Annual Report 2023

Administrative Information

The Church of St. Thomas is situated in St. Thomas’ Circle, Werneth, Oldham OL8 1SF. The correspondence address is St. Paul’s Vicarage, 55 Belgrave Road, Oldham OL8 1LU.

The parish is in the Deanery of Oldham and Ashton, in the Diocese of Manchester.

The parish forms part of the United Benefice of Oldham and Werneth, and also forms part of a Mission Partnership with the parish of St. Paul, Oldham. It is part of a Mission Community with the above parishes, and those listed below.

The Parochial Church Council (PCC) is a charity excepted from registration with the Charity Commission.

The Parish Bank Account is with NatWest. The Insurers of the Parish are EIG.

The Parish

The parish contains a variety of property which includes owner occupier, rented, council houses, apartments and sheltered housing. There are terraced houses, a legacy of the cotton industry, and a mix of semi and detached houses. New homes have been built in the parish.

Deprivation

The population of the parish is 6,070.
It ranks 235th out of 12382 parishes for overall deprivation, where 1 is the most deprived parish.
It is among the 1.9% most deprived parishes in England.

It is significant that the ranking of the parish for pensioner poverty is strikingly high - 20th out of the 12382 parishes - i.e. among the 0.2% most deprived for Pensioner Poverty.

The parish is straddled by 4 "Lower Super Output Areas".

A "Lower Super Output Area" is the smallest geographical unit for which demographic data is produced:

LSOAarearank out of 32,844 LSOAs in England - 2019rank out of 32,844 LSOAs in England - 2015
 
Oldham 035EW. of Frederick St; E. of Manchester Road; and a couple of streets around Kensington Rd.5,73910,328
 
Oldham O35DThe area immediately around the church, bounded by Lee St, Werneth Park Road, Chamber Road, and Frederick St.2,8063,413
 
Oldham 035Garound Manchester St; W. of St. Thomas' Church1,2751,154
 
Oldham 024DNorth of: Lee Street, Werneth Hall Rd, and St. Thomas St. North.1,057528

We make the following observations:
These LSOAs are in the 3.3%, 3.9%, 8.6%, and 17.5% most deprived LSOAs in the country.
Those LSOAs to the North of the Parish (i.e. closer to Oldham Town Centre) are the more deprived, while those going down the hill towards the motorway are the least deprived.

Diversity

There is a disproportionate mix of religious and ethnic communities in the parish: British, Asian, Black African, and Eastern European. The parish is rated as having the highest ethnic diversity (i.e. highest proportion who are not White British) within the Diocese of Manchester at 88%. Many of these are South Asian. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that many people of African and Eastern European origin are moving into the parish. The proportion of South Asian residents is slowly reducing.

Schools

There are a number of schools in the Parish: St. Thomas, Werneth (CE) Primary School, St. Patrick's (RC) Primary School, Werneth Primary School, as well as Hulme Kindergarten.

PCC Object

The Parochial Church Council has the responsibility, according to law:

To cooperate with the minister in promoting in the parish the whole mission of the church, pastoral, evangelistic, social, and ecumenical.

PCC Structure & Governance

The method of appointment of PCC members is broadly as set out in the Church Representation Rules, with one exception: Church Wardens may be elected for an unlimited number of consecutive periods of office. The Hon. Assistant Priest is also an ex-officio member of the PCC.

Thus the PCC currently consists of 9 elected members, depending on numbers on the Electoral Roll. Thus 4 were elected in 2012 (when there were more numbers on the role); 3 each year. In addition, there are ex officio members: 2 Deanery Synod Representatives; 2 Church Wardens, the Vicar, and Curates.

All who attend Church are encouraged to register on the Electoral Roll and stand for election to the PCC.

PCC Membership

Vicar:Revd. Nick Andrewes
Curate:Revd. Zahra Shafiei (from July)
Curate:Revd. Darren Quinlan (from August)
Churchwardens:Dr. Graham Lees, vacant
Deanery Synod Representatives:vacant, vacant
PCC MEMBERS: (2 years to serve):Ms. Mercy Ekhoesuehi, Mrs. Janet Campbell, Mrs. Abigail Ogbesusi
PCC MEMBERS (1 years to serve):Ms. Ann Bachelor, Mr. Michael Albrow, Mr. Richard McEwan
PCC MEMBERS (0 years to serve):Mrs. Kathleen Lees, vacant, vacant
Safeguarding Officer:Mercy Ekhoesuehi
Independent Examiner:Mr. Keith Witter

October Church Attendance

YEAR20232022202120202019
Average Weekly Attendance - Adults242528-38
Average Weekly Attendance - Children9912-6
Usual Sunday Attendance - Adults172024-31
Usual Sunday Attendance - Children88--6

Due to difficulties in collecting data during the COVID-19 pandemic, no attendance data was collected for October 2019 across the Diocese.

