Parish Profile

St Peter’s Sark – Parish Profile

The Parish
Within the Diocese of Winchester and the Deanery of Guernsey the island of Sark, Isles de Sercq, is a rock in the sea with steep cliffs all round the coast with an idyllic plateau of wild beauty some 280ft above sea level. Upon which there has been a long tradition of Christianity known to date back to 560 AD.

Lying some 80 miles off the south coast of England, being in the round three miles long and one and half miles wide, enjoying, depending on the length of ruler used, 44 miles of coastline. With, according to Victor Coysh, 1350 verdant acres, upon which a resident population of around 560 souls living in 442 homes spend most of the time in neighbourly good natured.

The way of life is very special with a healthy caring community spirit that emanates from a strongly beating heart and identity. Sark people are traditional, resilient and independent, which develops self reliance. There is a vibrancy which accompanies life on Sark.

There is a modern school on the island which educates 4 to 16 year old, with 42 children in attendance this year who take part in a varied active learning and experience programme both on the island and wider world.

The island owns and operates its own little shipping line, known as The Isle of Sark Shipping Company,  which operates a life-line service to the island, bringing to and from the island all that is needed. There are no motor cars on the island, people move on foot or bicycles; goods move by tractor.

The economy is based on visiting tourists, agriculture and horticulture, with the professions and commerce that support, supply and sit alongside these main stays of economic activity.

Politically self governing with a democratically elected Assembly, known as Chief Pleas, of 28 Conseillers, being neither in the United Kingdom nor European Union but nevertheless part of the British Islands.

The island enjoys its own judiciary and court, which deals with all civil and minor criminal matters, with the final court of appeal being the Queen’s Privy Council in England.

The islands of Guernsey including Herm and Jethou; Alderney and Sark including Brecqhou form the Bailiwick of Guernsey, fondly known as “our dear Channel Islands.”

The Church Building –
The church dates from 1820. The original square tower was quite small and housed the ‘island bell’. This ancient bell, given to the settlers in 1581 by Philippe De Carteret, future Seigneur, used to hang from a wooden belfry on a mound in the Clos de la Tour de la Cloche, to the East of the site. Sark workmen dug the church’s foundations, built the walls 2ft 6in thick, using cartloads of slatey schistic stone hauled up from Port du Moulin and granite quarried on l’Eperquerie. Guernsey granite quoins brought over from a quarry at l’Ancresse mark each 12-inch course. Purbeck flagstones shipped from Swanage were laid to make the pavement. Carpentry work, framing the fir roof beams and rafters, fixing laths to bare glazed tiles, and supporting the ceiling of hair-and-lime plaster was planned by Jean Tardif of Jersey and executed by Guernsey carpenters.

On 7 August 1821 the Bishop of Winchester licensed ‘the new erected chapel’for worship, ‘according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England’. It was not until 1829 that the Bishop finally crossed the sea to consecrate St Peter’s church.

In 1877, Seigneur William T Collings, designed and paid £200 for extending the east end of the church, to form a chancel with choir, sanctuary, altar steps and a vestry.  The style and building materials are eclectic; quoins, arch stones and sills are in the ‘grey and red’ Guernsey granite.

By 1883 the raising of the tower was complete, again using much dark grey Guernsey granite, and the belfry strengthened. A new bell was cast from ‘two old six-pounders’, brass cannon which had provided Sark’s defence since Elizabethan times.
The old ‘island bell’ of 1581 was returned to secular use in the School, now the Assembly Room, which houses the Seneschal’s Court and meetings of Chief Pleas.
The church has pew seating for 330, an organ of considerable capacity made for St Peter’s by Woods of Huddersfield, and enjoys the benefits of a loop system.

The island’s population well regard their church and support springs forth from many who only enter the building on high or low days.

The last Quinquennial report was commissioned in August 2009 and all points raised within have been or are being addressed. The church building is well maintained and in sound condition.

There are three graveyards adjacent the church; to the north, south and west.

Church Hall
There is no church hall.

Opposite and in close proximity to the church.

Church Services
The normal pattern of worship is:
1st & 3rd Sundays of the month
11:00 am            Holy Communion, with sermon & choir
5:00 pm            Evening Prayer, said

2nd & 4th Sundays of the month
11:00 am            Matins, with sermon & choir
12:00 noon            Holy Communion, said
5:00 pm            Evening Prayer, said

The Book of Common Prayer forms the basis of our liturgical practice.

The English Hymnal 1906 is used.

The 11:00 am service attendance varies greatly between summer and winter but would typically be 40+.

There is a very competent robed choir of 10 or more each Sunday with a wonderful repertoire. They enthusiastically practice together every Thursday evening, often with visitors to the island, in the church under the tutelage of our music director.

In any one year there are around 5 weddings, 4 baptisms and 7 funerals.

Currently there are 97 souls on the church electoral roll.

A number of lay persons help lead and take part in services, arrange the various rotas, do the flowers, general maintenance and clean.

Sark does not have a Parochial Church Council, hence the Priest in Charge and the two Churchwardens carry full legal responsibility.

The Parish Team
Priest in Charge:         The Very Revd Canon K Paul Mellor MA
Reader:                         Wendy “Terry” Archer
Reader:                         John Perrin
Vicar’s Warden:         Wendy Adams
People’s Warden:      Peter Carré
Organist:                       Kevin Adams
Prayer Group:              Sheila Guille
Hospitality Group:      Linda Williams / Angie Dedman
Safety Officer:             Roger Olsen
Treasurer:                      John Dedman
Secretary:                     Robert Taylour

The church is funded by a combination of voluntary donations, benefactors, investment income and an annual grant from Chief Pleas.  Whilst the church has an excellent history, 100%, of paying the parish share to the Deanery, it has not been paid in full for the last two years whilst the parish has been addressing the works specified in the Quinquennial Report. There is a public appeal planned for this summer to fund the final works identified in the report, thereafter there is foreseen the need to re-energise the existing planned giving scheme.