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!

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!


February 2024, news views and muse

Christmas at Tong: Despite 5 funerals in 4 weeks in the run up to Christmas, the Festival was well supported and in 24 hours we counted 187 bums on pews. Personally, the Crib and Christingle service was a bit of a disaster as the projector failed and the spare projector ‘just in case’ which I brought from home, also failed. So, I was left to present the whole service without mechanical intervention; and we were short of Christingles! What a nightmare! But please come again next year. We live in hope….

Serious Stuff: We received this news from the other grandmother of 3 mutual grandchildren: ”I am heartbroken to tell you that very sadly, my grandson Jack, died yesterday peacefully in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. He had been there since Wednesday after suffering a bleed on the brain.

He was 29 and had been married for 4 months to Katherine, a wonderful girl whom he met when he was at Cirencester. Andrew and Tracy (his parents) and all of us are devastated.

The older one gets the more one is familiar with the pain of grief, sense of loss, and fury at God (often directed at the doctors ) that underlies this message. It is barely 6 months since I took the funeral of Jack’s grandfather, so how could God come and knock them down again? Now is definitely not the time or place for a reasoned argument.

We knew the then Vicar of Shifnal very well in the 1960s/70s and their grandson of 7 was killed on his way to school. Here were two people of great faith who wobbled as they supported their bereaved son and mourned the hole in all their lives of their oldest grandson who had brought such joy to them and had been wiped out in an instant. There is a tree in his memory in the garden of the old Vicarage. And Revd David Chantrey’s daughter, Lizzie, a doctor, also recently married, taken on her way to work. Why? (There’s no answer to that, but ‘What for….? ‘ might get a different response.)

In that situation I started reading…. My brother died at 29 leaving a young widow and 3-month-old daughter…I read Harold Kushner – (Jewish) “When bad things happen to good people”, “The Pain that heals” by Martin Israel, “Good Friday People” by Sheila Cassidy who had been tortured in Chile. I read several books by the Jesuit priest Gerard Hughes, and “ Evil and the God of Love” by John Hick. I remember most Mary Craig’s “Blessings.” Her second child, Paul, had Hurler’s Syndrome, crudely back then called gargoylism. He died at the age of ten. He had no means of communication, no powers of retention, no ability to concentrate and was never able to do anything for himself, not even smile. Worst of all Paul never recognised his mother or father. Some of the books I read were more academic, some told their own excruciating story. There is certainly no quick fix, but I came to understand that accepting the pain, facing it and enduring it, brings one to a more secure footing with the mystery of God and particularly a better realisation of why Good Friday is such an important day in the devotional calendar. Mary Craig put it this way: “Self knowledge comes to us only in the dark times when we are stripped of illusion and naked to truth”.

The question of suffering is no new phenomenon to be grappled with. The writer of the book of Job has “the Comforters” argue that Job must have done something dreadful to have merited the loss of everything dear to him, but Job maintains that his suffering is not merited. It is not punishment for wrongdoing. And in the end, Job comes face to face with his Creator and argues the toss at the randomness of his plight. Many of the Psalms too are Poems of Lament. As his strength ebbed away on the cross Jesus probably was reciting Psalm 22 which begins “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me…?” Psalm 88 ends:” You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.” However, Psalm 69 gives vent to anger at the Almighty’s dealings with humankind and the way he then hides himself from the suffering.

When people are hurting their pain blocks any possibility of sensing God’s presence, so take a leaf from the Bible and shout at him, go into the graveyard or the hills or an empty beach and tell him what you think of him. This is a real relationship with someone you can shout at. It will do you so much better than maintaining a stony silence and banishing God from your life for ever. One day when you have stormed at him one more time he will pop out from the clouds and smile and say “Did you know, I’ve been here all the time?” And gradually bit by bit, you will know that he has Jack and James and Lizzie and Oliver and all the others safely in his care.

The words written on the wall of a concentration camp flash up for me here: “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love when there is no one there. And I believe in God even when he is silent.”

January 2024 news, views and muse

The prospect of moving in a few months’ time, and trying to squeeze a pint into an eggcup, has made me review the “clobber” we have accumulated and what has worked well for us.

