Great Shefford is one of six parishes that make up the West Downland Benefice of Brightwalton with Catmore, Chaddleworth, Fawley, Great Shefford and Shefford Woodlands, Leckhampstead and Welford with Wickham. The Priest in Charge, the Rev. John Townend, lives in Great Shefford and can be contacted on 01488 648164. The Associate Priest the Reverend Mary Harwood, lives in Chaddleworth and can be contacted on 01488 638566.
St. Mary’s, Great Shefford
The parish church is in Great Shefford village and there is a second church in Shefford Woodlands. The parish church of St Mary has regular services on the first and third Sundays in the month and occasional services on other Sundays. The service on first Sunday is Holy Communion at 9.30 a.m. On the third Sunday there is Café Church, a half hour informal worship with fresh coffee and croissants at 10am.
St Stephen’s, Shefford Woodlands
The church of St Stephen in Shefford Woodlands holds a service of Holy Communion at 9.30 a.m. on the fourth Sunday of the month.
The churches are available for baptisms, marriages and funerals. St Mary’s churchyard has recently been extended in order to provide burial space for many years to come. The Bishop of Reading consecrated the additional land on 21st January 2008. The churchyard is maintained by volunteers and there are regular work parties on the third Saturday of each month, meeting at 10.00 a.m.
St Mary’s is very pleased to have a choir that sings at all of its services. Choir practices are held once a month on a Friday and there is always room for new members. Anyone wishing to join should speak to the choirmaster or a member of the choir.
The Churchwardens and the members of the Parochial Church Council (PCC) are elected each year at the Annual Parish Church Meeting, held shortly before Easter. There are usually three PCC meetings each year. Amongst the issues discussed are finances and the care of the churches and churchyard.
The PCC’s principal fund-raising event is a Duck Derby, held each Easter Saturday on the River Lambourn at East Shefford. Whatever the weather, a thousand numbered plastic ducks are launched into the river from a bridge for an exciting race. Spectators watch eagerly to see which ducks are at the front, for the first five ducks win prizes for their sponsors. After the race, events move on to the village hall, where tea and cakes are available and the winners of the Duck Derby are announced.
Also in the parish is the redundant church of St Thomas, in East Shefford. It is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, which organizes a candlelit carol service each Christmas, usually on a Saturday afternoon.