The United Church Dorchester

United in faith, united in action

United Church Dorchester Annual Report 2014

The United Church Dorchester Annual Report for 2014 can be downloaded (pdf) by clicking on the download button: -


Alternatively it can be read below (use the Quick Links to Jump to a particular report):


United Church Dorchester

  Annual Report for January to December 2014

 Quick Links:-


Our Vision Statement

As a Christian Community, the United Church welcomes everyone because God loves all people. We value our diversity. Whatever our age, background, culture, gender or race, we each have something special to share with others. In Christ’s name the United Church

• To celebrate together and share the greatness and love of God;
• To seek personal and spiritual growth for ourselves and others;
• To care for and support each other within and beyond the Church community;
• To work in partnership with other Churches in Dorchester and district local groups
with whom we share some common aims;
• To watch for ways to serve the needs of our community and the wider world by
caring for the earth, striving for a just and peaceful world and identifying with the
poor and powerless;
• To develop creative friendships with people of other cultures and faiths and work in
partnership with Churches around the world


This last year had been a settling down period for new staff and the congregations and communities who are getting used to each other.

Many good activities have been continued and appreciated, especially the hospitality afforded in the Coffee Lounge and at the Wednesday market day coffee morning, and some more new initiatives have begun.

Particularly of note was the inaugural Festival of Crosses arts and crafts exhibition and the year-long pilot of the Foyer Project, an after school drop in.

All this has been enhanced by some significant but subtle building alterations. Details of all of these form the body of our report.

Aim and purposes

The aims and purposes of the United Church Dorchester are set out in our Vision Statement above. The Council of Stewards (the Trustees) has the responsibility of administering and managing the Church in support of that vision. It supports and advises the Ministers in promoting the whole mission of the United Church and the wider Church in its teaching of the Christian faith and in its pastoral, evangelistic, social, ecumenical and charitable work. The Stewards’ Council is also specifically responsible for the maintenance of the United Church building and the associated buildings at numbers 49 and 51 Charles Street, Dorchester.

Objectives and Activities

As a Christian Community, the United Church welcomes everyone because God loves all people. We value our diversity. Whatever our age, background, culture, gender, sexuality or race, we each have something special to share with others. The Stewards’ Council is committed to enabling as many people as possible to worship at our Church and to become part of it. The Stewards’ Council maintains an over-view of our worship and makes suggestions on how our services can involve the many groups that live within Dorchester and its surroundings. Our services and worship put faith into practice through prayer and scripture, music and sacrament.

When planning our activities for the year, the Ministers and the Stewards’ Council have considered the Charity Commission’s guidance on public benefit and, in particular, the specific guidance on charities for the advancement of religion. In particular, we try to enable ordinary people to live out their faith as part of our Church community through:

a. the celebration of public worship;
b. the teaching of the Christian faith;
c. mission and evangelism;
d. pastoral work, including visiting the sick and the bereaved;
e. the provision of facilities with a Christian ethos for the local community, including (but not restricted to) the elderly, the young and other groups with special needs; and the support of other charities in the UK and overseas.
f. maintaining the fabric of the United Church and associated buildings in order to facilitate all these activities.

Achievements and Performance

The celebration of public worship

We aim to provide a variety of worship styles at different times throughout the week.


  • Our 10.30 am. Sunday morning services in 2014 have been led by either our


Ministers, incumbent or retired, or accredited lay preachers. The average weekly attendance, based on the October Count figures, is 150. There is a flexible format for Sunday mornings, although in all of them there is the opportunity for children and young people to take part in worship both with the adult congregation and in their own, Junior Church, worship time. On planned occasional dates we hold ‘All-Age Worship’ services and ‘Church with Choices’. In the latter, activities such as music, drama and craft are offered to all attending as alternatives to a sermon as part of the morning service.


  • The choir practices weekly to support congregational singing in worship and


perform anthems and other items, and an informal singing group offers the opportunity for anyone to learn new worship material.


