Parish Office Summer Closure

On 8 July our administrator Helen Inman departed, and while we’re recruiting her successor the office won’t be operating as normal.

  • Please direct any enquiries about a funeral to Carol Hutchings (, 01684 310920).
  • Enquiries about baptism or a wedding should be directed to the vicar.

We hope to have a new administrator in post by mid-August, and to have the office open for normal hours very soon after.



Barry Unwin


Birmingham Community Gospel Choir to play Upton Church!

On Sunday July 20th, as part of a special Blues Festival Service, The Birmingham Community Gospel Choir will be performing at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Upton.

Founded in 2005, the choir won the BBC Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year award in 2015, have appeared on the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Songs of Praise, The One Show and most recently in this year’s Britain’s Got Talent.

Bringing together singers of all ages and background from across the Birmingham area, and lead by experienced singer and song-writer Maxine Brooks, we can expect a fun and fabulous morning of joyous gospel music.

The event begins at 10:30am, but get there early to make sure you get a seat, and like all events at the Blues Festival, entry is completely free.

10:30am, Sunday July 20th, St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Upton.


Think you can help get us organised?

Administrator – Hope Church Family

14 hours per week, £10 per hour.

The Hope Church Family is a group of Church of England churches working to share the love of Jesus Christ in Upton upon Severn and its surrounding villages.

We’re a complex family of churches, and communications and good governance are vital. Your job is to help us maximise the impact of our team, buildings and resources by helping us with publicity, information flows, enquiries, as well as keeping us legal, safe and accountable;

Detail matters in this role – but you’ll have the wisdom to know which details really matter, to enable others to get on with their work.

Please do not send a CV, as we will only consider applications on our official application form.

Application deadline is Wednesday July 10th 2019. Interviews (probably) Tue 16th July 2019.

Click to download job description

Click to download application form

How to get better not bitter!

Vicar’s article from the Bridge Magazine, May 2019

How to get better, not bitter

I was catching up with some old friends at a conference recently, and they started talking about all the great things going in their churches: growing youth and children’s ministries, soup kitchens, Food Banks and so on. All good stuff. And yet for some reason, I struggled to be really happy for them. If truth be told, I was more than a little jealous. Later, as I reflected on the conversations, I found myself wondering, why is it that when you compare yourself with others, you always end up feeling bitter?

This isn’t a new phenomenon. Writing well over a century ago, long before Facebook and Instagram or other forms of social media, Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th US President, said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Which rather begs the question, why do we compare ourselves with others at all?

Now at one level comparison is helpful. The business world has long had a practice called Benchmarking: a process by which a company can compare itself with other similar companies to identify opportunities for improvement.  At its best, it’s a scientific, data-driven process that can be an incredibly helpful tool for growing an organisation. But done badly, without due consideration to the differing circumstances of the companies, and without access to all the data, it can be really harmful.

And it’s this lack of access to the data that makes comparing ourselves to others so damaging. After all, we might be experts on how we feel on the inside, but if all we have for comparison is how others look on the outside, we’re going to reach some dumb conclusions. As church leader Steve Furtick puts it, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel”

Jesus tells a story in Matthew 25 about a rich man who gives each of his servants some money and tells them to put it to work. Later, he assesses what they’ve done, and in a scene, not a million miles removed from Sir Alan Sugar in the Apprentice, one of the candidates is discovered to have done nothing at all with the money and is fired.

But where Jesus’ story differs from the Apprentice, is the liberating way in which the master treats the remaining candidates. Instead of ranking them to find a winner, he rewards each of them. It’s his way of saying that our task in life isn’t to sprint to the finish comparing ourselves with others to see who comes first, second or third. Instead, we’re to run our own race, in our own lane. The goal is not to win, but to make the best use of the gifts God has given us, by becoming the best version of ourselves we can possibly be. As someone once said, “No one in the entire world can do a better job of being you, than you.”

