The Friends of St James the Great, Thorley

Chairman's Report to the

Annual General Meeting

held on Friday, 25 March 2022

Good evening and thank you for coming to the 2022 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Friends of St James the Great, Thorley. I’ve chaired many Friends’ AGMs over the years, but never with a greater feeling of déjà vu than this year. That’s probably because it’s less than six months since I was last sitting in this very spot saying “welcome” to those attending our 2021 AGM. That was something I had hoped to say in March of last year, the month laid down in the Friends’ Constitution during which AGMs should be held, but I was unable to do so until October because of the public safety measures in force in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that prevented our AGM from taking place earlier in the year. Because of the delay in holding last year’s AGM, this year’s is taking place less than six months after last year’s.

Such public safety measures had led to all the Friends’ fund-raising activities being on hold from ten days after our March 2020 AGM until July 2021. Consequently, the only activities we were able to undertake during 2021 were a short season of Sunday Afternoon Teas from the Church Room from the first Sunday in August until the last Sunday in September plus an Autumn Craft Fair in the St Barnabas Centre in November. I’ll leave it to Des to report on the financial aspects of these activities but, as I’m sure you’ll appreciate, for the second year running the pandemic has had a considerable impact on our fund-raising.

Since our 2021 AGM, we have been saddened to learn of the death of a very long-standing member of the Friends, Joan Abbotson, who also served as a member of the Committee. In recalling Joan’s sterling service to the Friends, I can do no better than quote verbatim from my report to the Friends’ 2010 AGM at the time of her standing down from Committee membership.

“I cannot end my report this year without paying a very special tribute to one of our long-standing Committee members, who has decided not to seek re-election to or co-option onto the incoming Committee. Looking back through the Friends’ records, I find that the minutes of the Annual General Meeting held … on 29 March 1990 record that, when Compton Whitworth, the then Chairman, called for nominations for what would otherwise have been three unfilled positions on the Committee … Joan Abbotson was proposed by Vera Camp. This proposal was seconded by Diana Ashwell and passed unanimously by the meeting … Joan has given sterling service to the Friends, particularly in an area that is dear to my heart, that of catering. Whenever food or refreshments have been called for, Joan has been ever present. Joan did take a short break from Committee membership, standing down at the 1998 Annual General Meeting at the time of the illness of her late and much missed husband, John, but was co-opted back onto the Committee in April 2003.” Joan went on to serve as one of the key members of the Committee until 2010 “

We have also been saddened by the death of a long-time supporter of the Friends, Simon Dellow. Simon was initially organist, then organist and choir leader, and subsequently Director of Music at St James for a total of 25 years. He played at the many Celebrations of Flowers and Music that were hosted by the Friends during this time, continuing to do so even after stepping down from the latter role. He also gave a considerable amount of his time to playing music on the organ and piano for us to record, such as that used to accompany images of the Festival flower arrangements on the DVDs the Freinds produced for many years. Simon’s mastery of a wide range of organ styles became particularly apparent following the Friends’ campaign to raise the funds required to replace the old Church organ that had serious shortcomings by a new 37 Stop Two Manual Allan electronic organ that was installed in 2010. Simon would move effortlessly between playing this instrument in the style of a classic church organ and that of a theatre organ. He will be sorely missed.

Last year was another challenging one for Churchyard Maintenance. That wasn’t because of limitations on the number of volunteers that were allowed to undertake the work as had been the case during 2020. Rather, it was due to the somewhat excessive growth of the grass last year coupled with the very wet weather. In addition to undertaking the usual seasonal work, our small team of dedicated volunteers cleared the large area of tangled ivy and undergrowth that had remained following the removal of the dead beech tree to the north of the Church. We were very grateful to everyone in the team for their dedicated efforts. There was considerable wear and tear on all the machinery last year and we were also indebted to Mokut, our local repairers, for their valuable and prompt help with maintenance, particularly given the severe shortage of spare parts, another consequence of the pandemic.