  • Sunday evenings tend to follow a more traditional format with a smaller, but faithful congregation of between twenty-five and thirty-five.
  • Once a month (2nd Sunday in the month) we hold a communion service at 9.00am.
  • Once a month, usually the last Sunday, we meet at 5.00 pm for an informal act


of worship, called ‘Alive@Five’. After the experiments of the previous year we reverted to the more regular pattern of a forty-five minute worship time, incorporating creative and interactive activities, followed by a ‘bring and share’ tea.


  • A short, twenty minute service is held on Wednesday morning to coincide with


the town’s Market Day when we also have coffee and stalls in the hall. About thirty people attend the service and, although most are regular Church goers, but not necessarily from the United Church, a few do not appear to attend other Churches.


  • As well as offering regular services we also put on extra services at special


times in the Christian calendar, such as Christmas and Easter. In 2014 at Easter we focussed on Holy Week with daily events featuring a sing-along Jesus Christ Superstar (Monday), dramatic Gospel reading (Tuesday), Seder Meal (Wednesday), ‘Gospel of the Watch’ service (Maundy Thursday) and joined with other churches in the town for a Walk of Witness on Good Friday.


  • In 2014 we held two special dementia friendly services, in July and December, and plan to make these a regular feature in our worship calendar. These services were also taken out to residential homes.


  •  As part of our pastoral support to the local community we provide comfort and support to the bereaved; the Ministers were involved in eleven funerals during the year, not all of Church members. We continue to hold monthly communion services at two residential homes and one sheltered housing complex and, through our pastoral visitor and retired Ministers we hold occasional services at three others in the town.


  • We have two groups that meet for reflective prayer and meditation.


Teaching the Christian faith

We have a number of house groups that meet regularly to explore the Word, as expressed in the Bible, through discussion and conversation. This year in Lent the York Course ‘Building on the Rock’ was followed by both regular and additional groups.


The Ladies’ Afternoon Fellowship has had its last meeting in 2014. It is being replaced in 2015 by a monthly (at least) get together currently entitled ‘Ladies who Lunch’.

A key objective of our Junior Church is to educate our young people in the basis of our Faith. Most Sunday mornings they share in part of the main service before leaving for their own sessions but once a month meet separately as First Steps for their own worship and activity time with their parents and carers.

Mission and evangelism

In addition to its regular and established activities the United Church Dorchester has put on a number of extra events this year.

In the lead up to Easter 2014 we instigated a ‘Festival of Crosses’ with a wealth of home-made and special crosses on display attracting over four hundred visitors.

In September a small team took a stand at the Dorset County Show where they provided refreshments, baby changing and feeding facilities, games and information. Large free-standing banners with the church’s name and logo were purchased for use at the Show and are now used outside the Church to announce our presence in the main street.

Prior to Christmas we repeated the ‘Journey to the Stable’ which was visited by an increased number of school children and members of the public, nearly double that in previous years at again over four hundred in all.

At the beginning of December we joined in the traditional Annual Christmas Cracker late night shopping carnival in Dorchester on 5th  December. The United Church was open

offering free coffee and mince pies with an opportunity to listen to Christmas music and join in singing carols led by the United Church Brass.

A new activity which started in September 2014 is the after school drop in which offers middle and upper school pupils a safe place to be in the town centre daily from 3.30 to 5pm in term time, with hot chocolate, toast, games and activities.

Also in term time once a week the ‘Story-Tots’ group welcomes babies and pre-school children and their carers to share a time of play together.


A number of Church members are companions at the Quiet Space in Poundbury, a project shared with the other Churches in the town. It is open on weekdays for anyone to call in and sit for a while in the garden or the sitting room indoors, with a library and companions on hand.


Work has continued, with others, in planning and training for a Chaplaincy service in the town which has yet to be launched.


The Church’s window onto South Street continues to show to passers-by something of the life and concerns of the Church with a frequently changing display. For one evening in December it became a puppet theatre when a visiting group put on a display for the large number of people in town for Cracker Night.

Pastoral work

The United Church maintains a system by which all Church members and adherents are assigned to a pastoral visitor, who tries to keep in touch with them and appreciate their concerns. As well as each member or adherent being assigned a visitor, the visitors themselves are grouped under a number of coordinators, who look after the visitors’ pastoral welfare. Training for pastoral visitors this year has included the topics of safeguarding and dementia, as well as a thank you and ideas afternoon. A total of about fifty volunteers from the church attended sessions led by a trainer from the Alzheimer’s Society, as part of our development as a dementia friendly church.