So next time you’re chatting with friends, or you’re jealously watching the highlight reel of their lives on Facebook or Instagram, remind yourself that God hasn’t called you to run their race. Instead, he wants you to focus on running your own. And when you do that, not only do you run your own race better, but it sets you free to enjoy the success of others. It makes you better, not bitter.

Can I be buried in one of your churchyards?

Can I be buried in the church graveyard?

Strictly speaking, this isn’t an objection people have to Christian faith so it shouldn’t be part of our Big Question series, but it is a question I’ve been asked an awful lot lately, so please indulge me as we explore the rules the Church of England has about its graveyards!

Planning your funeral ahead of time is a very sensible thing to do. It allows you to say things like “I want a church or crematorium funeral” and it makes life a lot easier for your grieving relatives. But what a lot of people don’t appreciate is that although you can specify all sorts of details about the funeral in your will, it is much harder to ensure you are buried in a particular churchyard.

What criteria govern where you have a right to be buried?

In an attempt to be absolutely fair to everyone, the Church of England has a very simple rule when it comes to deciding whether you can be buried in a particular church’s graveyard:

  • CRITERIA 1: Were you normally resident in the parish at the time of your death?

If this is the case, and there is space in the churchyard at the time of your death, you can be buried there.

This means that when it comes to allocating a grave plot, it doesn’t matter who you are, what you believe about God, who your family is (or was), what you earn, or what your gender, colour or sexuality is. All that matters is where you normally lived.

The Church of England also gives the right to be buried in a churchyard to two other categories of people:

  • CRITERIA 2: Anyone who was worshipping regularly and on the electoral roll of that church at the time of their death.
  • CRITERIA 3: Anyone who dies in the parish.

What if I don’t fit the criteria, but want to be buried in one of your churchyards?

Sadly, because we have a limited supply of churchyard space, it would not be fair to our local residents if we offered you a grave that was really meant for them. To give an example, suppose a person lives in Ledbury (and therefore has a right to be buried in Ledbury) wants to be buried in Hanley Swan churchyard because 50 years ago they lived in the village. Why should they be buried in Hanley Swan if it prevents a person who lives in Hanley Swan from being buried in Hanley Swan?

Notwithstanding this, if you don’t live in the parish, you could gain a right to be buried there by worshipping regularly with us (for at least six months), joining the electoral roll, and then applying to reserve a plot in the graveyard through the Church of England’s official reservation system. Please note there is a cost associated with this which covers legal fees and churchyard maintenance.

Reserving a plot in the graveyard is also an option if you currently live in the parish but know you are likely to move out of it in the foreseeable future, but would still like to establish a right to be buried there.

But someone from the church promised I could be buried there!

Unless it has been formally recorded on our graveyard plans, these promises are not binding.  The only way to properly reserve a plot in a churchyard is through the Church of England’s official system.

Do you have any leeway in this?

Not if we are to be fair, though there are some cases we’d look at sympathetically. For example, if your spouse is buried in the churchyard, or if you had met criteria 1 or 2 for most of your life, but moved out of the parish towards the end of your life.

What if I just want my ashes interred in a churchyard?

Ashes don’t take up as much space in a churchyard so this sort of request is much easier to accommodate.

Finally, which of your churches have open graveyards?

  • St Peter and St Paul’s, Upton, doesn’t have a graveyard though there is a memorial garden, and a civic cemetery elsewhere in the town.
  • The churchyard at St James, Welland, is closed for new burials, though again there is a civic cemetery in the town.
  • Our churches in Hanley Castle, Hanley Swan and Ripple are all open for new burials though the amount of space varies.
  • Earls Croome, Hill Croome and Strensham churchyards are also open for burials, though space is limited and it is possible the graveyards will fill up in the next 10-20 years.

 For all enquiries about churchyard policies, please contact the church office ( or 01684 591241.

First published in the Bridge Magazine May 2019

Why do they keep moving Easter?

Why do they keep moving Easter?

