There are three significant matters on which I felt it was important to update everyone, hence this occasional pastoral letter.
Church Floor Project
The lead-up to the project of renewing our Church floor has taken longer than any of us would have wished. This does, though, reflect the complexity of the project. However, I am pleased to write to say that the way forward is now clear. Our expectation is that the work will begin on Monday, May 21st, 2018.
Why the delay until then? The key reason is finding a window of opportunity in the Church diary when the contractors can complete the project without undue disruption. It may have been possible to begin now but with a large concert already in our diary for November 11th we would have undertaken the work with no guarantee of its completion by that date. Any unforeseen difficulties would have left us with on-going disruption potentially leading into the Advent and Christmas seasons. This was not a risk I felt we could take. The contractors have advised us not to do the work in the winter months when changes in humidity levels will affect the re-laying of the wooden blocks, so the May dates give us a clear run at the work with significant flexibility for any unforeseen difficulties.
The other benefit of the delay until next May is that we are now in a position to make a number of grant applications which may assist us with the funding of the project. The total cost will be in the region of £90,000, dependent upon contingencies, and the outcome of our grant applications will decide the extent to which we shall need to appeal to our congregations for help with the cost. This situation will become clearer in the New Year but our PCC is very confident that we can move forward. However, without grant support or an appeal, this project will essentially empty St. Margaret’s bank account, including all our legacies and endowments, leaving us with no financial protection for any other unseen problem in the immediate future. The Floor Project, though, has to be completed in this quinquennium to ensure the safety of all users of the building in future years. In this we have no choice.
I would like to pay tribute to the tireless work of Mr David Chary, the Chairman of our Church Facilities Committee, and previous and current Churchwardens, in moving this project forward. The path to its delivery is now clear. Do please speak to David, or Helen, or Graham, if there are other aspects of this project you would like to know about.
During this week our alarm and security systems for both the Church and the Parish Hall have been replaced. Both systems were very old and required updating. In undertaking this task our PCC were aware of a spate of recent attempted break-ins at both a Church and a School in our town and the care and security of our precious buildings are very important for us all.
Existing key holders are being given a “fob” which operates both new alarm systems. At present the “codes” on both the exterior Hall and Church doors remain the same. However, if you access the building in this way without a fob, and the alarm system is activated, then it will go off!
As a Church we have to balance the needs of the security and safety of our buildings, and their insurance, with the desire for our volunteers to access the building as simply as possible. Do please be patient as we work this through with our new security system. If you have any concerns do please speak to our Churchwardens who will be able to help further. Our Caretaker, Alan Raw, is usually on duty each weekday morning and this often provides an easy opportunity to access the alarmed parts of our buildings for any particular reason.
Finally, the new security arrangements will not affect our “open Church” policy and the nave of the Church will remain open each day for those who wish to come in to pray or to reflect.
Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving for the Recently Departed
The season of All Souls’-tide approaches. Around nine years ago I introduced an annual service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving for the Recently Departed. Each year we invited to that service those who had been bereaved in the previous year. This service was greatly appreciated but overall attendance was usually moderate.
I have been approached by HH Eaton & Sons undertakers to ask if we could host a Carol Service in December for all those families whom they have served in the previous year who been bereaved. After careful thought and consultation with our PCC, I have decided to agree to host this service. It is my intention therefore to invite those families whom we have served from St Margaret’s in the past year also to this Carol Service and to combine this with our existing Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving.
Therefore on Sunday, October 29th we shall host our usual service of Choral Evensong and the Carol Service with Memorial for the Recently Departed will take place on Thursday, December 7th at 7.00pm. The retiring collection at that service will form part of our 2017 Christmas Appeal.
Our two Masses on All Souls’ Day, which include prayers for the departed, (11am and 8.00pm) will be unaffected by this change. I believe the new Carol and Memorial Service will offer a significant opportunity to bring together a much larger number of people together who are experiencing the pain and sadness of bereavement, emotions which can feel particularly acute in the approach to Christmas.
Do speak to me if you would like to know more about any aspect of this, or, indeed, the other important matters in this letter.
Your friend and parish priest