Dear friends,

What a wonderful Holy Week we have enjoyed this year: glory to God in His risen Son, our Saviour – and thank you to everyone who has supported and helped. Our church remains looking beautiful in her Easter finery – and we look forward to welcoming you once again to Mass this coming weekend (Saturday Vigil Mass, 6pm; Sunday Parish Mass, 10.30am).

At the principal liturgies of Holy Week we saw a dramatic and welcome increase in attendance on the previous year: the congregation on Maundy Thursday was more than a third larger than last year; the 80 people present on Good Friday represented a figure more than 50% higher than in 2023 – and there was an astonishing doubling in attendance at the Easter Vigil (78 people), meaning that – although on Easter Day we were slightly fewer than in 2023 – yet our overall Easter Mass numbers (188) were 10% higher than in the year previous, and we saw the second-highest turnout at Easter in ten years (a trend also in line with the year-on-year increase over the past couple of years at Christmas). May this impressive achievement be a springboard for sustained congregational growth in future.

Please return your Lent Appeal jars as soon as possible, to be counted. This month’s external fundraising will be in support of the Friends of the Holy Land: as we have just remembered the events of Holy Week, let us not forget the Christian communities who continue to bear faithful witness in the land of Christ’s birth, death and ministry, particularly in the context of the current conflict in the Holy Land. Your generous donations will help families with their most basic needs, as well as children with trauma counselling: donations also fund nursing scholarships, clean water and sanitation, vocational training and small business support.

A new financial year begins this week, and with it for many of us a small increase in our own incoming financial resources (including an 8.5% increase in the state pension) – albeit in the context of a continuing cost-of-living crisis. Our parish is not immune to rising costs – and I therefore invite you prayerfully to consider whether you might be able to increase your regular gift to St Mary’s by at least 5%. An increase in our voluntary giving of 5% on last year’s income would generate more than £2,700 for the parish. (The (2022) national Parish Finance Statistics show that the average weekly gift was £16.20 (or £70pcm).) We are called to model our Christian life after the example of the apostles who, so our first reading this coming Sunday tells us, ‘[were] united, heart and soul; no one claimed for his own anything that he had, as everything they owned was held in common.’

If you have been a regular worshipper at St Mary’s for the past six months, but have not yet joined the church’s Electoral Roll, please download and return the attached enrolment form – or pick up and complete a paper copy in church. You do not need to fill in a new form this year if you have previously registered. Those of our young people who have recently turned 16 can also be entered on the roll.

Included with this message are posters for the forthcoming Open Day at St Luke’s Hospice, and our own joint May Devotion (with All Saints’ RC Church) on 18 May. The intercessions list in church is being revised: please (re-)add the names of those you wish to be remembered in prayer. Please see me if you can take a couple of bags of the church’s green waste to the dump.

May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds,

Fr Richard