Every year I always enjoy reading fake April Fools stories in the newspapers. Here’s my favourite from last year, from a Devon newspaper, which claimed the Pope has postponed April Fools Day 2018 because of the clash with Easter Sunday. Quoting Papal spokesperson Pesce Daprile (that’s Italian for April Fool) they explained that instead there will be two April Fools Days in 2019: one on April 1st and the other on March 29th, when apparently the British government will be playing a massive practical joke on the country.

Unlike most April Fools Jokes, that’s not one we can endlessly reuse. In fact, April Fool’s Day and Easter Sunday won’t coincide again until 2029, and then 2040, by which time most of us will have forgotten the punchline, though the government probably still won’t have sorted Brexit out.

So why does Easter keep moving? Well unlike Christmas, which has a fixed date, Easter has always been calculated in relation to the Jewish Passover festival, which occurs on the first full moon following the vernal equinox (typically March 20th or 21st). And this means that the date of Easter comes down to a question of maths and a bit of church politics.

Let’s do the maths first. Easter moves because our calendar is based on the 365¼ days it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun. But the date of Easter is based on the 29½  days it takes for the Moon to cycle from new Moon to new Moon. If you divide 365¼ by 29½ you get 12.37 cycles of the moon a year. Which means that some years we get 12 new moons, but other years we get 13, and every year the date of the full moon shifts by 10-11 days.

Now let’s do the politics. Because they weren’t always sure when the Vernal Equinox was, the early church celebrated Easter on a number of different days. It wasn’t until the Council of Nicaea in 325AD, that a standard definition was agreed: Easter would be the first Sunday after the full moon following March 21st. Then, to avoid a clash with Passover, they also agreed that if the full moon fell on a Sunday, Easter would be delayed by a further week. Which is why Easter can happen any time between March 22nd and April 25th.

And with that settled, everyone was happy until 1582. This time the problem wasn’t politics, but maths, and the difference between the 365 days in the calendar and the 365¼ days it takes the earth to orbit the sun. Over time, those ¼ days add up, throwing the seasons out of alignment.

So Pope Gregory XIII proposed a new calendar containing an innovative idea: the leap year, and over time, virtually the whole world had adopted his “Gregorian Calendar”, except for the Orthodox Church. They still prefer the old Julian Calendar, which means that even to this day, Christians in Western and Eastern churches celebrate Easter on different dates.

At various times efforts have been made to reunite the dates. In 1997 the World Council of Churches proposed a new method of calculating Easter based on direct astronomical observation. The reform should have come in in 2001 but was not adopted.

Another failed reform was the UK Parliament’s Easter Act of 1928, which defined Easter as the first Sunday after the 2nd Saturday in April. The legislation passed through parliament, and remains on the statute book to this day, but has never been implemented because the government has always taken the view that to impose an Easter date on the church would be unreasonable.

Our current Archbishop has however indicated a willingness to allow change – as long as the Catholic and Orthodox churches agree to follow suit. Which could mean that one day soon, we’ll read a story in a newspaper, about a Pope postponing, not April Fools Day, but Easter Sunday!

This year Easter Sunday is 21st April, and there are events at all our churches in the week building up to the big day. You can find out what’s happening in your community by visiting However you celebrate Easter, I hope you have a very special time.

First published in the Bridge Magazine, April 2019

All you need is love…

Vicar’s article from the Bridge Magazine, March 2019


All you need is love

How did your Valentine’s Day go? Chances are your February 14th went a lot better than it did for the two men for whom the day is named.

Today’s consumer-driven Valentine’s Day festival traces its roots back to the 14th century English poet Chaucer, whose poem the Parliament of Foules pictured all the birds meeting to choose their mates on St Valentine’s Day. But the day’s origins are older than Chaucer. It was the 5th century Pope Gelasius I who made February 14th St Valentine’s Day. He wanted to help people forget a banned Roman pagan festival called Lupercalia which was traditionally celebrated in mid-February. During Lupercalia, youths raced naked through the streets of Rome, striking women with bloody strips of flesh taken from the remains of goats and dogs sacrificed on the Lupercal Altar. This practice was thought to increase women’s fertility.

Instead, Pope Gelasius introduced something altogether more wholesome: a day to honour two early Christian leaders, both called Valentine, who were martyred by Emperor Claudius II around 270AD.

