Annual Report 2016-17
New Priest in Charge
The past year has seen considerable activity in church affairs. Firstly, in welcoming and working with our new Priest in Charge, Heather Butcher, followed by the enlargement of the benefice to sixteen parishes. It will take a while to get to know our brethren from these and to settle into working with a wider geographical and demographic world. To assist in ministering to such a large group, a Team Vicar has been appointed and we welcomed the Revd. Julia Hemp to this post.
On the physical side, church repairs are ongoing. The reslating of the nave roof was accomplished by our contractor, Pikestaff Traditional Roofing, in excellent time, with comparatively little structural repair needed. The same was not the case when the roof of the south aisle was opened up. This will require an almost compete renewal of all the structural timbers, which will substantially delay completion, now scheduled for May. Despite all the work, the church has remained in use throughout, with parts effectively screened off by the contractor. Last minute cleaning allowed our Christmas services to take place as usual and we are able to make the proud boast, “We never Closed.” The work has been funded by a major grant, but also by a number of smaller but generous contributions from various charities. We still have to provide a percentage of the costs from our own resources and our fund-raisers have been busy as always, the annual Snowdrop Weekend at East Lexham being the principal event, thanks to the kindness of Mr & Mrs Foster in permitting us to profit from the refreshments on the first Sunday.
The church’s Electoral Roll received an unexpected and substantial increase in numbers at the annual meeting in 2016. It was hoped that this would result in an improvement in our always slender means, together with social and spiritual benefits but, sadly, there has been no visible improvement. This means that the contribution of the parish to its share of the costs of incumbents and overheads continues to be considerably subsidised by the wealthier market town churches. We are on notice that this cannot continue indefinitely.
The new grass cutting season is about to start and our very efficient contractor will again be keeping the churchyard (complete with its new kissing gate) in order. We are very grateful that Litcham Parish Council has been able to assist us with the costs of this. A surprising number of visitors arrive, especially in summer, to research their ancestry and find graves and a tidy churchyard is of great benefit. There is a plan and catalogue of graves on the table at the rear of the church and anyone enquiring should be directed to this.
Litcham Church is classed as an “Open Church,” being open every day and we welcome all, whether for interest in the building, to remember loved ones, as a place of prayer or just to sit and enjoy a moment of quiet and shelter from the press of everyday life.
Richard Vogt, Churchwarden, March 2017
Annual Report 2015-16
Having completed the works of renewing the chancel roof coverings and the subsequent drying out process in 2015, our efforts turned to the necessary work to the roofs of the nave and south aisle.
Our bid to the newly created Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund was successful and we have also been successful in obtaining supplementary grants from other bodies, so that the balance of the costs of the works can be met from the limited resources of our own restoration account. Tenders have been received and subject to the outcome of the recent Bat survey the successful company is expected to start work in May/June.
The nave roof will be re-slated and there will be no significant change in appearance. In view of the prevalence of lead theft, we have obtained consent for the roof of the south aisle, which is barely visible from the ground, to be covered with terne-coated stainless steel. This is a lead coloured, highly durable material with little scrap value. The total costs of the work will be slightly less than £150,000.
This work is much needed, as during a recent day of heavy rain and winds the roofs were leaking in five places, several for the first time. Inspection of the roof of the south aisle has revealed an amount of timber decay which will have to be addressed within the contract.
Internally, those visiting the church may have noticed that a tomb slab in the north aisle remained subsided after several years and presented a trip hazard requiring temporary covering. This slab covered the tomb of the Raven family, prominently recorded in village history. A descendent of the family resident in Australia who visits Litcham regularly, noticed the problem and has most generously met the full four figure cost of lifting and underpinning the slab, which is a single block of slate six feet by four or five inches thick.
Fund raising events have been very necessary as always and much hard work has been put in. No repair grant covers 100% of the cost and we have also met an increasing proportion of the costs of a Parish Priest due to progressive withdrawal of central subsidy. This results in an annual increase of 15% far ahead of inflation and personal income. The most recent event, the Snowdrop walk at Lexham Hall, was a great success and our catering provision raised some £920. We are grateful to Mr Neil Foster for giving us this opportunity.