These figures are the figures from our October Attendance Census, but rounded to the nearest whole number.

St. Thomas' Primary School generally has a Weekly act of worship in church, attended by about 500 children and about 25 adults.

Electoral Roll

Sadly, three people on the Electoral Roll have died this year: Margaret Taylor, Beryl and Gordon Lees.

The roll now stands at 52 Persons.

Michael Albrow

Vicar's Report

This has been a positive year.

Community use of the church building continues to increase. The list of activities we host in the church continues to grow. Heating the church to 16C means makes the church very attractive to activity-based groups like Martial Arts and Dance. It also allows the school to take advantage of the space when it is not being used. This steady, organic process continues to allow us to develop infrastructure (storage, organisational and cleaning regimes). At the time of writing, we host weekly School Services, Xanadu Dance Troupe (three times a week), English Classes, our Farsi/Dari discussion Group, Voting in Elections, Brethren in Christ Church, Impact Martial Arts, Baby Bonding, the school PTA, the HAF Holiday Club, and occasional social events. This has helped us move towards our vision of being a church on the Coppice that serves the whole community.

However, we know that we continue to scratch the surface: we continue to look for partners to run activities, and to develop our capacity to host one-off events. Our timetable is by no means full.

We have worked this year to address issues with the building - in particular the pointing and stonework. This will both make the building more weathertight, and also reduce drafts. This is important as underfloor heating functions best when the building is kept at a steady, relatively high, temperature, while being used frequently. This means that drafts can have a considerable financial impact, as well as making the building colder. We are also waiting for the contractor to draft proof the organ and porch. These are necessary steps before we can consider a ground-source or air-source heat pump in the medium term. This technology would be a perfect match for underfloor heating - and our extensive churchyard with no graves.

Time and energy continues to go into consolidating our Sunday Morning Worship - giving thought to the diversity and accessibility of the music that we sing. Thanks are particularly due to Godswill for helping with the "tech" on a Sunday morning! The use of a Raspberry Pi provides ease and consistency in supporting worship.

Our Congregation is generally young, committed, diverse, engaged and new. It is my (our) prayer that we become more numerous! It's been wonderful to see more and more congregation members taking part in different roles in parish live - and with greater and greater confidence.

It's been exciting to see congregation members taking on new roles in church. And of course, we look forward to Richard's ordination as Deacon and Zahra's as Priest, and our prayers are with Darren as he discerns God's will for his first post as Incumbent. I have invested time in supporting them as they get to grips with different aspects of ordained ministry. Their ministries are already blossoming and they are, in their own ways, a great blessing to us.

We've already been able to develop our offering to the Iranian and Afghan asylum seekers with Zahra's help: we continue to Zoom for our discussion group, so that those who have been moved elsewhere by the Home Office are able to participate; and we've redeveloped the Farsi/Dari Communion Service which is now a regular fixture on the first and third Sundays of the month. With the help of Daniel and Mei, Richard and Dawn, the English Conversation class continues to flourish, and has been focusing on supporting refugees and asylum seekers as well as local parents (through the school).

We have now gained the Bronze Eco Church award. But we must not stop there but push on to stretch ourselves in allowing this planet to flourish as much as in our power.

Finally, I would like to express my thanks and appreciation to you all for all that you do in the life of the church, and to express the joy and privilege of being Vicar here at St. Thomas'.

Revd. Nick Andrewes

Warden's Report

The drive towards a self-sufficient church has continued. Numbers for the Sunday service do fluctuate but on average adult numbers are in the twenties and children around half that number. However income from use of the church continues to grow which is to be welcomed.

Fortunately problems relating to the heating, mentioned last year, appear to have been resolved although the expansion and contraction of the floor is still occurring. Storage for ourselves and other user groups is still an issue. A longer term solution may be possible with a re-ordering of the porch area. The cleaning of the church, again mentioned last year, has been significantly improved by the appointment of a caretaker who comes in twice a week for an hour both times. His main duties are to clean all the floor areas, empty the bins and replenish items in the kitchen and toilets.

The “Faculty”, required to allow the repairs to stonework and repointing to go ahead, has been granted and tenders for the work obtained by the architects. A number of grant applications have also been submitted by Nick and although one grant has not been successful outcomes for other grants are awaited. This has been a long and time consuming process and regardless of the outcomes Nick’s perseverance should be applauded.

