St Bartholomew’s, Tong

Parish news, views and muse

Easter Day, 31st March, will be Pippa’s final Sunday service in Tong, but her employment won’t end till 2nd June during which time there are some Tong weddings that she will be taking and a good deal of clearing up of loose ends; loose ends that have been waiting for this day of reckoning!

July/August 2024, news views and muse

Work at home or go to the Office?

A salutary tale from our two oldest grand-daughters…. ‘A’ is in the office all day and when she goes to the car park, she finds one of her tyres is deflated. She’s resourceful and has a gadget she can plug into the cigarette lighter ( they still call them that!) and attach to the tyre valve and it gradually inflates the tyre so she can get home. A man she has only seen a few times – none other than the CEO of the large company she works for in a lowly marketing position – is making his way across the car park and sees this damsel in distress and engages her in conversation. He is most impressed at her practical know-how. If she’s good at dealing with flat tyres – what else might she be good at? NB If she had been working at home she wouldn’t have got a flat tyre, but equally she wouldn’t have had a conversation with the CEO.

Grand-daughter Number 2, ‘B , is in the office and a call goes out for a deputation to go and see an important client in Battersea. ‘B’ volunteers and sets off with about 5 others somewhat senior to herself. They are together with the client and his entourage in a lift going up a high rise tower when he says to her ( she is young and pretty!) “’B’ , where do you come from?” “Putney” she replies. “Oh, I thought you might be from the West Midlands as there is a family of Thorneycrofts up there”. “Yes, those are my grandparents. My father grew up there”. “Well”, continues, the client, “my mother died last year and her funeral was taken by a Pippa Thorneycroft. Is she any relation?” “That’s my Granny”. By which time the lift, full of older more senior colleagues is silent and taking it all in. Well done ‘I’ for going to the office, and for volunteering even though you are only in your first year of employment post university. You won’t be forgotten!

I must add that for mothers with dependent children, and especially all single parents , working from home is a brilliant way of managing both roles with all the technology now available. But if you want to be noticed and you have a choice, making the effort to go to the office will have unforeseen spin-offs – though not every day – by chance encounters such as these.


June 2024 news, views and muse

SIGNS of LIFE – or not?

At intervals I have waged war on poorly presented notices around our church, but such things also offend me along our highways and in our towns. We are bombarded with brown signs saying “Golf Course” which we know closed several years ago or “Elysium” ( long since The Old Rectory Care Home) or yellow signs advertising a new housing complex which folk have been living in for a decade or more. Once when I pointed this out to the Council they said I could take it down ( a metal sign on strong metal upright concreted into the green in front of our house. I managed to wiggle off the sign, but the black metal upright is still there.) Or there are the flapping signs which advertise “Christmas Menu – book now” in Lent, “Coming soon…” an event or opening that has not only come but gone. “Retired Men’s Guild – open to all”, with a date last year. You know. You’ve seen them and ignored them. There is too much information bombarding us so we blank it out which is why “Jumble Sale” or “ Cream Teas” or “ Concert by XYZ” on a home-made poster is unlikely to bring in many members of the public. We are too sophisticated now and will visit the What’s On website rather than peruse the tatty papers.

For many years we judged a church by its noticeboard. If we turned up and there were bird droppings in the porch, bits of out-of-date paper hanging to a moth-eaten old board, rusty drawing pins and information long since past, we knew without trying the door that all was not well in that place. God had moved on, because He doesn’t remain in death but bursts forth again in Resurrection ( “ I am the Dance and I still go on”.)

This may be my final message to the worshippers at Tong: please keep the notices informative and relevant. Please keep the noticeboards clean , not cloudy and gathering moss. Take down everything that has passed its sell-by date or usefulness or just looks passé. Do we really need a No Smoking sign? Please, Everyone, look at the boards (and the porch) as if you were approaching someone’s home. Is the display inviting, clean and tidy or does it give the impression “Nobody cares here, so don’t bother to enter”? Oh, and 4 pins to each sheet! Chuck the rusty ones. Amen.


