Messy Church

When the Russian armed forces crossed the border into Ukraine, as well as the cries of outrage and disbelief that were given voice in prayer and on social media, there were conversations of compassion and murmurs of mercy. In Stapleford, efforts were quickly coordinated to get emergency supplies to the suffering people and to help evacuate those who wished to flee and who already had family in the UK. A local builder and his Polish colleague took three vans of goods collected by the communities of the Beane Valley Benefice and brought back to safety 40 refugees.

Here are some photographs of the churches in action…

Well done to all concerned!

If you are keen to help, there is more information on the Diocesan website about how you and your parish might get involved; click here.

In other news…

The Annual Report from Synod for 2021 and other useful information for circulation and discussion at APCMs is now available (here). Synod members, please attend your parish meetings prepared to give a positive account of how the Deanery can support mission and ministry in the parish. And do encourage volunteers to step forwards to serve on our project teams!

Draft minutes of Synod and committee meetings are also now available for Synod members (log in to access these). It was good to be meet our new Diocesan Secretary and to hear something of both his vision for his work and his passion for the gospel. It was also most helpful to hear a clear and comprehensive report from our Deanery’s new link with General Synod. There is much to do as we pray, “Let your Kingdom come” and it is encouraging to hear that the national church is engaging with important matters.

I pray you have a profound experience of the grace of God this Holy Week and Eastertime.

Revd Mark Dunstan

Spring Encouragements

At our last Synod meeting, I proposed that there should be greater collaboration and communication between the parishes of our deanery, and indicated that one way of achieving this would be better use of this blog post.  Time has passed since then, but with the signs of new life all around us, it seems a good time for this particular ministry to start sprouting…

I thought we could start with a little sharing of good news stories – how the churches in our deanery are Living God’s Love in different ways, engaging with their communities, using and supporting their buildings and generally being salt and light in the world.  What follows is not an exhaustive list by any means, but I trust it shows some of the variety of life which is present across the deanery.

The Beane Valley Benefice is celebrating with Watton at Stone Church which is now open for visitors daily having been closed for years.  The churches are also supporting a collection organised by a local builder for victims of the war in Ukraine.  In related news, Revd Sally from Hertford Heath will be leading prayers for Ukraine at a gathering in Parliament Square, Hertford on Wednesday this week.

Holy Trinity Bengeo hosted one of the services for the World Day of Prayer last Friday, with this year’s prayer focus being for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Christ Church Ware recently held an “Away Day” with studies in the Book of Ruth, and St Mary’s Ware, following our own deanery’s presentation on the need to be kind to the environment have just completed an initial eco-audit with material provided by Christian conservation charity, A Rocha.

Great Amwell, St Margarets and Stanstead Abbotts have just launched a new magazine across the three villages in collaboration with the Parish Councils, St Andrews Hertford are hosting Fairport Convention in May as one of their “Big Gigs”, and in my benefice, we’ve just started a new Christianity Explored discussion series for those who are either curious about the Christian faith or considering confirmation.

There are plenty of other things going on in the deanery – far too many to write here, but these are written that you may see something of the life and variety in our churches.  Could you write a brief report of something your church is doing so that others can be encouraged?  Please get in touch…

Finally, the Synod Papers for our next meeting are now available on the website for members (simply log in to access them).  I look forward to seeing some of you there!

May God bless you all,

Revd Mark Dunstan

Starting Up Again

It is an honour for me to be able to write to you as your new Rural Dean (elect). I succeed The Revd Canon Jo Loveridge, with whom I have worked closely over the last six years as her assistant. I am sure you will all wish to join me in thanking Jo for every blessing she brought to the deanery during her time as Rural Dean.

As well as inviting me to my new post, the Bishop has asked The Revd Ysmena Pentelow to replace me as Assistant Rural Dean and I am delighted that she has agreed. We will be formally licensed (or otherwise “deanified”) as soon as we can find a suitable date in the Archdeacon’s diary. Please pray for us both.

