St John the Evangelist, Pauntley, Gloucestershire

As well as the weekly and seasonal Church Services, our Parish holds various events throughout the year which, we hope, combine elements of tradition, religion, social life, and fund-raising on behalf of the Church.

These begin in January with the Judas, or Apostle, Fires

The last enactment of the Judas Fires ceremony in Pauntley took place in the 1920s', though records of such a custom go back to the time of medieval strip farming when local peasants would plant seeds before Twelth Night.  It continued as farms grew larger, and by the 1800's had become an occasion when farm labourers were given a treat by the farm owner in the form of cake soaked in cider.

According to the book 'A Cotswold Christmas' by John Hudson, the Twelfth Night custom of lighting fires to the twelve Apostles - and immediately stamping out the one dedicated to Judas Iscariot - is one that survived into living memory.

The usual form of the ceremony was for twelve fires to be lit, surrounding a larger one representing Jesus.  After the Judas fire had been extinguished and it's ashes scattered, the other fires would be studied and predictions about the coming harvest deduced from the way in which they burned.  It is supposed that the ceremony was seen at the time as an insurance against a poor harvest.

Further accounts of this ceremony are found in Fosbrooke's 'Gloucestershire' published in 1807, and Blount's 'Tenures of Land and Customs of Manors', published in 1874.

Today, we continue the tradition in Pauntley. Each man lights his fire and then takes his turn to read out a short piece describing the life of whichever Apostle he represents.  The Vicar then leads us in prayer before the Judas fire is stamped out, usually by the children present, and the rest of the fires are heaped onto the Jesus fire.  We then move inside for a very welcome hot supper and - keeping to tradition - cider!  No official predictions are made concerning harvests, though conversations may well turn to the subject in one way or another.

Standing in a field in the dark of a cold winter's evening may not sound much fun, but it is a welcome opportunity amid the short January days  to meet up with friends and neighbours, a moving reminder of the men who worked this area, and more importantly a chance to give thanks for the beautiful landscape we live in, which was shaped by those same countrymen.

Summer Music Evening

Held in June, this is an extremely popular event!  It begins in the Church with a programme of high-quality entertainment ranging from Light Classical and Operetta to 'Songs from the Shows' with the odd Jazz number as well: after the Concert an impressive Buffet Supper is provided at Pauntley Court.  This is the Church's main 'fund-raiser' and tickets are always in demand due to the quality of the singers, musicians, and - by no means of least importance! - the wonderful food.

Harvest Supper

This is held in the Village Hall, at Brand Green, and is always an enjoyable social occasion.

Carol Singing

On two evenings in December a group of warmly clad, torch-bearing parishioners will be seen wending their merry way around the lanes, taking the Christmas message, in the form of traditional carols, to various parts of the local area.  Refreshments are taken at several of the houses after which the wending becomes even merrier! 
Willing carollers are always welcome, so if you would like to take part, please contact Peter Wells.

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