The Friends of St James the Great, Thorley

Chairman's Report to the

Annual General Meeting

held on Friday, 19 March 2004


Thank you all for coming this evening and for your support throughout the year.

The Committee has worked hard on our behalf and I am sure you would like me to pass on your thanks to them.

During the year we were sad to learn of the deaths of two of our longstanding members, Margaret Mason and Carol Miller.

The key social and fund-raising events during 2003 were the provision of Sunday afternoon teas in the Church Room from the first Sunday after Easter until the end of British Summer Time in October, the Festival of Flowers and Music over the August Bank Holiday Weekend and the Quiz Evening in November. Adrian will give full details of the financial aspects of these events in his report.

Following their much-appreciated contribution in 2002, 'Jubilate and Friends' very generously donated one-half of the money raised by 'Concert in the Church 2' towards the work of the Friends.

The theme for the 2003 Festival was 'Relationships - To Know Christ And To Make Him Known'. In addition to the many popular attractions of recent years, Peter Cooper offered photographic portrait sessions. These proved to be extremely popular and were a key reason for the Festival being the most financially successful to date. The total amount raised by the 2003 Festival, which had as its objective the funding of the restoration of the Lychgate, was just over 4000. The Parochial Church Council have since put the work out to tender and selected their preferred respondent, a local builder who bid 2900 + VAT. Placing of an appropriate contract now awaits approval of the Faculty request that has been submitted.

On the Sunday evening of the Festival Bob led a service in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the Friends. As we now enter our twenty second year, the total money raised by the Association since its foundation approaches the 90,000 mark. Over the years some 70,000 has been spent on numerous Church and Churchyard projects. In addition to the money earmarked for the restoration of the Lychgate, a further 12,000 has been committed to the Parochial Church Council for the final phase of work to complete the restoration of the Tower.

The Committee as ever continues to be indebted to Max Streets and his small team of helpers for ensuring the orderly appearance of the Churchyard.

The Friends' Website has continued to attract considerable attention. Following the contact by parishioners in Great Gidding who were seeking help in the formation of their very own Friends that was reported last year, we have received many e-mails from people who had found the Website of value. These ranged from the man engaged in a one-name study who was delighted to find the final resting place of a relative who had died of a heart attack whilst on holiday in Devon in the early 1980s, through the former resident who was surprised to find himself mentioned as one of the first Thorley Queen's Scouts in the mid 1960s and the man who used the date of death of a relative in the opening years of the twentieth century to discover that he had met his untimely demise by falling over the stair rail at the Charing Cross Hotel, to the correspondent in Canada who was amazed to read a letter written in the first half of the nineteenth century by his great-grandmother four generations back. If you have not already done so, I would urge you take a look at the Website. You'll find the Church Guide, descriptions of the stained glass windows, photographic records of past Festivals, the many articles by Bill Hardy that form the From the Archives section, the complete database of more than 750 Churchyard monumental inscriptions and much more.

At last year's Annual General Meeting we debated the remit of the Friends. Two opposing views were aired. One, that restricting the remit to the funding of work on the Church building and Churchyard could be viewed as divisive now that the upkeep of other buildings was also the responsibility of the Parish. The other, that the total money needed to maintain the Church and Churchyard was significant and the Friends could do no more than make a major contribution. To extend the remit could therefore be viewed as diluting the Friends' effectiveness. The position that finally emerged was that any discussion on extending the remit should be limited to historic buildings. On that basis, the only issue of debate was whether the remit should be extended to encompass fundraising in support of the maintenance of the St Barnabas Centre.

No clear consensus emerged on this latter point. As you may recall, I sought clarification as to the view of the meeting by tabling a motion, which I made clear was not a proposal but rather a formal way of seeking guidance for the Committee, that 'the incoming Committee should give serious consideration to proposing to members a change in the Constitution of the Friends to extend its remit.' There were 12 votes in favour of this motion, 9 against and 4 abstentions.

As promised, the Committee did discuss the matter further. In the end we decided not to recommend an extension to the remit. A key consideration leading to this conclusion was that any alteration to the remit would require a change to the Constitution. Such a change could only be approved through the assent of two-thirds of the members present and voting at an Annual General Meeting or a Special General Meeting. We concluded that the size of majority in favour of the Committee giving serious consideration to an extension to the remit was far to small to warrant taking the matter any further.

At last year's Annual General Meeting there was short discussion on how to make the Annual Festival of Flowers and Music even more successful, particularly from the point of increasing its fundraising potential. A number of valuable suggestions were tabled, some of which were taken-up for the 2003 Festival and others of which were deferred for future consideration. As you will see, the Committee decided it would be useful to have a fuller debate on this subject this year and an item has accordingly been included in the Agenda.

I would like to end my Report by thanking Adrian, our Treasurer, and Margaret, our Vice Chairman and indeed all the members of the Committee, for their help and support during the past year. On behalf of the Committee, and myself I would also like to thank you for the support you have given us

Philip Hargrave
19 March 2004

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