One Valentine was a priest executed on February 14th for defying an imperial order. In those days only single men could serve in the army, and facing a shortage of recruits, the emperor decided that banning marriage would increase the number of potential soldiers. When Valentine was caught secretly marrying couples, he was arrested, and Claudius had him clubbed to death in the street. You won’t find that image on Valentine’s cards in Tesco.

The second Valentine was a Christian bishop from Terni. Arrested for preaching in the streets of Rome, he was placed in the custody of a judge called Asterius who decided to put Valentine’s God to the test. Bringing in his blind daughter, Asterius told Valentine he would convert to Christianity if God could heal the girl’s eyes. Valentine prayed and the daughter could see again, and three days later the judge and all his household were baptised. Asterius then released Valentine who returned to street preaching and was again arrested. From prison, Valentine wrote a letter to Asterius’s daughter signed, “From your Valentine”, so he’s the one to blame for all those pink cards!

Valentine was eventually brought before Emperor Claudius with whom he tried to engage in debate about Christianity. Claudius found the debate interesting but when it started going badly for him, he resolved things by executing Valentine. The date? February 14th. Another Happy Valentine’s Day.

So, two Valentines, one who risked his life to defy an emperor, the other a missionary and champion of free religious speech. And both were killed on February 14th, to give birth to our modern festival. Given a choice between “I love you” cards and striking ladies with strips of goat flesh, I think the Pope Gelasius got this one right!


The Kingdom of Easter

Published in the Bridge Magazine, April 2019


The Kingdom of Easter

So what’s Easter really all about? The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus? New beginnings? Flowers, chocolate and Easter bunnies?

To make sense of Easter you have to understand one thing: Jesus’ core message. So if you’ve just picked this magazine up at random, then read on – because if you grasp this, you’ll be well ahead of a lot of churchgoers!

The gospel of Mark sums up Jesus’ core message like this:

The time has come, the Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” (Mark 1:14).

Jesus’ core message is as simple as that.

So what does this “Kingdom of God” mean? Maybe it’s like a religious frequent flyers club where you build up point for being good and doing religious things and being on church fundraising committees. Now those are all good things, but they aren’t what Jesus meant.

Or maybe the Kingdom of God is about politics: a way for religious leaders to motivate the masses to fight for whatever bit of land needs defending? But that’s not what Jesus had in mind, either.

Instead, think about kingdom like this: remember the days when you used to sit in the back seat of your parents’ car and fight with your brother or sister about “my side” and “your side”? Well, your “kingdom” is the bit of the seat you rule over. And that’s what the Kingdom of God is like: it’s the realm over which God rules: a realm of eternal love, peace and justice.

Now when some people hear that, they imagine Jesus means Heaven, but again that’s not what Jesus meant. The Kingdom of God isn’t about us going from down here on earth, to up there in Heaven. Instead, when Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God his focus was on bringing up there down here. That’s why he taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your Kingdom Come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.” His point is not that we go up to Heaven, it’s that the Kingdom of Heaven is coming down to earth. And it all starts with Jesus. His body and life was the first place people could see God’s will being done on earth, as they would in Heaven.

That’s why he was such a threat to the rulers of his day. It wasn’t “love one another” that troubled them, it was all his talk about Kingdoms. That’s why they killed him. And that’s why God raised him from the dead: because in the Kingdom of God, there is no death. Only life in all its fullness, forever.

And that’s the point of Easter: a forever and a day promise of life in all its fullness, in the Kingdom of God; a Kingdom which is still near to us now.

And to receive it, we have to welcome it’s king, Jesus, by making him the centre of our lives. And when we do that –a little bit of “up there” comes and dwells in us, a deposit guaranteeing us all of God’s Kingdom promises for the future.

So that’s Easter: The Kingdom of God is near – repent and believe the good news.  And it’s as true and accessible today as it was on the first Easter Sunday.

May you have a very Happy Easter, and may a little bit of “up there” come “down here” to dwell with you this Easter time.