As I write, the fourth step on the Government’s Roadmap – to lift all restrictions on June 21st – is looking slightly uncertain. The new Indian variant of the coronavirus is causing concern; cases are rising and the R-rate is above 1 across England as a whole. Despite this, the situation is so much better than it has been, and a return to something more like normal is certainly less of a pipe dream now. Churches, like other institutions, charities and businesses are having to think hard about the kinds of services they provide. Now is definitely the time for us to pay close attention to our communities and to pray for wisdom that we might discern their true needs so we can be a blessing to them, demonstrating God’s love in word and deed. It is likely that we will need to start some old things up again, but it may also be the time to leave some things behind (whether activities we started in lockdown, like online church, or things we’ve “always” done). I will be praying for you as you take those decisions in your parishes.

Two people who will need God’s special wisdom and presence over the coming months are The Revd Wendy Sellers and The Revd David Sheppard who have completed their curacies and are moving to pastures new. Wendy is to be vicar of Sandridge (near St Albans), and David is taking a post in Ely Diocese (Buckden with the Offords). Do pray for them as they step into the next phase of their ministries, and for the parishes which will miss them as they leave.

Finally, the suggestion was made at the last Synod meeting earlier this month that we might meet next as a Synod in July, but I believe we would be better served by waiting a little so the Standing Committee can meet face to face to draft a proper agenda for a new start in the autumn. The date for the next meeting will therefore be September 23rd. Please put it in your diaries (it is on the calendar on this site). This meeting will include the elections for the Standing Committee and the post of Lay Chair. Notes about the roles and expectations of elected representatives will be circulated to members in good time so everyone may consider carefully whether they would like to stand for election.

In a time of change, let us rejoice in the truth that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, and let us strive, in the power of the Spirit, to proclaim the unchanging gospel afresh in our generation.

May God bless you all,

Revd Mark Dunstan

If you are a Synod member but didn’t receive this blogpost in your email box on 31st May 2021, it means you haven’t registered as a user of this site. Please do so to keep up to date with the life of the deanery and to gain access to “members only” content. Just click the button below…

A Changing Church

Two brief notices to keep you all up to speed with fast changing events:

  1. In light of the ongoing spread of the coronavirus, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have today (17th March 2020) issued a statement which you can read in full here. Fundamentally, it calls for two things: firstly, a suspension of public worship, which for many of us has perhaps been the mainstay of our lives as Christians; and secondly, for a creative response – that worship may continue, that we may not stop growing in our faith, and that others might come to know the love of God. Please do pray for all the leaders in our churches in the Deanery as we all journey together into unknown territory, and partner with them in bringing Christ Jesus to the people of East Hertfordshire.
  2. The Parishes of St John the Baptist Great Amwell with St Mary St Margarets and St Andrew Stanstead Abbots are delighted to announce that the Revd Dr Sarah Forrest will be joining us all in our mission to Live God’s Love in our Deanery as the new Priest-in-Charge in their Benefice. Please pray for Sarah, her family and the three churches as they all prepare for a new chapter of ministry.

The Baptist and the Martyr

Reflection, Business & Upcoming events…


What do you do when the nearest weekend to your Patronal Festival is also the nearest weekend to the annual Diocesan celebrations – when all across the Diocese, people are talking about St Alban (feast day 22nd June) and you feel the responsibility of doing something special for your church, marking the feast of St John the Baptist (24th June)?

It’s tricky. If your corporate energies are limited so you are unable to do both, do you plump for undertaking something local because you see your mission as primarily to the people God has chosen to give you as neighbours and friends, or do you take advantage of the rare opportunity to rejoice with brothers and sisters in the fellowship that comes by virtue of being part of a far bigger church?

Whether your church is dedicated to the Baptist or not, we all have choices to make as to how much we work our own patch and how much we come together with other workers for mutual encouragement in our common task. My guess would be that we’re all more conditioned to the former, and that under the pressure of trying to keep everything going in our own churches, the latter may well feel like a luxury we can ill afford.

Our Deanery Mission Action Plan has been written with the local mission of each parish at its heart – we want our churches to be flourishing Christ-centred communities, not floundering centrally-controlled meetings. Fundamentally, it is a plan through which the resources of the wider church can be harnessed to facilitate mission in our geographical parishes and other relational networks. It’s about churches being informed about the plans their neighbouring churches have drawn up and being prepared to help one another so that Jesus’ mission goes forward everywhere.

