Bulletin No 9

Dear Friends

First, may I apologise for the gap since the last Bulletin I issued in November. The trouble is, as you will have noticed, there has been very little activity at the church, except the replacing of the plastic sheeting over the tower roof whenever the wind has torn it off!

The current snowy weather reminds me of the snow we had last April, just a few weeks after the fire, when it looked quite stark and ominous – that was when the photo was taken that was on our Christmas card. (Thanks to Fiona who took the pictures …)

You will, I hope, be pleased to know that in this apparent absence of action, we have been busy behind the scenes, preparing detailed documents that will form the basis for the insurance company settlement. This has now been submitted, and I am anticipating that once their engineers have looked over the paperwork, we shall enter a not-too-lengthy process of negotiation to reach an agreed settlement.

Once this is done, we will know what budget we have to work with to rebuild the church.

Alongside this, we have been exploring the next stages in rebuilding, and the architect has been working on an initial brief gathered together from a comprehensive survey we did some months ago with church members.

Some of the important elements which we hope will be part of the new church are as follows :

The view of the church from the main road should remain unchanged

The new church should have toilet facilities and basic kitchen facilities (currently in the old church room, which is on its last legs)

There should be more flexibility within the building so that it can be used more during the week by the local community (without compromising the excellent facilities already in the village).

There should be some basic office facilities for future incumbents (currently a deteriorating shed in the garden of the Vicarage !)

There should be the opportunity to have the church open more during the week for people to visit for pastoral and spiritual needs.

We should use sustainable energy sources for heating and lighting where possible

Basically, this brings together the facilities that are currently in the old church room and the shed into one place, providing more regular access and more flexible use for the church and community.

There will of course be some structural differences – it is almost certain that we will not be able to replace all the stained glass windows with the original designs, through the Millennium window can be remade as it was. Modern building regulations will also determine how we proceed with construction, especially for these extra facilities.

At the moment, these are ideas rather than specific plans, but once permissions have been given to go ahead with this idea and detailed plans are drawn up, there will be a public consultation to present these plans and fine-tune any specifics. I will, of course, let everyone know when that will be once we get to that stage.

In the meantime, if anyone has any creative suggestions, do please get in touch (email is probably best if you can – revmcg@kerrins.net) and we can add them to the general discussions.

The restoration of St Nicholas Church gives us the opportunity to provide a thoughtful and prayerful facility for the village which can be used, enjoyed and loved by the community for future generations. Do please pray for us as we move ahead slowly, even when you can’t see anything happening at the church – and thank you once again for all your support.

With my best wishes

Rev Martin Green

Bulletin No 8

Dear Friends

At the beginning of November, the new Bishop of Coventry, Bishop Christopher, will be installed in Coventry Cathedral and for a week in mid-October, he cycled around the Diocese, acquainting himself with some of the parishes and the geography of his new home.

One of the stops he made on his first day of cycling was at St Nicholas church, to look at the devastation left by the fire, and to pray for us as a community. His words of encouragement and hope for the future were heartfelt, and I pass them on to you to encourage all of us as a community.
Do pray for him as he takes up the reigns of the Diocese, with many challenges ahead – he is praying for us.

Not much has happened since I last wrote, and the church lies under its now-mended plastic shroud, awaiting decisions from the many different bodies that will be part of the rebuilding process.

The Structural Engineer has completed a thorough survey of the church ruins, and has sent this to the architect and Quantity Surveyor to begin the work of assessing the costs of reinstatement – a requirement of the Insurance Company.

Alongside this, the Diocese have been discussing reports submitted to them about the significance of the church in our community and our hopes for the future, and an archaeological survey has also been completed. Representatives from English Heritage, the Victorian Society, and the Council for the Care of Churches have all been part of these discussions, and their recommendations and support will mean we can then to move on to the next stage.

Having said this, some of these decisions could take a few months to make, as they have to be done carefully and responsibly, as you would expect.

But the church continues to worship in the Community Hall, for which we are very grateful, and a couple of things coming up need special mention.

Service of Remembrance – November 11th

Over the last three years, we have held a special service in the church on Armistice Day, and this year we plan to do the same, except it will be in the Community Hall.

