September 2019 News

From the Vicar

New Beginnings  

I always have mixed feelings about September.  When my children were smaller the end of the summer holidays and the start of the new school year felt like the most concrete proof that they were growing up and their childhood was slipping away.  But the start of the new academic year is also always exciting with lots of new things to learn and potential to discover.  So it feels like a great time to launch a new initiative in the life of St Andrew’s.

Our new monthly online news is designed to give you a bit more of an insight into what goes on at St Andrew’s and how you might like to get involved.  Each month there’ll be a mixture of contributors writing articles on a variety of topics, so I hope you’ll find something to interest you.  We’re looking forward to hearing your feedback and if there are subjects connected to St Andrew’s, the Christian faith or North Swindon you’d like us to include please let us know by a week before the end of the previous month.

‘New Beginnings’ could be a strap line for the Christian faith, which may seem odd coming from the vicar of a 700-year-old church, but new starts are very much at the centre of our Gospel message.  We believe, to quote the words of St Paul in the New Testament, 'If anyone belongs to Christ, then he is made new. The old things have gone; everything is made new!'  We begin a new life when we first believe in Jesus and every time we forgive someone, or know we’ve been forgiven there’s a new start for our relationship with that person.  The Old Testament reminds us that 'The Lord’s love never ends.  His mercies never stop.  They are new every morning.'

So as the evenings draw in and the new school year begins, why not turn over a new leaf and begin each day thanking God for today’s new mercies?

Sally (see below for contact details)

Uganda Link Celebrations 

This year is the 50th anniversary of the link between the Church of Uganda and the Diocese of Bristol and you are invited to take part in the celebrations taking place in Swindon and Bristol.

In the 50 years since Bishop Erica Sabiti of Uganda and Bishop Oliver Tomkins of Bristol committed to a partnership of fellowship in the Gospel many things have changed in the world and in our dioceses.  It is now usual for dioceses within the Anglican Church to be linked with dioceses in other parts of the world.  Also, the church in Uganda has expanded so much that one diocese has become 35 dioceses within the province of Uganda, headed by Archbishop Stanley Ntagali. Some of the dioceses are linked with Winchester Diocese and the rest are linked with us in Bristol Diocese, each Deanery partnering with 2 or 3 dioceses. 

In Swindon, we are linked with Kampala Diocese, which covers much of the capital city, and with Luweero, a mainly rural diocese centred on a small town 50 miles north of Kampala. 

Celebrations for the Golden Jubilee of the link and preparations for stronger links in the years to come will be taking place throughout Bristol Diocese in October 2019 with 30 guests from Uganda joining us.  Events will focus around a visit from the Anglican Youth Fellowship (AYF) Choir, a group of immensely gifted musicians and singers who have the ability to communicate clearly across cultures. They will share their deep experience of faith and worship which is rooted in their African heritage and the realities of life in a developing country which has emerged from extensive civil unrest. 

In Swindon you can hear the choir on Saturday 5th October at 2 events:

  • 10am -12noon – Window on Uganda – A Ugandan Experience at St Francis School, Taw Hill – music from Uganda and England with refreshments and Ugandan games.  Free entry, just come along.   
  • 7pm – Concert by AYF Choir at St Michael’s Church Highworth.  Tickets £5 from local churches or £5.98 from Eventbrite.  Children free. 

A special event will take place at St Michael's Church, Stoke Gifford, Bristol on Saturday 12 October at 7pm:

  • An evening of celebration, song, stories and prayer, including the choir, visiting Bishops and their wives, along with other guests from Uganda,  as well as the Bishops of Bristol and Swindon.  This event is free, but you need to register in advance as tickets are limited.

There will be other opportunities to meet our visitors from Kampala and Luweero Diocese between 5th and 13th October, please check the Swindon Deanary Uganda Link Facebook page for more details.


The Walls came tumbling down

We’re kicking off our project to restore the churchyard wall with a sermon series learning from wall building in the Bible (?!).