So Baptist or Martyr? Clearly both … We obviously have to engage with things that connect with the people in our community, but we would also do well to nurture relationships with our wider family, which is both a source of comfort and support to us and a rich context into which we can minister by offering our experience, gifts and talents.


The draft minutes from our last Synod meeting have been circulated and are also posted in the members area of the site. The most recent meeting of the Standing/Pastoral Committee had to be cancelled, but the key agenda issues are still being addressed.

I would ask you to take note of the Diocesan Parish Share reports (related to our MAP Goal 1.1) – these indicate that a number of parishes are behind with their Share payments. Please encourage your PCCs to pay in full and on time and to ask for help early if this is not possible.

Upcoming Events

The Synod social for all who have booked tickets is this Wednesday, 10th July. Information has been circulated to all attendees. The clergy Chapter is meeting on 25th July to consider our Deanery’s response to the rising problem of homelessness.

Members might also be interested to know that there are some more dates on the calendar – notably a training session on using Social Media and other Digital Communication technology (Get Your Church Social-Media-Savvy, 18th July) and, if you’re a lover of popular music and fancy an evening’s entertainment, a concert in Wareside, put on by the Assistant Rural Dean and his band (#vicargig 21st July).

Do share your events and let us know if there are ways the Deanery can help your parish, whether through training or other support…

Easter Update

Changes in the Team

We are pleased to announce that the Reverend Theresa Musiwacho, Assistant Curate at St John the Baptist, Royston and Curate on loan to the Benefice of St Mary’s Therfield with St Faith’s Kelshall, has been appointed as Rector of the Hartford Hundred West Group of Parishes.  Theresa will join us on 5th September, and details of her institution and induction service are on the calendar, here.  Meanwhile please remember Theresa and her family in your prayers as they prepare to move.

As Theresa prepares to join us, so Reverend Caroline Keightley is getting ready to leave us for pastures new. Caz comes to the end of her curacy at Christ Church, Ware, this summer and has been appointed to the post of vicar at St Mark’s, Colney Heath, from 11th September. Please pray for her and her husband, and for the congregations at Christ Church and St Mark’s as they prepare for the changes.

MAP Update on Parish Share

The latest figures from the Diocesan Office have now been published and it is good to know that some of the arrears at the end of 2018 have been made up. Well done to those who have paid. Our Goal in relation to Parish Share is outlined in full here.

Street Pastors

Don’t forget to publicise and pray for the work of the Street Pastors – Deanery Synod members should have received a detailed briefing before Easter.

Other News

Following your annual meetings, please encourage your new PCCs to engage with the Deanery and particularly our future programme…

Our next Deanery Synod meeting is on 14th May from 7:30pm. Details are on the calendar. We look forward to considering how best to work with and on behalf of the elderly in our midst. Everyone is welcome – not just Synod Members. The full agenda is on the Synod Papers page.

Please pray for the church community in Hertford Heath as they continue to search for a new Vicar.

May God bless you all as you celebrate these days of Easter!

Almost Lent

No one who attended the most recent Deanery Synod meeting with Andy Lester from A Rocha UK could have left the presentation without some new knowledge or a sense of challenge. We must surely ask ourselves: how can we as individuals or churches act responsibly as stewards of God’s creation?

One timely suggestion has been made. Why not investigate the Living Lent website and take up one of the suggestions there…?

Living Lent is about recognising that changing our climate is not just an activity, but a lifestyle.

That’s why this Lent, you are invited to become part of a community who will respond to the call to climate action by making significant personal commitments to changing our lifestyles for the climate.

from the Living Lent website

Are your churches doing anything special during Lent? Why not share it with others from the Deanery by using our Share Your Event Link?

Vacant benefices

Please pray for the interviews taking place on Thursday 28th February for a new minister for the Hartford Hundred Benefice, and that the advert for the post of Team Vicar for Little Amwell (Hertford Heath) would attract a good field of candidates.

Standing/pastoral committee

Since Revds Pauline Higham and Nick Sharp have moved away from the Deanery, we are two clergy representatives down on this committee. Please prayerfully consider whether you (if you’re clergy) or your priest (if you’re not) could share in this work to support the mission of God in the Deanery.

next synod meeting

14th May, venue yet to be finalised… We will be considering aspects of ministry to and with the elderly. Do put the date in your diaries and ensure that people from your churches are invited to this important meeting.