We are holding our monthly Communion service at 10.30am on November 11th for anyone to come to – it will include an act of Remembrance with the names from the war memorial read, and a time of silence at 11.00am, and the laying of wreaths. Do please join us, and stay for refreshments once the service is finished.

Christmas – Carol Service – December 21st

One of the highlights of the Christmas programme is Carols by Candlelight. Without a church and the physical facility we had there for a candlelit service, we are planning a carol service on December 21st at 6.30pm in the Community Hall. However, we are inviting people to congregate at St Nicholas church at 6.00pm, and walk through the village in a lantern-lit procession, singing carols. Do join us for the procession and service – it promises to be a memorable moment in this year’s celebrations.

With my best wishes,
Rev Martin Green

Bulletin No 7

Dear Friends

Things at St Nicholas have been relatively quiet over the summer. We have had an archaeological survey completed and I have put a picture below showing part of the original medieval wall that they uncovered. The Victorians seem to have used these ancient walls as the foundations for some of the pillars and walls when they enlarged the church in the 19th century. I am still awaiting the formal report, but it was fascinating to see the team from Warwickshire Museum working.

We are also in the middle of a thorough Structural Survey of the church, assessing the damage to the walls and deciding how much more of the church will need to be dismantled before any building work can be done. There has been a great deal of fracturing since the fire, and it looks like the gables and pillars may need to come down. Again, I am awaiting the report, which should come out in the next few weeks, and we shall know then the scale of the project ahead of us.

Alongside these surveys, we have been working with the architect and insurance company, providing details of what was lost in the fire, and beginning to look ahead to the rebuilding process.
As part of this, we have visited some churches that have been through what we face at the moment, and are taking note of some of the stunning results. It has been a real encouragement to catch a glimpse of the other end of the journey.

Not much more to report, but may I draw your attention to the revised Winter times of opening the churchyard.

New times for opening the Churchyard, from October 1st :
Wed evenings : Closed
Sundays : 2.30 – 3.30pm

From November, we shall be opening the plot on Sunday afternoons only, until the clocks change again in the Spring.

The Harvest Festival will be on Sunday 5th October at 10am at the Community Hall. All are welcome. Please bring Harvest gifts.

Rev Martin Green

Bulletin No 6

Great news !!

We have just completed the first stage of work at the church, and the building is now secure and protected from the elements.

I have also managed to get confirmation that now that the contractors have left the premises, we may once again allow free access to the churchyard OUTSIDE the fencing compound.

I am so sorry that these last few months have been such a trial for so many of you, but thank you for your patience and understanding. We have had some concrete steps put in, with handrails, to help people climb the bank onto the level churchyard, and to minimize the danger of slipping down the bank if the grass is wet. Please be careful.

We are also able to offer supervised access to the cremation plots – these will have to be limited times only, and those visiting the plots will have to wear protective hats (which we can provide).

The times are as follows, and will be posted on the fencing and on the website.

Sunday afternoons : 2.30 – 4.30pm
Wednesday evenings : 6.30 – 8.00pm

We shall start this on Sunday July 20th

As the church will now be hidden from sight behind its protective sheeting until the rebuilding is complete, the church gathered there to remember, and to thank God for the memories invested in the old building.

I offer the prayer we used below, for those who would like it – it is a prayer for us as a church and a community, as so many of us have shared important parts of our lives here:

Almighty God,
Thank you for the times of joy and celebration we have spent here,
for the times we have met you;
for the times you have touched us and warmed us with you Spirit;
for the times you have healed us and spoken into our hearts.
Lord this is our spiritual home – broken and spoiled
You know how our hearts are broken for our loss – for things and memories that will never be reclaimed. But you are a God who makes all things new.

So we pray for your grace to accept this place we have arrived at today – that we may give to you our treasured memories and special moments, that they may bring you glory. For they stand for the steps we have taken closer to you.

We ask that you would be sufficient for us, and as we leave this place in your hands to be renewed, please continue to lead us step by step. Keep us from standing still in the past, and clinging to the old – and renew us in your way by your precious Spirit.

For we ask this in Jesus name, our Lord and Saviour who died and rose again, and reigns forever.

Amen

Rev Martin Green

Bulletin No 5

Dear Friends

The first news is that this coming week the church will be covered by a plastic protective cover, surrounding the scaffolding frame. A clever roof will be put on as well which will allow future contractors to remove sections when they need to crane materials inside.

