Who wants to be a Churchwarden?
Why does anyone agree to be a churchwarden? The job comes with great responsibility and legal restraint, but with no pay. Yet sometimes a warden can get the most rewarding contacts with people who care about the church for reasons of history, architecture, liturgy, music or simply memories of a place they or their forebears once knew well.
I recount one such encounter in the Discover deCrypt context without apology because so much of what we are aiming to deliver through the project is knit up with those sentiments, and we should not deny future generations the chance to benefit from them. All a bit on the grand side, I hear you saying, but let me tell you about a meeting I had with some visitors a few years ago.
A silver lining
It had been a trying period in which the church had been hit by lightning (more than once, it seems), the wall safe had been broken into and the vestry rearranged by an intruder. Then, after an emotional final Sunday service at St Mark’s (Kingsholm, Gloucester), I received a message that some visitors to Gloucester had been disappointed to find St Mary de Crypt closed when they had travelled from Southampton hoping to attend a service there. Could things get worse?
Well, actually, they got much better when I arranged to meet them that same day at St Mary’s. The ‘elder statesman’ of the family group was Mr A Leslie Bartlett who sang in the church as a treble at the age of ten, eighty years ago! His visit was by way of a pilgrimage. He was a very personable man,
with a ready smile, alert eyes and a spirit that was not at all overcome by my robust sense of humour. He spoke with great affection of the days in the choir and in the Sunday School in the adjoining schoolrooms, and gave me fresh pride in the heritage of which we are guardians.
I noticed the blazer pocket badge he wore with obvious pride. He had served in Bomber Command, and his duties included the completion of no less than ten sorties over Berlin. He described, in a fairly matter-of-fact way, the experience of running the fifty mile gauntlet of ground and air defence around that city.
His family moved from Gloucester when he was young, in pursuit of engineering work that was then available in the north in shipbuilding. But for that, I muse, he could well have been our churchwarden over the last couple of decades!
Leslie, DFM, MR Pharms.S, it was a privilege to meet you.