Our Roving Reporter
Stimulating stories from those looking after historic religious buildings
By Susan Miller (May 2021)
Bells and Chimes from over 80 churches worldwide will ring out on 26th June – beginning at noon in Timaru, New Zealand and ending 17 hours later in Vancouver, Canada – all to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Revd Henry Thomas Ellacombe’s invention of his ringing Chimes, the ‘Ellacombe Chiming Apparatus’.
The celebrations will be centred around St Mary’s Church, Bitton in Gloucestershire (www.stmarysbitton.org.uk), where the chiming apparatus was invented in 1821 and installed in 1822.
At this year’s celebration the device will be operated by the tower captain, Sue Elliott. This highlights the fact that the apparatus can be operated by just one person; at St Mary’s it can be operated from the church porch, which was particularly useful during the first Covid lockdown. Read more . . .
By Susan Miller (April 2021)
Last November St Mary’s Embsay with Eastby, an Eco Church in North Yorkshire, agreed to work towards the Church of England’s ambitious environmental target of becoming carbon ‘net zero’ by 2030. Recently they won a grant to help them on their journey.
St Mary’s, a recent recipient of the A Rocha UK Eco Church Silver Award, joined with four other churches in the Craven District of North Yorkshire to form the Towards Carbon Neutral Churches in Craven (TCNCC) Steering Group. They submitted a bid to the Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF) for funding for a feasibility study that would advise them on generating renewable energy in each of their church buildings and, just as importantly, how to go about getting the funding to achieve this.
Members from each of the five churches – St Mary’s, Embsay with Eastby (lead church); All Saints, Burton-in-Lonsdale, which is also a Silver Award Eco Church and a Fairtrade Church; St Mary’s, Carleton; St Augustine’s, Draughton; and Holy Trinity Skipton – formed the TCNCC Steering Group and “put in a lot of hard work on the bid”.
They found out on 18 March 2021 that their bid had been successful . . . more . . .
The parish church, dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, stands high above the Arun valley, and is a prominent landmark. It has a splendid late medieval tower, which was magnificently restored a few years ago after a major fundraising campaign.
Last year an anonymous donor had a simple but effective idea for further beautifying the church. But she wasn’t expecting to find bullet holes . . .
At the top of the tower is a weathervane. It had become seriously rusty and last year an anonymous villager – whom we will call Katie – paid for it to be regilded. This simple improvement has added light and movement and sparkle to the tower, especially when seen against a blue sky or glinting in the low evening sun. more . . .
By Susan Miller (January 2021)
Following my December report on the Tier-3 Christmas plans of Christ Church Downend, Bristol, I called back to find out how things had worked out for their Christmas trail.
I spoke again to Anita Dobson, Head of Discipleship, who organised the trail of shop windows, videos, and artwork. I learnt that at one stage she found herself standing in the wind and the rain with Three Wise Men and nowhere to put them . . .
By Susan Miller (December 2020)
For this strangest of Christmases, I headed (virtually) to Christ Church Downend, Bristol and heard about the special Nativity trail the church is producing, despite being in Tier-3. Here is one church that is thinking out of the box to make sure Christmas happens.
By Susan Miller (November 2020)
In this interview, I explore in some depth the thinking behind the interpretative material and how it was produced. There are useful hints here for any church considering how to encourage enjoyment and understanding of its heritage.
By Susan Miller (October 2020)
St James the Great church in Daisy Hill, Bolton participated in this year’s online Heritage Open Days festival from September 11 to 20th and while organiser Glenys Latham found opening the doors online a challenge she was delighted with the results.
And as she found, with the church being locked, it was lucky they already had a wealth of stored digital images and information to work with…
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By Susan Miller (September 2020)
In February this year I spoke to the Reverend Jon Russell, of Holy Trinity Church in Whitfield, Northumberland. He told me “Whitfield church is the coldest church in Christendom . . . it’s under snow at the moment.”
However the church now uses heated pew cushions, and the congregation have been said to be ‘basking like seals’ . . .
By Susan Miller (August 2020)
If you’re ever near Nantwich in Cheshire on a Sunday afternoon, make sure you head to St Mary’s Acton (a walk of about a mile out of town) for Tea at the Tower from 2.30pm to 4.30pm (temporarily suspended during the pandemic, of course, but do keep checking the webpage).
Providing a warm welcome will be co-founders of the initiative Deanna Emerton and Steve Davies (the churchwarden). They began hosting the teas as they wanted to combat social loneliness – a much-discussed topic in the press – by providing a place to meet, a cuppa and a cake. More . . .
By Susan Miller (July 2020)
“We hardly get any visitors” can be something of a refrain from churches. The truth is they sometimes don’t actually have a record of their visitor numbers. But by using a simple battery-driven digital counter, now they can . . . More . . .
By Susan Miller (June 2020)
Before Covid-19’s enforced lockdown visitors marveled – and can again from 4 July* – at Van Gogh the Immersive Experience at All Saints’ Church, Leicester and also at St Mary’s, York. Visitors are transported into the artist’s world as they sit surrounded by his works, which cover the arches and walls of these churches. More . . .
*Due to local lockdown in Leicester, the planned opening date was put back after this article was published.
By Susan Miller (May 2020)
It’s pews vs space. The age-old problem, now more pressing than ever. While some churches have put their pews on wheels, a church in Suffolk has created innovative and – to my mind – beautiful Pewlets!
The beautiful, carved bench ends are kept, but the pew shortened to form a chair.
It all began at Wortham St Mary a church which was given permission to create eight Pewlets and have gone ahead with five. Over the last 8-10 years, eight other churches in the same Diocese were granted similar permission.
By Susan Miller (April 2020)
Before the coronavirus lockdown, your Roving Reporter learnt about the St Thomas project, in inner city Derby.
St Thomas’s church was built in 1881. Eight years ago it was closed, but it has now re-opened and renewed its relationship with local people, providing support of all kinds.
“You walk into the door now and it’s this big open space. It now feels more like a monastery than a parish church. . . we now call ourselves the St Thomas Community.”
It’s been a long road . . . more . . .
By Susan Miller (March 2020)
No-one who saw it has forgotten how this remote church draped its tower in poppies to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI.
In today’s difficult times, what is there to learn from North Baddesley church, Hampshire?
By Susan Miller (February 2020)
What to do about pews? Remove them? Adapt them? Love them?
Many people including non-churchgoers really love pews. However, as many churches are also trying to use their spaces more flexibly, draw in more community groups and share their spaces, what to do with the rigid rows of heavy pews becomes a real issue.
This is about a church where the pews have become movable assets. It’s Terrington St Clement parish church in Norfolk where the Victorian pews are now on mobile metal frames. More . . .