This will complete the first stage of making the building safe, and will be the last time the church will be seen until the new restoration and rebuilding is complete.

The second piece of news is that the Bishop of Warwick has asked me to stay on to help oversee this reconstruction work – which is a great relief ! He is currently working out the details of my new licence, but at least we know that we shan’t have to move again until this work is complete.

As our attention moves into the next stage of work, we have been able to appoint an architect from a firm in London who are specialists in restoring and re-ordering churches. We are very excited, as their track record is stunningly good – they are currently completing the £36m restoration of St Martins in the Fields (the church overlooking Trafalgar Sq), and have worked on some other significant national treasures, including the Tower of London, Wells cathedral, and Leeds Castle, to name but a few. So we shall be in excellent hands !

As a thorough survey begins on the walls and tower, we shall soon discover how much of the stonework has been irreparably damaged and will need to be replaced. This will be the next stage of the work, and when contractors will return to the site. This work will need the approval of the Diocesan authorities and English Heritage, who are due to visit the church in July.

We are also working through details of various elements of the church fabric that have been lost so that the Insurance Company can cover these fairly. We have discovered that the East window was not a Kempe window (Kempe was a prolific and high quality stained glass window designer in the 19th century). We had been led to believe that we had one of his works, but sadly this is not the case. However, the artist who made our Millennium window is on the case, and has come up with some suggestions of other makers.

Once the current contractors have left the site, we will hopefully be able to open the churchyard again for visitors, but on a supervised basis only. We are having some temporary steps put in from the path so that no-one slips on the grass, and on our next bulletin, I will publish times when someone will be there to open the churchyard to any visitors. We will also be able to open the cremation area at the same time. This will be a great relief to many, though there will still be some inaccessible graves within the fencing. These are fully protected underneath the scaffolding.

Thank you once again for your understanding and support. As we move into a more exciting and creative phase of work, we give great thanks to God that everyone working on the Church has been kept safe, and has provided us with such a sensitive and careful service.

Bulletin No 4

Dear Friends,

The first phase of the work at the church is drawing to an end. The bells have been removed and all the debris within the building has now been cleared, sorted, and the few bits with any future use have been stored. The final process in the phase is the external scaffolding of the entire building with a covering roof, and protective sides. We shall be left with what probably looks like a cocoon, which will come off at the end of the project, hopefully like a butterfly emerging! This first phase has gone extremely well, and the contractors have been superb.

However, as part of this work, we discovered evidence which suggests that the fire might not have been caused accidentally. On the day after the fire, when it was safe to go into the fenced compound, I discovered that one of the cremation plot stones was missing. Well about 10 days ago, it was discovered underneath one of the main windows inside the church, underneath the debris. This, sadly, means that it went through the window before the fire started, and certainly on the night of the fire as people were in church the afternoon before. The police are still investigating, but I am afraid that it is now fairly likely that the fire will have been started deliberately.

I am sure this will be a major blow to many of us, and we may have all kinds of questions and feelings surrounding something so wrong as this. We have set up a small Pastoral Prayer Team of people from church who you can talk to, or pray with, if you feel you need to. They will be at the Radford Rendezvous coffee mornings, and we have arranged a time with our friends at the Baptist church when their hall will be open to meet and pray – the first Thursday of every month from 7.30 -8.30pm, starting on June 5th.

Members of the team are also available to visit you at home, and if you would like to meet one of them, do call Helen Robertson or Anne Wilson and they will make the arrangements. Please do use this team to help with the anger and sadness that we will be feeling at this time.

I would also like to say a huge thank you to those who have given so generously to the Restoration fund. We have now raised just over £10,000 !

I know some of you have been waiting to find out how much we will need to restore the church before making your gift. At the moment we do not know how much this will be as the cost of repair work to the stone walls and the design and building of the new interior have not been assessed yet. Once the building is safe, there will be a thorough survey which will begin to give us some indication of the final state of the walls (stone is still fracturing and falling off!). The Church is insured, but nearly 10% of the cover has already been spent in this first phase of work. It looks likely that we shall need to raise some more, and at that time, we shall be setting up a small fund-raising group who will oversee some events and activities that we can all be part of. So please think of creative ideas … I am sure they will be very useful !

