April 27 2018 from the Churchwardens' Point of View
Easter is in many ways the main festival of the Christian year. As such, every effort was made to have Holy Trinity in the best possible state, but the building project wasn’t quite finished – there had been earlier delays caused by the finding and removal of asbestos. There was a lot of effort put in by many people to sweep, clean, polish and otherwise prepare for the Easter festival, but we knew that the Lady Chapel wasn’t finished, the area around the high altar looked like the contents of somebody’s loft, and a deep clean had not been possible. Nonetheless, we felt that an event was needed to signify the end of Stage 1 of our repair and reordering, and that turned out to be April 27th.
What were the possibilities? We discussed the situation with the Parochial Church Council, and decided that we needed a Service of Thanksgiving and Dedication for all the work that had been done. Also, soon after, we needed an Open Day to allow the community at large to see our new church, and its new flexibility for a variety of both religious and community events. The Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, said she would come and preach the sermon for the main event – the Service. The Revd Sandy agreed to shape and write the service, in conjunction with Gloucester. Princess Anne was interested to see how our plans had come on, since she had not been for a year.
The 27th was agreed with the Bishop. We needed to fit in with Princess Anne’s timetable, and the 27th fitted there as well. So, April 27 and May 12 were chosen for the events. We had meetings with the Palace representatives and the local Gloucester office, under our very supportive Lord Lieutenant, Dame Janet Trotter, and her team. We met the royal protection squad to check protocol and the lack of bombs. We wrote a detailed timetable, and got short biographies of many of those people who were to be presented to HRH (the Princess not only reads them, she uses them in conversations on the day). We agreed that this would be an event open to everybody, but that we couldn’t advertise in advance. We were, though, allowed press representatives who could report after the event – Katie Jarvis masterminded that.
The deadline had been agreed. The builders swung back into action on Easter Tuesday, primarily the stonemasons finishing the floor, and particularly in the Lady Chapel. A final series of finishing off – electrics, radiators and plumbing, fitting out of the Sacristy, Choir Vestry, and Flower Room, etc. This took us until the last week. Monday to Wednesday was set aside for the organ to be unwrapped, and tuned, while the builders got on with the Sacristy, final stone-laying, etc – but quietly. Thursday saw a transformation: volunteers had been requested, and two football teams of them arrived to clean, polish, wash the floors and chairs (again, this time four times). The builders sealed the floor for the third time. All the furniture pieces in the chancel were found new homes. Friday was just the same: many flower ladies arrived to make their magnificent arrangements, only slightly affected by the builders building a scaffold to clean and replace the lights where necessary, and clean the clerestory windows, and yet more volunteers putting out the chairs.
Look up at the clerestory windows some time – our repairs and new heating system have reduced the humidity from 80-90% to 50%, and a constant daytime temperature of 18C has helped – they are now clean and dry: a trans-ormation.
We had a full set of civics on the evening in question. The High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, resplendent in his regalia, was joined by the chairmen of Gloucestershire County Council, Stroud District Council, and Minchinhampton Parish Council, with wives. Labels and badges had all been issued to the main players, and a seating plan swung into action. The palace had insisted everyone be seated by 5.30 for a 6pm service, so Julian Elloway and the choir made the music, the bell-ringers rang, and the Princess and Sir Tim Laurence arrived and were seated (5 minutes early!).
The Thanksgiving and Dedication Service was splendid – much appreciated by all. Revd Sandy presided (timing was perfect), with the Bishop making the address. She commended us for the changes to the church, confirmed that the main purpose of the church is as a religious centre, but also encouraged us to use this asset for a wider range of community events. This service was the main purpose of the event, and was seen as such by those present: there were many people who said how they had valued the event, and an ex-Rector of Minchinhampton said how the sight-line from font to white-clad high altar was very uplifting.
After the service, a “ballet” was enacted. The Princess thanked the clergy in the Baptistry, and said a few words to each of the civics. At the same time, the major funders – the trustees of the David Thomas Trust and other major donors, the architects, Antony Feltham-King and Ann-Marie Fallon, Jeff the QS, the archaeologists and secretary from the Diocesan Advisory Committee, and then most of Nick Miles’ building team, all found their way through the Flower Vestry to the Porch Room. The Princess and Sir Tim also arrived at the Porch Room soon afterwards, to talk to them. They are the past masters at this, and had a few knowledgeable words for everyone. Nich Rutherford and his team served wine and nibbles to this group, and those left in the nave. Quietly, those in the Building Group and the PCC, and others, moved the nave chairs to the side.
Eventually, everyone returned to the main part of the church. It was now a wide, open space, with the Holy Trinity logo picked out in the floor. This encouraged people to move around and mix, and showed how the church may be used in future. Our honoured guests certainly mixed with everyone, clearly enjoyed themselves, staying on longer than any of them had expected. Finally, a plaque recording the event was introduced by Revd Sandy, and unveiled by the Princess.
A splendid evening. Your churchwardens are going off for a rest.
Howard Browning Mandy Jutsum