Throughout the year ongoing maintenance has continued with gutter replacement due to storm damage, gulley repairs to lead flashing made and cracked leaded windows in the porch area replaced together with new polycarbonate sheet window protection fitted. The latter has greatly improved the appearance of the porch.

The sit-on mower and the old petrol mower have been traded in for two Honda, self-propelled petrol mowers and a petrol strimmer. These, together with hard work from our younger men, have kept the grounds in good condition. Sadly a number of hawthorn trees around the perimeter have died. These will need to be felled and replaced. Contact with the organisation “City of Trees” has led to some proposals and costings but further consideration is required before we go ahead with replacements. I am pleased to report that the Church has now achieved Eco-Church bronze status.

Finally thanks to all our Church members who organise our Sunday School (it is a delight to see what the children make and to hear their explanations), provide food for our social occasions and help clean and repair our Church.

Graham Lees

PCC (Minute) Secretary's Report

As part of the Mission Community 3 we have identified our Mission Action Plan - To grow, nurture and serve and what elements we need to build on. St. Thomas and St. Pauls are working alongside churches in Coldhurst, Failsworth and Oldham town centre.

We appreciate the 2 hours weekly work of Maz ,our caretaker who also works for the school.

We have a faculty for re-pointing and repair to external stonework.

In the summer we bade a temporary farewell to Richard McEwan as he left to continue his training at 2 other churches.

In July ,we welcomed Revd. Zahra Shafiei and in August, Revd. Darren Quinlan to our church and P.C.C. meetings. Zahra's input and translations for our Iranian and Afghan friends is very welcome. Darren is assisting with services at both churches and hosting a Bereavement Café on the 3rd Saturday of every month.

We continue to experiment with different ways of singing the “Gloria”.

We have achieved Bronze Status as an Eco Church and are working towards our Silver.

A new Communion Service booklet has been produced for English and Farsi speakers.

We are delighted that the Zimbabwe “Brethren in Christ“ fellowship still use the church regularly on Sunday afternoons. Oldham Camera Club no longer use the church but Xanadu dance group have extended their hours and a new Baby Bonding group has started. Daniel and Mei Whetham continue to use the church for Thursday English classes. Julie Stones ran a Holiday Club during the summer break.

As ever, we are moving forward, with God`s help.

Kathy Lees (March 2024)

PCC Treasurer's Report, including Gift Aid

Receipts

Our Direct giving in 2023 was down by £2,288 compared to 2022. Tax recovered from Gift Aid was up by £702 compared to 2022.

Room hire is £6,278 higher than 2022, without this we would not be able to pay all our bills.

Payments

Parish share for 2023 was £8,989 which we paid in full.

Running expenses electricity, gas, water rates and insurance were up on 2022, this will be due to church being used more and I had managed to negotiate new three year contracts for gas & electric before the large increases otherwise it would have been higher still.

Overall, we do finish with a surplus of £1,305. £3,005 has been donated for the re-pointing and we have committed to use another £5,000 of ours reserves.

Ordinary Parish Expenditure was quite a bit up on 2022. We now also have a cleaner, however now the building is used more often it is necessary.

I would like to thank everyone who has set up standing orders to donate on a regular basis to church and also encourage anyone else if they would wish to use the envelope scheme that I have plenty of spare envelopes.

Gift Aid

We have 16 regular Gift Aid donors and we can also reclaim gift aid from loose collections and anyone who uses the envelopes but does not pay tax themselves.

In 2023 we recovered £4,796 in tax, this really does help our finances.

Janet Campbell

Eco Church Report

This year, St. Thomas' has gained the Bronze Eco Church award. This is a certification scheme that encourages us to take small practical steps in our care for God's earth, and towards reducing our carbon footprint. An example of this was the Sunday School producing a large joint Christmas card for congregation members to sign and reduce the paper used in giving cards to one another.

Four of the different areas are now Bronze, and we are working towards silver:

Worship and teaching:GOLD
Buildings:BRONZE
Land:BRONZE
Community:BRONZE
Lifestyle:BRONZE

The PCC has committed to reducing the Parish's carbon footprint year on year by 10% - using the 2022 figure, below, as a baseline.

We have completed the Energy Footprint Tool this year:

Energy Footprint Tool Result

Our carbon footprint is up this year due to increased community use of the building.

At the time of writing, the snowdrops and crocuses in the Church Grounds are again looking lovely.

The PCC will consider our next steps over the coming year. For the sake of our Common Home, we need to continue to strive to reduce our negative impact on the planet.

Gina Andrewes

Sunday School

We have a wonderful group of Sunday School youngsters from 2 to 13 years old. The average attendance is about 8 children but our maximum number has been 14 children.