A special welcome was given to recent new members at a well attended meeting.


Our employed Lay Pastoral Visitor has continued to share with the Ministers in regular pastoral visiting and responding to needs as they arise.


Another component of our pastoral care is the ‘Prayer Chain’, where those in need are remembered in prayer by a number of Church members, including those who are housebound. The Tuesday prayer group also keeps a list of people for whom prayer has been requested.


The Coffee Lounge continues to offer a listening ear and a friendly welcome to all. It now has a regular clientele, some of whom are either physically or mentally frail. They are well known to the staff and use the facilities as a place to come and feel at home.


The Quiet Room and the Church are open daily for all to use for quiet prayer and reflection, and as a place for a quiet conversation.

The provision of facilities with a Christian ethos for the local community

With its central location in the town, the United Church is ideally placed to offer itself as a reasonably priced venue for many events.


The Regional Blood Transfusion Service runs well attended donor sessions regularly on our premises and the Dorchester Learning Centre has its own room on the top floor, the latter providing occasionally a collection of their work for display in the Coffee Lounge.


A number of local charities receive advantageous rates for rooms for their functions and some are even offered free accommodation, like the monthly Contact Centre, where children can come to meet estranged parents, often under potentially confrontational circumstances. The church is used for a number of choirs for rehearsals and occasional concerts. We are especially grateful to Peter Mann who deals with all the  bookings and ensures rooms are ready for use for both regular and occasional users.


The Church Shop still opens six mornings a week from 10am to 12.30pm providing a wide range of Christian books, gifts and cards, and fairly traded goods, including food from Traidcraft. Its customers come from a wide radius around Dorchester.

We are a FairTrade Church and eco-congregation and actively promote good practice on these issues within the Church and more widely in our locality.

Support of other charities in the UK and overseas.

The United Church has a continuing commitment to local, national and international charities through members working as volunteers and by donations of goods and money.


Locally the Church and individual members have supported


  • The Dorchester Poverty Action Group, which held an open meeting this year looking at the repercussions of new benefits arrangements as well as continuing offering grants to people in emergencies.
  • the local food bank, for which the church continues to be a collection point
  • Age UK Dorchester
  • the local homeless people’s service, which was withdrawn during the year
  • Dorset Nightstop


Fundraising was again organised for Action for Children through collection boxes, a quiz and the traditional carol singing and a special collection was held for Methodist Homes (for the Aged).


Internationally the Church is committed to relieving poverty and disaster and to funding development through the work of Christian Aid, with regular awareness and fundraising throughout the year. Fundraising took place in Christian Aid Week and at Christmas particularly, and in One World Week in October there was the opportunity to reflect on the theme ‘Hunger for Justice’.


We also supported The Bible Society, and world mission through the World Mission fund of the Methodist Church and CWM in the United Reformed Church. In 2014 we supported Mercy Ships as Our World Church project for a second year (registered Charity no.1053055).

In October The Coffee Lounge contributed one morning’s takings to the Macmillan World’s Biggest Coffee Morning (£110+) and their regular ‘tips’ box raised over £430 for Dorset Nightstop during the year. The weekly market day stalls in the hall have again distributed their proceeds to a number of different charities and most of the Church social groups made donations towards Church expenses or another nominated charity.

Maintaining the fabric of the United Church and associated buildings

During 2014 progress has been made on a number of planned projects.


The acoustic panels are installed in the hall and it is delightful to see and hear people talking to each other normally. Panels were also added to the Coffee Lounge ceiling, with less dramatic effect. Also in the hall work began in December to convert a single door from the corridor to a double door. This work will continue into 2015 and will include changing the two doors in the main corridor making them both a little wider. This will make it much easier for people to flow along the corridor and in and out of the hall.


In the South Street foyer to the church a mainly glass screen has been installed at the foot of the stairs. It reduces sound transmission between the foyer and church and fits in so well it looks as if it has always been there. An application has also been made for permission to change the main entrance doors from South Street so that the church is visually more open.


