise, an Epiphany Service and Kington Festival Songs of Praise in the Place de Marines in the town centre.
There are Lent groups and a mission committee that lays on occasional events. Interestingly, whilst there might be only 50 in church on a Sunday, we distribute 500 copies of the monthly Parish Magazine, which also gently and sometimes obliquely shares the good news of the Gospel with our townsmen. Surely that describes the opportunities and needs of our parish?
We are lucky to have an active and widely supported Friends of St Mary's group that raises money for the care of our church. This brings church and town together in a shared love for both building and spiritual life.
The town has a strong tradition of charitable work. We may be remote but our sense of mission is strong: the church in Kington makes regular donations to causes outside the parish, such as our very successful Christmas shoebox scheme and the town’s Food Larder.