The formal licensing of our new Priest-in-Charge, Heather Butcher took place at Tittleshall on 10th April. She joins us from Cringleford. She is also the Norwich Diocesan Advisor on Women’s Ministry. We look forward to the re-invigoration which she will bring.
Despite the interregnum, worship patterns have been maintained. Whilst the upkeep of the mediaeval building occupies so much time and effort, that is not our main purpose and it is pointless without the spiritual life of the church. As well as the usual festal services, the “Peoples’ Carol Service”, was repeated at Christmas with a different theme and we were delighted to welcome our brothers and sisters from other churches, including Methodist and Roman Catholic.
R C Vogt, Churchwarden
Annual Report 2014-15
The life of the Church over the year has been dominated by the continuing delays in completion of the external repairs rendering the Chancel out of use. Severe rainwater penetration of the temporary roof coverings in 2013 necessitated a prolonged period of controlled drying. Following redecoration of the Chancel walls and ceiling in the original paint colours the whole Church was returned to full use in time for the Christmas season. Some £150,000 worth of repairs have been undertaken which has rendered the building in much better partial order than for some years. We still have persistent roof leaks and are awaiting the outcome of a bid to a new grant fund specifically targeted at Church roofs, for a complete recovering of the Nave.
A newly-restored wall tablet to the memory of Frederic Keppel Fitzroy, whose family lived in Kempston Lodge and who died during his military duties in India was erected in the Chancel. The memorial, rescued in pieces from the ruins of Kempston Church, had been stored by Mr Mervyn Jones at Litcham Priory for many years. The Keppel family was and is still a large one and an adjacent memorial in the Chancel is to another branch of the family. Members of the family society contributed to the cost of restoring the memorial and it is hoped to have a service of dedication later this year.
No repair grants cover 100% of the cost and much hard work has been put into fundraising events. Additionally, we have to meet an increasing proportion of the costs of a Parish Priest due to the progressive withdrawal of central subsidies. The most recent event, the Snowdrop Walk at Lexham Hall, was a great success and our catering provision raised some £900.
Church services continue to be well attended, with probably slightly more attendance than the average for a rural parish. One new event this year was the “Peoples’ Carol Service” a less formal Christmas service, which was well received by those who attended and which will hopefully build up further if repeated in future years.
We have reached agreement with the Parish Council over churchyard access from Druids Lane. It has been agreed that a kissing gate is to be installed to facilitate easier access for those wishing to visit the churchyard and we are most grateful that the Parish Council will meet the cost of grass cutting so that the churchyard can be maintained in an appropriate condition throughout the year.
R C Vogt, Churchwarden
Mr Birkbeck reported on repairs to the Chancel, replacement of lead and general housekeeping. The Parish Council have advised the PCC they will no longer pay for the cutting of the grass in the churchyard. The PCC has no funds to pay for the cutting of the grass in the churchyard as all fundraising revenue is used for the restoration and repairs to the Church. Any complaints which may be received by members of the PCC on the unkempt condition of the churchyard should be referred to Mr Oldfield, Chairman of the Parish Council. The Parish Council has paid for the grass cutting for the past 33 years; RV will raise awareness of the situation in an article for C&V.
J O Birkbeck, Churchwarden
The Reverend Joyce reported on the delay to the start of building works in the Chancel which was due to the existence of bats and thanked everyone for their forbearance. He referred to the publication from the Diocese ‘The Responsibility is Ours’ which explains the the new method of collecting Parish Share from 2014 and which will no longer be allocated to individual parishes but to Benefices. With declining numbers of clergy it was acknowledged that the clergy will be spread more thinly and Reverend Joyce had been asked to look at the inclusion of the parishes of Wellingham, Weasenham and Rougham into the Community of the Upper Nar. Fundraising continues to go well and Reverend Joyce expressed his thanks to all who drive these initiatives and all those who support. Over the Benefice numbers attending the Easter services were up on previous years.
Rev’d Martin Joyce, Priest in Charge