In 2015 it is planned to replace the Charles Street doors to No.49 so that they match the No 51 doors at the same time as changing the lock (as required for updating our Safeguarding procedures).

The church spire has been examined by a Structural Engineer and Building Surveyor. An external inspection is planned for 2015 with possible remedial works being undertaken. Meanwhile, on the ground floor, the vestry toilet has been refurbished!

Ecumenical Relationships

We continue to be an active member of Churches Together in Dorchester and area, hosting the AGM this year with a Quaker speaker from the United Nations staff. We took part in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, hosting the ecumenical service, and the Walk of Witness on Good Friday. We have new church representatives to the area Bible Society Group and helped to organise and lead the international Peace Day ‘Ringing the Gardens’ event in the Borough Gardens, to mark the outbreak of hostilities of WW1.

We also celebrated with the group of Pentecostal Churches, who are not part of Churches Together, when they joined with us during Advent. They shared our premises on the town’s Cracker Night at the beginning of December and shared our foyer space with the Real Christmas Presence whilst we ran Journey to the Stable. At the Quiet Space on Poundbury an innovation was the Tranquil Reflections event during both Lent and Advent which was well received. The Town Centre Chaplaincy project, referred to earlier, is a joint venture with other churches and faiths.

Membership, Staffing and other issues

During the year we have welcomed seventeen new and transferred members, baptised a baby, two young sisters and a mother and son from the community who have links to our church. We have also said goodbye to fifty-one members due to death, moving away and readjusting our numbers from previous years.


We regularly welcome visitors, especially at Easter and Christmas, but also at evening, Wednesday and other special services throughout the year.


Our URC minister, Revd Peter Clark, gives 30% of his time to UCD establishing a preaching, pastoral and meeting pattern; our Methodist minister, Revd Stephanie Jenner, gives approximately 60% of her time as she has three other small churches, superintendency of the Bridport and Dorchester Circuit, and District roles; we continue to benefit from the ministries of retired Ministers and lay leaders of both traditions.


Our pastoral visitor continues to work closely with the Ministers and pastoral team. In July 2014 we were able to secure a one year post for a youth worker funded from the Methodist Connexion, and local youth worker Joanna Chant from Dorchester Community Church started in September hosting an after school drop in on our premises, currently known as the Foyer Project, with church volunteers.


Our Upper School youth group, Antics, meets monthly and a group went to the Greenbelt Christian Festival in August, which was funded by a legacy from the church, and was thoroughly enjoyed despite the very wet departure.

A group from the church travelled for a very pleasurable visit to our German twin town of Lübbecke over Ascension tide; and we supported and helped to host a visit from Lübbecke and Bayeux (our French twin town) when the three town choirs came together for a conciliatory performance commemorating World War hostilities and how far we’ve come since.

Financial Review

The Finance committee has met five times during the year to review the budget, income and expenditure and financial procedures in order that the Church finances remain on target and are managed well, and to give support to the Treasurer in the management of all the transactions and financial affairs of the United Church. We are very grateful to


Colin Gannaway our Treasurer for his diligence in keeping our accounts in order, and also to all the Finance team who support him.

Of particular note in 2014 was the production of a sixty year financial plan for the church setting out when all the various elements of our premises may need significant repair or replacement and what this work might cost.

Reserves policy

The Church Finance team has a Reserves Policy in place, this is to secure the future in case of unexpected or exceptional need, and is a requirement of the Charity Commission.


Our reserves are held as unrestricted funds which are kept available once our commitments and planned expenditure are covered. The only portion of Church funds which are included as reserves are those which are freely available.

Restricted funds and endowments are not included in the reserves; for example, the Florence Fare Trust is an endowment, and the Youth and Family fund is a restricted fund and therefore these are excluded from the list of reserves.


Of our funds and investments, there are three, which at the present time, fall into the category of reserve funds. These are the Emergency fund, the Memorial fund and the General fund. The total of these makes up our available reserves.