Visit to find out about Easter celebrations in the church in your community.


In a spirit of full disclosure, I might have pinched an idea or two for this article from a talk given by US Pastor John Ortberg on Easter Sunday 2015.

Palm Sunday 2019 – you’re invited

An invitation to lunch in Palm Sunday

This Sunday is Palm Sunday, the time we begin our Easter anticipation by remembering Jesus’s arrival in Jerusalem on a donkey,as the crowds joyously shouted hosanna, and waved palm fronds.

To help us celebrate in style all our churches are gathering together on Sunday morning in Upton for a special “benefice” service. We’ll start at 10:45am at the Pepperpot, followed by a march of witness through the centre of Upton to the parish church where we’ll have our Palm Sunday service at 11am (with a special drama supplied by the Open the Book Team). There’ll also be Sunday School for the children, communion, and then afterwards a “bring and share meal” in church.

By its very nature, a Bring and Share meal is a step of faith – we may all bring quiche – which is great if you like quiche! But rather than over-organise or tell you what to bring – let’s simply trust that the Lord will guide us as to what to make and bring and help us enjoy sharing it with one another! It would be lovely if visitors felt they could join us, so why not consider making sufficient food for yourself and another person?

To give us plenty of space to eat and mingle, we’re going to eat in Church rather than the Parish Rooms. The downside of this is that we won’t be able to reheat food, so please plan what you’re bringing in the light of that. There will however be hot drinks available.

If you are joining us at the Pepperpot but don’t want to carry food up the street, you can leave it on the tables we’ll provide in the parish church beforehand.

I hope to see you on Sunday, and if not, then perhaps at one of our Easter Services. If you want to know more about what’s going on in a church in your community over Easter, visit the Easter page on our website.

Rev’d Barry Unwin

What is confirmation?

What is confirmation?

So there I was, all set to write a Big Question article about Donald Tusk’s “small corner of Hell set aside for those who backed Brexit” comment when a friend suggested I should spare us all and follow up last month’s Big Question about Baptism with a Big Question about Confirmation instead. So here goes…

What is Confirmation?

The best way to think about Confirmation is as the sequel to Baptism! When a child is baptised promises are made on their behalf by their parents and godparents. They promise to follow Christ as their Lord and master and to set an example of faith to the child by their life and practice, part of which involves raising their child as a practising Christian as part of their local church. But there comes a time when a bouncing baby becomes a big strapping lad or lass, with their own mind, vision and values, and confirmation is the time when that big strapping lad or lass stands up and owns the promises of God for themselves.

Sometimes I’m asked, ‘When is the right age for a child to be confirmed?’ The Church of England’s rules don’t state a number, instead, they wisely speak in terms of a child reaching the “years of discretion”. We know that every child is different and that they mature at different rates, so what matters isn’t how many birthdays a child has seen, but what they understand about the Christian faith, and whether they are ready and willing to take ownership of their own faith journey.

To help them do this, prior to confirmation, candidates are supposed to be able to understand and say the Catechism (an interactive summary of Christian belief) which includes the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. In practice today, confirmation preparation tends not to be quite as rigorous as that. The group of young people I’m preparing for confirmation at the moment are using a video and discussion based resource called Youth Alpha for this, as well as having lots of fun playing games and eating sweets!

So what are the benefits of confirmation? Well, the two most significant ones are about identity and Holy Communion. Making a public declaration of what you believe is a significant step in working out who you are as a person. It’s the time you step out from your parent’s spiritual shadow and go public about your own faith journey. And part of this journey is to regularly receive Holy Communion. In fact, a Confirmation ceremony sometimes includes a Holy Communion service so that the newly confirmed can immediately receive their first communion immediately.

One final thought. We’re having a Confirmation Service with one of our Bishops in June 2019, so now is a great time to inquire about confirmation. If you have a child who you think is ready to be confirmed, or if you’re an adult and haven’t been confirmed but would like to be, then please get in touch with me.


First published in the Bridge Magazine, March 2019



Got a big question about God?