If you’re familiar with the old Spiritual song ‘Joshua fought the battle of Jericho’ you may have the words ‘The walls came tumbling down’ echoing in your ears every time you come to St Andrew’s as the wall between the churchyard and car park definitely needs some tender loving care. We made sure the unstable gate post was safe earlier in the year, but we are now planning the project to restore the whole wall alongside the car park.  Walls are not very sexy (well they don’t seem to appeal to grant makers very often anyway), but ours is not only part of the iconic view of St Andrew’s which you see when you come down the drive, it is also essential for keeping all the earth in the churchyard, which is at a much higher level than the car park.  Look out for details of how you can help with restoring this historic wall to its former glory in future issues, but to begin with we’ll be getting inspiration about building walls from the Bible.

Walls did not just feature heavily in the Old Testament story of Joshua.  More appropriate to our rebuilding project is the book of Nehemiah which tells how Nehemiah leads the people of Israel of rebuild the walls around Jerusalem against all the odds and heavy opposition.  The story begins in the corridors of power in the heart of the Persian Empire in 445 BC when Nehemiah hears of the woeful state of Jerusalem’s walls and asks God to help him solve the problem.  Within 7 months Nehemiah has prayed, gathered a team, faced opposition, tackled injustice and celebrated rebuilding the walls.  It’s quite a fast paced little book tucked away in the Old Testament.

We’ll be taking inspiration from Nehemiah as we being our wall rebuilding project during our services in September.   Come along at 10am on 8th, 15th 22nd and 29th September or at 6.30pm on 15th September and 6th October to hear the story in more detail and discover how wisdom from 2,500 years ago can shape our lives today.

National Prayer Weekend (NPW) - 28th September 2019   

One of the most important functions of a church, both the building and the congregation, is to be a House of Prayer.  By taking part in the National Prayer Weekendwe have the opportunity to pray for our community and invite others to come and pray, or just be, in our beautiful building, to experience God’s presence there.  It is a gift we can offer our community on this and, I hope, many other occasions in the future. 

On this occasion there are 2 things we would like you to do to engage in this exciting opportunity:

1) Take some prayer request cards and invitations home and give them to your family, friends and neighbours, asking that the requests are returned to you and then to church by Sunday 14th September.  The cards are self-explanatory, but please explain that requests can be in complete confidence if that is preferred.
2) Sign up for a slot between 7am and 7pm (anything from 10 minutes to an hour) to come along to St Andrew’s on Saturday 28th September to pray for our community.  There will be several different ways to pray available, which will allow you to engage with God in a way you are comfortable with, either with others or on your own.

If you would like to know more about gathering prayer requests or what will be happening on 28th September, please contact Deborah Donohoe on 07960 255 831 or

I am sure you will agree that prayer is essential in the life of any church and this weekend gives us at St Andrew’s the opportunity to deepen the prayer we already offer for our community and to let more people know the power of prayer in their lives.

Around the Parish

The North Swindon explorer: Harry de Windt

A church is much more than a building and the record of vicars at St Andrew dates back to 1299, so there have been thousands of people who must have been through our doors.  Most of these are now lost in time but there are several interesting people with connections to the church.

Harry Willes Darell de Windt (9 April 1856, Paris - 30 November 1933, Bournemouth) known as Harry de Windt

Harry was the son of Captain Joseph Clayton Jennyns de Windt, who planned Blunsdon Abbey and is recorded as living at Blunsdon Hall, the house that existed on the site before the current building, sadly destroyed by fire in 1904.  Joseph did not live to see the building completed and died when he fell from his horse whilst travelling from Highworth.  He is buried in the churchyard, with his wife Elizabeth.

Harry was an explorer and writer who undertook many unusual adventures.   The review of his book From Paris to New York by Land gives a clue to the person he was:

When it came to dash and flair, few nineteenth-century adventure travellers could compete with handsome Harry de Windt. A Fellow of the prestigious Royal Geographic Society of England, De Windt already had a reputation for bravery and foolhardiness. Then he decided to top his own reputation by undertaking a journey too crazy to be considered by anyone else. He announced to a stunned Europe that he was going to leave his adopted home in Paris and journey to New York city. However instead of traveling west, crossing the Atlantic on a ship like everyone else in his day, De Windt proposed to travel east, across the frozen steppes of Siberia by horse-drawn sleigh, over the ice-packs of the Arctic Ocean by dog-sled, through the dark waterways of Canada by boat, and finally past the western deserts of the United States by train, before finally reaching his destination in faraway New York. What followed can only be compared to a Jules Verne fiction, yet is absolutely true. De Windt dined with political exiles in Siberia, almost starved in the Arctic ice fields, and lived through more dangers than a dozen men. Yet through it all this dashing explorer kept his nerve and his panache. Amply illustrated with photographs taken by the author, “From Paris to New York by Land” remains a page-turning thriller of early adventure travel. 