The Charity Commission suggests that we consider certain factors, namely forecasts of future planning and expenditure, and possible risks and contingencies, including the possibility of reduction in income of the Church. We have tried to strike a balance by taking their recommended figure which is equivalent to six months’ worth of our working capital to be held as reserves. Therefore it is necessary for us to hold an amount of at least 50% of the annual expenditure of the United Church as a sufficient reserve. The three funds held have been adequate to cover this requirement and meet the recommendations of the Charity Commission throughout this last year, and the exact figures will be published with the Annual statement of the Accounts at the Annual Church Meeting. It is our policy to invest our funds balances with the CBF Church of England Deposit Fund.

Structure, governance and management

The method of appointment of elected officials and Stewards is set out in the United Church’s Constitution. The membership of the Council of Stewards (Trustees) consists of the Ministers and the Stewards, from whom the Secretary and the Treasurer are elected.


All the Stewards except the Ministers are elected by a combination of United Church members and retired Methodist Ministers who choose to make the United Church their main place of worship. All those who attend our Church are encouraged to become members, if they feel called to do so.


The Stewards’ Council met for business seven times during the year with an average level of attendance of over 70%. It has the task of giving leadership to the Church as well as having an overview of its life. In November the Stewards had an additional meeting to focus entirely on the church’s vision, to ensure it underpins our business decisions, and to look at ways of developing how we live it in action.


Given its wide responsibilities the Stewards’ Council delegates co-ordination of aspects of the church’s life to a number of committees, which can therefore involve a larger number of people from the church. These committees (which include Worship, Pastoral and Fellowship, Youth and Family, Community Service Home and World Mission, Property, Finance and Administration), are all responsible to the Stewards’ Council and report back to it regularly through their linked Steward. A process of reviewing the remits of these committees, together with the Council of Stewards, Treasurer and Secretary, was begun in 2014 and the results will be presented to a Church Meeting in 2015.

In addition the Outreach Group also reports directly to the Council of Stewards when it is has active programmes.

Administration Information

United Church Dorchester has an entrance on both South Street and Charles Street in the centre of Dorchester. As a ‘Local Ecumenical Partnership’ between the former South Street Methodist Church and the former South Street United Reformed Church, Dorchester, the United Church retains its links to both parent bodies through the Wessex Synod of the United Reformed Church and the Southampton District of the Methodist Church and is an integral part of the Bridport and Dorchester Circuit of the Methodist Church.


The Church is registered with the Charity Commission, number 1137996.


The Address for Correspondence is: -


United Church Dorchester, 49 – 51 Charles Street, Dorchester, Dorset DT1 1EE.

The website address is

Council of Stewards (Trustees)

Stewards’ Council members who served during the year are:-

Our Ministers (Telephone)


Revd Stephanie Jenner  (01305 262421)
Revd Peter Clark  (01308 425978)


Stewards who stood down at the AGM in March 2014


Mary Martin -Snr S until March 2014, (01305 260464) - CSHWM
Chris Warren  (01305 459454)  - Worship
Pauline Wootten (01305 251240) - Youth and Family


Stewards who served all year


Margaret Knighton (JS) (01305 261772) - Administration
Colin Gannaway (T) (01305 263273) - Finance
Malcolm Lewis (JS) (01305 889812) Administration
Wendy Hilton (01305 267098) - Pastoral/Fellowship
Paul Smith (01305 459112) - Property
Janice Young  (01305 321028) Finance/Y&F


New Stewards elected at AGM in March 2014


Penny Fennell (01305 267986)
Paul Wallis (01305 269059)




All stewards served on at least one of the main Church committees, shown in brackets.


CSHWM = Community Service, Home & World Mission T = Treasurer JS = Joint Secretary


Wendy Hilton became Senior Steward and chair of Council of Stewards following the AGM in March.

What else?

A wide range of other groups continues to meet within the church network, from Badminton to ‘knit and natter’, country dancing to painting, active and sedentary, listening, talking and making music.

In 2014 the Pantomime was replaced by a Revue which was delivered with traditional enthusiasm.


Thank you to everyone who has contributed so much to the maintenance and development of the church, both buildings and people, during 2014.

Previous Years Reports

Previous Years reports can be viewed by clicking on the relevant link below: -

Annual Report for January to December 2013
Annual Report for January to December 2012


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