Alan Jones is also going to make a DVD diary of the event and rebuild, so if you have any pictures or video footage, please contact him on 334443.

Thank you again for your support and prayers – we are getting there, slowly but surely!

Bulletin No. 3

Dear Friends

It has been good to see the work continuing apace in the clear up process. There is a very clever cherry-picker on site which can get through doorways and then extend out and up … I know one or two people have been very impressed with it! We are beginning to collect a few mouldings from inside the church – just fragments sadly – but they will be useful in the redesign work.

You may also have noticed that the contractors are allowing our Churchyard team into the perimeter of the churchyard, to keep it looking as tidy and well-cared for as usual. This is such a bonus, as it means that those who are currently unable to visit graves of loved-ones will at least be reassured to know that the churchyard is still being tended. I am very grateful to Linford’s for their understanding and their supervision.

The bell-ringing team are still keeping their hand in, and have been welcomed at Offchurch in the interim, for which we are very grateful.

I have had some lovely cards and letters from people in the last few weeks; one particular note stands out from a young boy who doesn’t live in the village, but passed the church on his way into Leamington and wrote to me, saying how sorry he was about the church and offering the use of the digger and lifting equipment they have on their farm!
Plans are also being made for some Fund Raising events and John Taylor’s Funeral Service are running a Garage Sale this coming weekend – see below.

Barford Church are having a choir concert towards the end of May – more details to follow.

We are also in the process of setting up a website, which will help everyone who likes keeping up with information online. The address will be www.stnicholasrestoration.com and there’s a test page up online.

One disappointing note to all this has been the letters that have appeared raising questions about the church’s honesty, and linking the Restoration Fund with the old school building. I understand that the sale of the old school was a difficult issue for the village, but it seems that there is a certain amount of wrong information that has grown up around it.

So I can assure everyone that the church has not benefited from a single penny from the sale of the old school. The agreement was always that the money from the sale (and the interest accruing) would go directly to the school to pay for much needed new classrooms, and other refurbishments as the Governors see fit. The money is therefore not church money at all, and is certainly not available for the Restoration Fund. It is solely for the use of the school, to benefit the children of our village, and is being used for that purpose alone under the direction of the school’s Governing Body.

So the work continues, and once again, “Thank you” to everyone for your continued support. The next major event there should be the bells being removed, and that will be a very interesting day !

Bulletin No 2

Two weeks on, and work is starting in earnest.

This week you will see a small crane arriving to allow the construction company to remove all the loose debris from the top of the wall and gables. Once they have done this, they will be able to begin clearing the inside of the church, replacing the areas where the floor and joists have been burnt away with temporary flooring and erecting scaffolding to prevent the gables from collapsing.

The next stage of work will involve the removal by hand of the rubble inside the church, laying out pieces of particular interest (eg. bits of moulding and fragments of glass), and logging where they have been found. This will help us in the restoration phase in later months.

While this is going on, further scaffolding will be erected outside the church, holding up the gables and providing a frame for a temporary roof that will protect the ruins from the elements. I have asked the scaffolding engineer to design it so that we might be allowed limited and supervised access to the cremation area of the churchyard in the future, and hopefully this will be possible. Until then, the churchyard is still out of bounds.

The bells will be removed from their steel frame and taken away to be recast. The specialist has told us that the heat will have cracked all the bells – something to do with the make up of the metal, and the tin element burning off quicker than other elements. However, the hope is that new bells will be able to be made and they will ring again in due course.

This all sounds gloomy news, but these last two weeks have been far from that. We have received an overwhelming response from members of the community and further afield, sending gifts, best wishes and prayers, and offering practical help in many different ways.

So I, on behalf of the church, would like to say a huge and humble “Thank you” to everyone for your support and encouragement.

Easter Day is always a time of hope, and as people gathered for the service, we each were invited to place a flower in the cross, transforming it into what you see below. After the service it was taken to the churchyard, as a sign of our hope for the future, and as a help to those who are unable to place flowers on their loved-one’s graves at the moment. There it remains – death is not the end!

Services continue at the Community Hall at 10.00am.

There is still no forensic decision on the causes of the fire.

Please keep out of the churchyard – it is still unsafe to visit graves.