An activity box is available for the toddlers and when there is no Sunday School i.e. 3rd and 4th Sunday of each month, the youngsters have drawn or written about an aspect of the sermon whilst remaining in church.

Outdoors, we have celebrated evidence of God's creation, in looking at how many different shades of green we can see and looking at tree shapes. Remembering that Christ is our cornerstone, we have looked at the exterior of the church and noticed differences in the stonework, the beauty of the porches, and height of the spire.

Gina worked with the children in making clay models and in producing a huge Christmas card which members of the congregation were encouraged to sign so that we didn`t necessarily feel the need to send cards to each other and could give equivalent monies to charity.

At the Christingle service, there was inspirational signing and movement from the children to the song “Hallelujah” which Toni led and taught.

Leading up to Easter, the youngsters have looked at depictions of the Stations of the Cross and selected 2 stations to focus on in their sketch books. Remembering that Christ urged us to “take up our cross and follow Him” we have discussed what this means and, making a bamboo cross, have bound it with wool to make our own "remembering" cross. In the next few weeks we will decorate eggs , using a variety of natural dyes and then celebrate on Easter Sunday with an Easter egg hunt in the grounds.

Kathy and Gina are grateful for our willing and skilled helpers and for the joy which our children bring to the fellowship.

Kathy Lees

Safeguarding

I am pleased to inform you that, over the course of this year, we have had no safeguarding incidents reported in our parish. This report summarises the safeguarding activities and measures implemented to maintain this record and to ensure the safety and well-being of all individuals in our parish.

We have continued to emphasise the importance of safeguarding through the House of Bishops training programmes and awareness campaigns, urging clergy, staff, and volunteers to keep training up-to-date in safeguarding procedures, recognising signs of abuse and reporting protocols. Also, background checks, individual character references checks being observed in the recruitment process. Furthermore, we conduct regular reviews of our safeguarding policies, procedures, and church checklists embedded in the Diocese and Safer Church Policy.

In addition, our parish remain committed to providing support for any victims or survivors of abuse within the parish. Appropriate resources and channels for reporting incidents are clearly communicated, and we also encouraged open communication among all members of our community to foster a culture of transparency, where concerns can be shared and addressed without fear of reprisal. Furthermore, we conduct regular reviews of our safeguarding policies, and procedures.

Finally, we are dedicated to maintaining our commitment to safeguarding in our Parish, to ensure that everyone who enters our Parish doors can do so with confidence and trust in our safe and supportive environment. We express our gratitude for the support, guidance, and resources provided by the diocese in our safeguarding efforts.

Mercy Ekhoesuehi

Deanery Synod

The Deanery Synod is a meeting of representatives from individual parishes in Oldham and Ashton Deanery. It is, among other things, a means by which local churches can raise concerns that may need consideration by the Diocese. It is also a means by which they may discuss, and vote on, issues of concern to the diocese and national Church.

Both clergy and lay people from each parish attend. Meetings have taken place on Zoom, but will shortly be "in person" again. Thanks to our reps for this year.

We have continued to work within our Mission Community to develop a Mission Action Plan, and to move forward in specific ways that are mutually agreed, and, we hope, mutually beneficial. This hopefully supports and resources the distinctiveness of each parish. In fact, the overlap between our Parish and Mission Community Mission Action Plans is such that we can gain a clarity of vision and focus for the future.

Revd. Nick Andrewes

Pastoral Care

Care Home visits take place, with Nick, Zahra and Darren, at different Nursing Homes offering a Service of Holy Communion across both the parish of St Paul and the parish of St Thomas, and also cover at nursing homes in the Parishes of St. John, Hey, and St. Mark, Glodwick, where St. Paul's congregation members live:

  • The Coppice
  • Park Hills
  • Tree Tops
  • Chamber Mount
  • Park House
  • Oakdene Care Home

Likewise, Holy Communion at home is available, to those unable to attend a service in church due to infirmity.

Thanks to Norah and Darren for her support with funerals and after care; and to all who maintain regular contact with those who can no longer come to church.

Megan Locklin

Mission Report

Children’s Society

We have supported the Children’s Society with home collecting boxes and a retiring collection at the Christingle and Carol service. Thank you for your donations, prayer and support.

English Conversation Classes

English conversation, and written English classes have been held on Thursday’s in school term time led by our Interserve mission partners Daniel and Mei Whetham. A highlight of the year was the Presentation of Certificates to the learners at the end of summer, many of our learners returned to classes in the autumn.

Harvest Gifts

Harvest gifts have been given to Lifeshare, supporting vulnerable people across Greater Manchester.

Kimbilio

We are supporting the Kimbilio project working with street children in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Michael Albrow