Exploring the Name “4Rivers Churches” by Rev Ted

It was all something of a guided accident really – the origins of the name ‘4Rivers Churches’ and this month’s journey involves the naming process.

I recall vividly and fondly arriving at the Rectory in Great Witley on the night before moving in. I arrived late on a late August night, and as I parked in the drive the SatNav said, “You have arrived at home.” Nice! It was very cold, the sky was clear and though all around was dark, the stars shone brilliantly – the great blessing of living in a ‘dark village’. I had no furniture, of course, I had some basics – a fold-out chair to doze in and some refreshments and toiletries. I stood outside and watched the Perseids meteor shower until I realised I was cold. I worked on preparing the garage floor until I was too tired and even more cold. Then I dozed in the chair wrapped in a duvet until the morning.

A few days after arrival, I was to be licensed as priest in charge of the two benefices of Astley & Abberley, Shrawley & Witley, and also Teme Valley North. The odd bit was that the parish of Astley was under the care of the priest at Areley Kings. So – I was priest in charge but with no duties there. However, ‘Priest-in-Charge of Abberley, Shrawley & Witley, and Teme Valley North’ is too wordier a title. Not everyone agreed with the name anyway – some preferred “Shrawley & The Witleys (Great & Little)” Whilst others wondered why not just use the names of the Church buildings – ‘Priest in Charge of Knighton-on-Teme, Lindridge, Stockton-on-Teme, Abberley St Mary, Abberley St Michael, Great Witley, Little Witley, and last but my no means least, Shrawley.’ That lot is even longer. (I feel I should point out here that a priest is appointed to the parishes – not the buildings). At the time of my appointment, one rubric said – there is an idea to join all the churches up together: to be one benefice called “From Teme to Severn” – which I really didn’t like, because the River Severn only flows out on the eastern edge.
I had thought of calling us ‘Abberley Area Churches” until I was corrected in no uncertain terms by events in history I won’t go into here.

I don’t actually know who first suggested the idea of ‘Rivers Churches’ or that indeed it would end up at 4Rivers Churches. But there were weeks of research about rivers and hills, roads and historical names. Finally, the strategy team settled on 4Rivers Churches – and it felt right at the time. Priest in Charge of 4Rivers Churches is much easier to work with. And very importantly for us, it somehow includes all the communities within our boundaries that don’t have a church building: such as Menithwood (or Menith Wood if you prefer), Newnham Bridge, Hillhampton, Frith Common, Sankyns Green – to name some of them.

And the symbol of the clock tower became the Christian Cross with the hills either side becoming waves of refreshing blue streams. The ‘4Rivers Churches’ name had arrived.

And yes, I promised to name the four rivers (or two rivers and two brooks) that were chosen. Here they are in no particular order:

  • The River Teme
  • The River Rea
  • Shrawley Brook
  • Dick Brook.

The four rivers are very different to each other, and ‘speak’ different things to us.
Next month, we will begin our reflections properly by thinking about what we can learn from Dick Brook.

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