May News, 2024

Bits and Pieces:
On 11th March an Open PCC was held to see how the future would pan out for St. Bartholomew’s.
Revd Chris & Pippa met with Bp Sarah about the coming vacancy, she confirmed that the 0.2 post could be advertised. There is a formal process to confirm this, starting with the acting Archdeacon completing a report on the parish. This then is taken to Bishop’s Council to be ratified. Once this is done we will be able to advertise the post.
We also discussed the possibility of raising funds for some administrative help at Tong, this could come in the form of a Tourism Officer. Our Fund Raiser has drawn up a Job description.
Many people volunteered to take over some of the tasks that Pippa has undertaken herself.
Services in the interim will be covered on the rota, with Jess and Mike offering cover. (PCC will need to pay expenses). Mike has said he is happy to Chair the PCC
Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals will be covered on the rota, and especially by Jess and Mike.
We will need a church phone in place – a cheap mobile that can be passed round (around £5 per month) so that there is always a response to calls to the “parish office”. Pippa would remove her contact details systematically.
Home Communions and Pastoral Care – there will need to be a way of notifying Mike and Jess of these. ( parish office phone)
We need to ensure that iknowchurch is up to date with everyone’s details so that we can contact vital people.
Also that we are up to date with safeguarding and that reporting lines are clear in the vacancy.

The Quinquennial Inspection has been completed though we do not yet have the report; also the Electrical and lightning conductor 5-yearly inspection
Country Kids Nursery visited with wonderful Easter Bonnets and will continue to be welcomed by Revd Jess & his wife Evelyn
We have CCTV footage of an Audi car failing to stop at the end of Friar’s Lane and bouncing into the field wall, leaving behind the radiator grill and driving away. The hit and run will cost us in the region of £5000 to repair and we are most grateful to the couple who have made an anonymous donation towards the repairs of £1000.

Lent appeal – A Tent for Lent via Shelterbox. Thank you and well done everyone. We made it to £425 which provides a tent for a family in one of the world’s disaster areas.

Cathedral Eucharist – Pippa and Jess and Evelyn attended the Maundy Thursday Eucharist at the cathedral and brought back the newly blessed oils – Baptism, Healing & Chrism for the coming year.

Easter Day – was Pippa’s swansong after 10 years in the parish and 30 years as a priest, and we were able to record an attendance of 90. It was a very joyful occasion. CHRIST IS RISEN! Things won’t be the same again, but they won’t be entombed either. Thank God.


April news, views and muse 2024

How the Other Half Lives:

I have recently read yet another article on the terrible English sin of sending children to boarding school. These pieces are presumably written by people who didn’t have the privilege of attending one of these schools or who did attend and hated every minute, but I am going to attempt to put the other side of the coin because I loved my 9 years away at school – so much so that we sent our own 4 children to similar educational establishments all over the country.

I was 9 when I set off with my trunk in a blue tweed coat and hat for a small school of 96 pupils in the wilds of Herefordshire. My parents had made it seem the most natural thing in the world for they had both done the same thing as children. They made sure I read the “Jennings” books which made me laugh and gave me an insight into the fun that school life could be.

Homesickness used to descend on me as we were getting up for breakfast, never the best time of day for me, but the rest of the time it was forgotten and after a few weeks it passed. Then, of course, there were no phones and parents weren’t expected to enquire after our well-being. We wrote letters once a week and my mother and father both wrote every Sunday. I did the same for my own children. The great bonus of school for me was that I was often lonely at home, having only one brother 7 years younger, but at school there was a depth of friendship which has in many cases lasted all my life. After all we were in the same boat and would support each other through thick and thin as there were no parents to turn to. In that way it made us all very independent and able to cope with whatever life later threw at us.