One of my favourite items is our 1970s green (not avocado) acrylic bath which has followed on from our 1970s powder blue acrylic bath at the Vicarage and which our children derided as being unfashionable – and therefore to be jettisoned. As I like to have a bath every night, the tub needs to be accessible for ancient humans which the white, straight-sided, narrow but fashionable ones positively are not. Upon measuring our new à la mode bathroom I find that our green ‘monstrosity’ is 3 inches (6 centimetres if you prefer) wider than the smart white one, and also the sides are 3 inches lower – which is a lot when getting your foot over the side requires a regular training schedule. The other advantage is that smart baths have the outlet under your bottom so that inadvertently the water can drain away while you are having a good soak, and the taps are also positioned centrally which means that as soon as the washers begin to lose their potency, either scalding water or freezing water can drop on to your flesh, which is a nasty shock.

But most of all I value the shelf all around the tub which sports two handles, first of all to let yourself gently down into the water without making an enormous splash and later on, when the soak and the soaping is satisfactorily accomplished, to lever oneself out, having had enough width in the bath to turn over for this feat. Why, oh why would anyone wish to be fashionable when comfort and ease should be more highly prized? (Though I do remember having an argument of that sort about stiletto heels once, long ago!)
So, you see, my bathing days are about to come to an end if I am unable to climb over that smart high sided, narrow, handle-free, shelf-less modern tub and if once in, I am unable to get myself out again. And to the next two generations – no I don’t like a shower and I like good old-fashioned soap, not something of dubious origin that comes out of a dispenser.

Call me old-fashioned if you like. But I would be glad if someone would pass my comments on to bathtub manufacturers.
I had thought of taking the green bath with me, but guess what, the fittings would be wrong!


Farewell to Dot

Dorothy Wedge remembered

No headstone, “earth to earth is how it should be, the stones are taking over nature “- and other such pearls, like “rhubarb has amazing healing properties.” Thus saith Dot. But she had an amazing faith. In another era she would have been a Philosophy graduate and published poet or a historian. As it was she went out to work before she left school at 14 to scrub the floors of the Vicarage in Ellenhall for half a crown and if the Vicar’s wife had time she sent her home with a tray of cakes as there were 6 children in the family. Otherwise it was potato pie most days. The Rogers family came to Tong and lived in the dip at Tong Forge where there was a large garden as Mrs. Rogers knew her husband Cyril was philandering and thought it would keep him busy! But he left anyway though he is buried under the large beech tree beyond the Garden of remembrance, and later his wife was buried there too. ( no headstone, earth to… and rhubarb, etc)


Would you like to help us?

The Tong Vision for 2020 and beyond had a target to raise £500,000 over 3 years in order to fund urgent and
essential restoration work, and to ensure that all visitors and congregations can continue to enjoy this unique building! If you can
offer your support either financially, in-kind or otherwise, please contact Revd Pippa Thorneycroft ( ) or
the Vision2020 “Support Us” page on this web site, or visit our JustGiving page by clicking on the image, below.

A big thank you to all our supporters! Particular thanks go to the following:

St Bartholomew’s Church
TF11 8PW

General enquiries to:

Minister In Charge:
The Revd. Preb. Pippa Thorneycroft
Tel: 01902 375523

Events information:
Tel: 07970 869011

Parish Administrator:
(Weddings. Baptisms etc.)
Wendy Aykroyd

Find us on Facebook:
If you have visited us, for whatever reason,  we would really appreciate it if you would visit our Facebook page and leave a comment, review or a picture or two!
Facebook link

Would You Like To Support Us?

The Tong Vision for 2020 and beyond has a target to raise £500,000 over the next 3 years in order to fund urgent and
essential restoration work, and to ensure that all visitors and congregations can continue to enjoy this unique building!

If you can offer your support either financially, in-kind or otherwise, please contact Revd Pippa Thorneycroft ( or visit our JustGiving page by clicking the image, below.

Link to Tong Church Just Giving Page

At present there are no toilet facilities at Tong Church.  For an organised tour and at weddings, baptisms and funerals as well as Sunday services, access to the Parish Hall (two minutes walk) is available.  For concerts and fêtes we usually provide portaloos.

If you find it difficult to walk up the slope to church to attend services please let us know by sending someone ahead or Tel: 07970 869011 and we will provide assistance. We regret that we are unable to offer this support during the week for visitors.

St Bartholomew’s Church, Tong is committed to Safeguarding and has adopted the National and Diocesan Safeguarding Policies. Our Safeguarding Coordinator is Lisa and she can be contacted on 07535 159421.