The future of our ancient church of St Stephen
We are fortunate in this little village of Charlton Musgrove in Somerset. We have an ancient church in which to worship. It is tiny: eighty people make a squash inside. But it is also exquisite in its simplicity and its sense of deep calm.
I don't know about you, but I'm always in a mad rush, I am a bustler; busying about the place, trying to arrive on time, but not early, to pack in as much as I can in a minute for fear of waste. But I arrive at St Stephen's, and I step into its cool, calm interior, and it's as though there's something there to stop me at the door: an invisible force, like a secret security guard whose job it is to make me take a breath, stop me bustling, calm me down, slow my step. By the time I've taken my place my heart rate's slowed, my blood pressure's lowered, I look at the dust motes dancing a graceful minuet in the light streaming through the windows, I raise my head and take in the painted beams in the vaulted ceiling, I notice the posy of wild fritillaries my neighbour has put in a vase in the alcove by the chancel step. I examine the list of hymns we'll sing, look them up in the book, and smile when I recognise them. And so I spend an hour stepped out of the hustle of the life I've made myself, cradled in an atmosphere of intense peace, an atmosphere I often find in places where, for many many years, people have come together to pray for the common good. And by the time I leave at the end of the service I do feel 'shriven:' that is to say, forgiven, but also entirely calm, as though I've just done an hour's yoga on a beach. I feel how I imagine people who know how to meditate feel after their practise.
There are churches like this all over the world. All of them are precious for their role in providing a calm place into which we are always welcomed, and where we can take a break from the whirl of modern life.
But St Stephen's Charlton Musgrove is under threat. It has a hole, you see, in the roof. And when a building is registered Grade II* that hole can't just be mended by a good builder with some cement and a handy heap of tiles. The hole has to be mended very carefully, in materials which match as much as possible the materials originally used in the roofing. There are planners, and church and ancient monument preservation representatives who will step in to make sure that we, the villagers who live around this church, are mending it in a manner commensurate with the preciousness of that roof.
We're going to have to raise some money. I'm sure there'll be grants to help with the amounts required, but we'll have to find a fair bit of this money ourselves. At the moment the figure being spoken of is £175,000. But I'm getting ahead of the real fundraising efforts so the actual amount we need to raise hasn't been finally calculated yet. £175,000 is a pretty reasonable assumption though. I imagine we'll be able to find half of that in grant aid, but in order to get the grants, we, the villagers, are going to have to meet the grant aid about 50/50. So that's about £87,500 that we're going to have to raise as a village.
So I thought we'd better get going, because £87,500 is a fair whack for a village of 153 households, of which about 40 contain people registered on the parish roll (people who are interested in going to church,) of which about 15 are regular church goers.
I thought we'd have a PLANT SALE, at which I hope we'll raise £2,000.
Will you help?
Date: 6th May 2017 9.30 - 12.30
Place: Charlton Musgrove Village Hall, BA9 8HF
It's a bring and buy plant sale so please you bring your spare seedlings to contribute, and then spend lots of money buying the other plants on offer.
Prices: £1 a pot, and of course there'll be a great deal of tea cake available to give you the sort of sugar rush that has you buying twice as many plants as you need because it's all a good cause.
Please help us save St Stephen's roof.
If you'd like to make a serious donation, or set up a direct debit towards the cause, please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll forward your request to our PCC treasurer.
And thank you! And see you on 6th May!