A list of his books, written between 1880 and 1910 include:

  • From Pekin to Calais by Land.  
  • Through Savage Europe  
  • My Restless Life  
  • On the Equator.  
  • True Tales of Travel and Adventure.  
  • Through the Gold Fields of Alaska to Bering Strait 
  • A Ride to India Across Persia and Baluchistan.  
  • Finland as it Is. 
  • Siberia as it Is

Though he would have known St Andrew’s in his early years, he did not return and retired to Bournemouth with his third wife, the actor, Elaine Inescourt.

Harry led an interesting and unusual life, but his sister Margaret saw even more remarkable times.  The life of the family she married into is to be portrayed in a Hollywood film 'The White Rajah' currently in production, but this story is for another piece.


Peter Smith

Forging Connections

Over the last months Sally has been working with a number of other of church leaders and various Christian Groups which seek to serve the needs of the people in and around Swindon. To that end the  various church leaders and the groups involved settled upon the name Forging Connections to reflect the purpose of this organisation.

There are 15 organisations, groups, charities involved in Forging Connections some of which will be known to you, for example, The Salvation Army, Street Pastors and Christians Against Poverty. Also involved are perhaps less well known groups such as the Chaplaincy to Swindon Law Courts and Renew.

Forging Connections held an open evening in May an a number of us from St Andrew's had the opportunity to attend that event the purpose of which was to try and increase the volunteer and support base for their activities.

From that I have now linked up with Renew who are running a Men's Shed based in the BSS centre in Rodbourne Cheney. Renew are working with a group in Coleshill and exploring the opportunity of opening a Men's Shed type operation there. More locally Renew are working with The Penhill Assocciation and are seeking  to jointly secure access to the SBC owned Community Centre in Chippenham Close.  Some clergy and members of AoG are supporting in this activity also.

Whilst the Community Centre at Chippenham Close is a sound physical structure it does need some attention by way of painting and decorating as well as some focus in the garden as the centre has not been used regularly for about 2 years. There will be some repair painting and gardening activities organised so if you would like explore if you could help or would like to volunteer then please in the fist instance speak with me.

As well a linking with Renew I now have the volunteer role as odd job man at Willows Counselling Centrewhich is a weekly activity. To date I have completed two days work there and am slowly working  my way through  a list of  basic jobs which have been backing up for a while along with addressing some ad hoc requests which this week meant that working with one of the counsellors I re hung the pictures paintings and noticeboards to give one the Counselling rooms a more homely and less institutional feel. For sure in a three storey Edwardian House blessed with many original features, modern back addition plus garden there is always something to do.

The Forging Connections evening enabled me to link up with the Swindon Court Chaplaincy Service as well. I have now completed my first day with this group who are currently operating on Wednesdays the busiest day of the week. The role of the Chaplain is to introduce to those who have been summoned to the court the existence of the Chaplaincy and ask if we can be of assistance. Assistance comes in the form of listening may be helping with completion of very basic court forms asking if people are listed with the Duty Solicitor if not then have them listed and explain the rudiments of the Court Listing and Timings.

 SCCS is looking to expand it service to more than one day per week as well as having the coffee bar open on the day(s) it is in attendance. Due to the combination of Hearing Space and Commercial pressures there are no longer any catering facilities save for vending machines in  either the Magistrates Court and or the Combined County and Crown Court buildings on the opposite side Islington Street. Whilst this might not appear to be an issue the re organisation of  the courts means that people attending court may have travelled up to 50 miles to be present and have little or no knowledge of Swindon town centre.

 If you would like to know more about SCCS then please do speak with me. The Ministry of Justice is currently re writing the Court Matrix i.e . those days of the week on which certain types of cases are heard and until that task is completed it is hard to be precise on future needs for SCCS by way of volunteers but I will be updated on that as soon as possible as I will be directly impacted.

Nick Atkins

We would love to see your contributions!

Please help with contributions to the online news. You could write about your faith, the church building and history, community events - anything of interest to the parish. Please email contributions to Brian:


Privacy Notice | Powered by Church Edit