Earlier this year the Churchyard Machines were serviced in readiness for the 2022 season that is now underway. If you enjoy fresh air and camaraderie and can spare an hour or two a month to come and help us with Churchyard Maintenance, please contact Margaret and Peter Morley who will be delighted to hear from you.

As I reported at our 2021 AGM, the Friends’ Committee agreed towards the end of 2020 to cover the cost of repairs to the fabric of the Church that had been outstanding since the 2014 Quinquennial Inspection, together with those additionally identified during that of 2019, as costed in quotations received by the Parochial Church Council in November 2020. This work was completed towards the end of 2021 when the Friends were pleased to make a grant of some £7,200 to cover the full cost less the element of VAT, the latter being reclaimable by the Parochial Church Council through the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme.

This year got off to a good start with a most enjoyable Quiz Evening on 26 February. The previous one that had been held in March 2020 had turned out to be our only fund-raising event of that year. In deciding whether to proceed with the Quiz Evening that we initially planned for February of this year back in September of last year, the Committee carefully considered the pros and cons of holding such an event at a time when there was continuing pressure on the health service. Although there was some concern that bringing people together for several hours might lead to further COVID-19 infections, it was concluded that not proceeding with the event would itself have adverse consequences. It was felt that many people, although worried about the pandemic, were nevertheless very keen to return to some form of normality. The Committee therefore decided to proceed with the Quiz Evening with a limit of six placed on the number of individuals in each team and the maximum number of such teams restricted to ten. A big thank you is due to Pam Robertson for once again setting the questions, to Steve Robertson and Carina, Pam and Steve’s daughter, for overseeing the marking, and to Mike Trippick for acting as our Quiz Master. As usual, a great time was had by all.

As you will have seen from the letter inviting you to this year’s AGM, the Committee’s plans for the remainder of this year include a sale of Nursery plants in May and an Autumn Craft Fair in November. We would also like to be able to offer Sunday Afternoon Teas from the Church Room during the months of May, June, July, August and September. However, this will only be possible if volunteers come forward who are prepared to organise rotas for segments of this season, together with those willing to sign-up for the weekly slots in these rotas. Please let me or any of the other Committee members know if you can help in either way.

During last year’s AGM, we considered the question of the Friends’ next funding priorities. It was noted that the Parochial Church Council was giving consideration to the acquisition of land to extend the Churchyard as it was becoming full, something that had been viewed worthy of a grant by the Friends at our 2016 AGM. The only other significant project of relevance to the Friends that the Committee was then aware was also receiving consideration by the Parochial Church Council was an idea that had been posited at our 2020 AGM to resolve the limitations resulting from the smallness of the kitchen in the Church Room It had then been suggested that there might be value in turning the much larger backroom that is presently used for storage into a new kitchen, with a smaller storage area being created in its stead in the space currently occupied by the kitchen.

Since the 2021 AGM, another pressing priority has come to the fore. Back in 2018 the Friends’ made a grant to the Parochial Church Council of just over £10,000 to cover the full cost of an upgrade to the Church’s heating system based on the existing boiler but employing more efficient radiators fed from new pipe work. It has now become apparent that there are still issues with the system, the resolution of which will necessitate the replacement of the boiler at a likely cost of a further £10,000. This work has naturally risen to the top of the Friends’ future funding priorities. I will leave it to Des to outline the amount currently at our disposal for the funding of new projects.

Once the necessary business of this AGM has been completed, the evening will conclude with a ‘bring and share buffet’ with drinks provided. As has become our recent practice, self-service options will be minimised, with items being served unless individually wrapped.

I will draw my report to a close by thanking Margaret Morley, our Vice Chairman and Des Conridge, our Treasurer, and indeed all the members of the Committee, for their help and support since our last AGM. On behalf of the Committee, I would also like to thank you all for the support you have given us.

Unless there are any questions at this stage, I will now pass over to Des for him to deliver his Treasurer’s Report.

Thank you very much.

Philip Hargrave

25 March 2022

Return to Reports