Early Autumn Update

However long ago it is that we left school, the beginning of September always feels like the start of a new year.  People are back from their holidays and everything is getting back to normal.  In church life, it’s often the start of a busy season which includes Harvest, Remembrance, Advent and Christmas.  Some churches have found the “Back to Church Sunday” initiative helpful, and, though the website is a little out of date, there are some related resources at to help churches think about how they might encourage new people to join them and then maintain contact with invited guests.

Some churches find that the long autumn term is a good time to run an enquirer’s course of some kind – the most well known one is Alpha, but there are several.  Life Explored is a fairly new one, featuring a series of high quality short films (telling compelling stories) which help people think about how to find lasting happiness.  There are others, too.  Is your church running something like this?  Maybe you have a home-grown programme?  Do you have experience to share about what has been valued by participants in the past?  It’s always good to share good practice!

Alongside these events, there are usually a wide variety of other things taking place in the churches for different purposes, e.g. churches in our Deanery are involved with a Beer Festival (St Andrew’s, Hertford, on 8th Sept), “Escape” Family Festival in Ware on 15th Sept, a concert at Wareside Church by James Pearson (from Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club) on 22nd September and the Walden Bible Focus conference on 29th Sept.  Please advertise them in your churches, and if your churches have events that might be of interest to others in our Deanery, do share them on our site.

This year, it could be said that our Remembrance commemorations have a special significance, in that Remembrance Sunday falls on the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice.  Is your church doing anything different this year, and if so, what?  Can we learn from each other to serve our communities more effectively with the good news of the peace we have in Christ Jesus?  Check out for some ideas and information…

Finally, do spare a thought for Revd Nick Sharp as he leaves his post at Little Amwell (Hertford Heath) on Sunday and for the church family of Holy Trinity as they enter a new phase of their community life and the search for a new parish priest.

Summer Update

We’re delighted that Revd Amanda Duncan is going to be joining the Deanery team, serving the Lord with the people of High Cross and Thundridge.  She comes to us from St John’s Hatfield – part of the Bishop Hatfield Team ministry.   Do pray for that team and its people as they face the changes her departure will bring.  And watch this space for details of Amanda’s licensing service…

A number of new events have been added to the Deanery calendar, including:

  • the family-friendly festival “Escape” in Ware on 15th September.  Check out more information here.
  • a half-day conference in the style of the Keswick Convention with worship and Bible teaching on 29th September.  (Details here.)
  • our next Deanery Synod meeting on 22nd October, which will be looking at how we might improve the quality of our worship.  Like other recent presentations, this is open to more than just Deanery Synod members.  Do invite people in your congregations who might be interested…

Do share your events which might be of benefit to others across the Deanery as we try to work together towards our common vision.

Have a great summer, and as you (perhaps) take the opportunity to rest from the usual routines and pressures of life, don’t forget the exhortation in Hebrews 4:11 – “Strive to enter [God’s] rest!”  Guard your own hearts against the deceitfulness of sin, and encourage one another each day to be faithful (Hebrews 3:12-13).

Communication is God’s Business

Our forefathers made it theirs, too.

And so it should be ours.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews summarises God’s efforts absolutely beautifully:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…

In his determination to make himself known to us, not only did he speak to the prophets … he came amongst us – truly speaking our “language” by sharing our humanity.

The Reformers campaigned and even died to bring the message of the Bible into the common tongue of the people, and Christians have often taught people to read so that they might meet Christ Jesus as he “walks off the pages of Scripture.”

So what are we doing to bring Jesus to our generation?

God was prepared to humble himself and become both a newborn baby and a dying man.  The Reformers were willing to die to put an English Bible in the hands of the common man.  What boundaries are we going to cross to ensure that our friends, families and neighbours get to hear about Jesus?

In our tech-savvy world, we need the gospel on social media.  We also need it in hard-copy print in our parish magazines; on our lips as we converse with our friends and colleagues; and in all our actions day by day.

Communication is God’s business.  And it should be ours.  Let’s keep God’s message alive and fresh and pass it on in any way we can.