That school lasted 3 years. We must have been taught well because I don’t remember much about the work. I just recall the fun we had. There were large grounds and we were allowed to climb trees and make dens in the undergrowth. “Health and Safety” hadn’t blighted our lives then and when it froze we even skated on pond. We had little gardens to cultivate and there was a riding school as part of the package. I learned tennis and hockey and netball and there was an outdoor swimming pool. I also think back on the morning and evening assemblies and one of my friends of 60 plus years says even now she can recall my voice saying the Lord’s Prayer. I know I used to muster my mates whenever we found a dead bird and I used to conduct its funeral service. Little did I know then…

At 12 I was transferred to a school of about 900 in Cheltenham. It was a shock to me to be in a town for the first time in my life, and we lived out in houses with about 60 girls in each, presided over by a House Mistress – in my case the widow of the Bishop of Burnley. We walked or cycled into the main school buildings in the centre of the town, and elsewhere again for the games which were part of almost every day. As well as the sport I had done before I added cricket and lacrosse to the list, and thoroughly enjoyed all that was on offer. Again we had daily worship, all 900 of us together in the morning and in our houses in the evening. For church on Sunday we would cycle (when we got older) to the church of our choice and I used to go to one about 3 miles away, every other week for Holy Communion at 8.00 am, back for breakfast and then off again for the 11 o’clock service. The other weeks we only went once. Some people complain that enforced church-going put them off worship for life, but it didn’t have that effect on me.

We were immensely privileged in the high quality of teaching and people like U.A Fanthorpe, a well-known poet, taught me English, and Herbert Sumsion, the organist at Gloucester cathedral conducted our choir and played the school organ. But we only realized all that long after we left.

I suppose the legacy it has conferred on me is a huge streak of independence, being able to eat any food anywhere, a goodly array of friends all over the country and the foundations of a faith which has also lasted a lifetime. So you see it wasn’t as bad as people say, not for me anyway, nor for the majority. We all cried buckets when we left. That says it all.


March 2024 news, views and muse

I know a Good Samaritan

I have memories of being young and foolish and at least twice have run out of petrol as I coasted into the forecourt of a garage my heart pounding for the last 5 miles, wondering if I would make it without having to call out the AA. I thought I had grown out of such unwise carry-ons, but after a funeral visit in Shrewsbury recently discovered that with headlights, de-mister, windscreen wipers – albeit NO heating – my EV battery was perilously low and the M54 seemed a bad idea, so the old A5 it was…trundle trundle. I really wasn’t going to make it home so Tesco by Junction 7 would save my bacon, even though I’ve never used those battery chargers before and the man in front told me I must download the app ( of course! We have apps for everything; sign in, invent a password) only to find that the connector wouldn’t fit my charging point. Never mind there is a different sort a few metres away, though the chap there said he would be at least another half an hour, but I had to have a charge so I waited. He showed me what to do and how to pay but although this was a different connector, it still wouldn’t go into my car socket. Haven’t you got your own connector? He asked. I have but it’s 15 miles away and anyway it is fixed to the wall and the portable one has a 13-amp plug on it which isn’t going to work in this scenario even if John brought it over.

More thought then recalls. I have a friend in Leegomery who sounds pleased that I have called her in desperation in the dark and drizzle. She says she’s had a dreary day and rolls up her sleeves to help. Put the kettle on and we’ll work out what to do next which ends in her driving me to Albrighton to pick up the 13-amp charger ( not a quick fix); 30 miles of her petrol, so we settle down to more tea and stories of mutual acquaintances ( I did an interim ministry job in Hadley and Wellington in 2012/13) while her electricity drips slowly in to my car battery for a couple more hours. I really must try to make it home but when we try to remove the connector, it is stuck fast. She find a You-tube “ how to..” But in the little video, you just pull the thing out. But mine wasn’t going to make life that easy. Finally my Good Samaritan phones her son who “does things with cars and knows about electric vehicles” , and with the help of the FaceTime camera he looks around the dashboard and eventually comes up with the seemingly illogical answer; lock the car. Unlock the car. Pull out the plug. And on the second round, out she came! There is still remarkably little juice in the battery though, so I mosey gently down to Trench Lock, up past the Town Centre on the A 442, down to Shifnal and the last leap of faith, nurse the battery along the A464 knowing I can walk the last bit, if I unwillingly have to abandon the car. Finally I back into the drive within cable distance of the home charger and register the battery level which tells me 0%. Deo Gratias! The Ten o’clock News is well under way. 6 hours!


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