On a particularly cold, windy and altogether perfectly dismal St Valentine’s Day Mike the Treasurer, Brian Events Organiser and myself welcomed three visitors from our mother organisation: Matthew Saunders, an outgoing (retiring) Director of Friends of Friendless Churches, Rachel Morley, Director Designate, due to take over next month, and Rebecca Whewell, Assistant Secretary. What the weather did not deliver, we more than made up for with our dedication and enthusiasm. It was Matthew’s second only visit to Caldecote, the first one being exactly ten years ago, when it coincided with setting up Caldecote Church Friends by Peter Robbins. (Peter unfortunately could not accompany us due to illness). I’d like to think that he favourably noted the “before” and “after” of the ten years in between!
Matthew delighted in re-discovering all the church’s interesting and significant features and duly documented them on camera. A warm, modest and most charming man, with encyclopaedic knowledge of all things church, it was a pleasure and a delight to talk and listen to him.
Rachel on the other hand, a lovely and personable young lady, full of zeal and enthusiasm, tried to take note of as much as she could of the church’s architecture and history but also found time to listen to some of our concerns. She promised to address the most pressing ones as new Director next month, much to our delight.
We hope that Rebecca also enjoyed her visit in Caldecote – her first I think! She very quietly and very tactfully stayed back, allowing Matthew and Rachel to spend as much time with us as possible.
It will be a sad day to see Matthew Saunders depart from FoFC, however, he is leaving the company in very capable hands of Rachel Morley who (it was obvious from the visit) is set to continue his sterling work with equal dedication and commitment and in time will, no doubt, make her own mark on its continued success in saving historical landmarks under threat.
How nice of Mr Alistair Burt MP to show keen interest in the life of his constituency in the most subtle way! You can almost imagine him relaxing at home with a copy of the Biggleswade Comet, when his attention suddenly focused on a news item on Mat’s preparations for The Christmas Carol (in the Henlow and Meppershall churches respectively). It is amazing Mr Burt found it at all, since the innocuous-looking article was relegated to back pages, just before Business and Sport. Not only that: he then grabbed a pen and wrote a personal letter of thanks to Mat, congratulating him on both the one-man performance and the fundraising initiative.
The letter really speaks volumes of Mr Burt who, despite his very busy parliamentary career, appears to be very much aware of what is happening closer to home, in his constituency, and quick to acknowledge, comment and praise.
With echoes of last Christmas still faintly audible in the church’s 14th century walls, we gathered last Saturday, 2 December, for the first of three concerts of Carols by Candlelight. Guests, visitors, friends and supporters did not disappoint – the church was packed with not even standing room available. Not that there was much room left – the church being 51ft in length and 16ft 6in in width only 57 guests can be comfortably accommodated inside. That’s why we have made it the only ticketed event in our fundraising calendar, with proceeds going towards the maintenance and conservation of the church.
Jane appeared with armfuls of greenery, which she very tastefully and artistically arranged on window sills while Gill and her friend, Peter, turned up with trays upon trays of her home made refreshments. Brian ensured the electricity supply (with, as always heartfelt thanks to Mr Farr for his kindness) and charged up portable lanterns to illuminate the way from the car-park. Last but not least, candles were lit just before the first guests started to arrive.
Even before everybody had a chance to sit down, out came trays of sausage rolls, followed by a cup of warmed mulled wine to wash them down with.
This year CCF's new chairperson, Gill Clarke, elected to lead the service, the task she acquitted herself with admirably. Well known carols were interspersed with festive readings. There was also a song performed a capella by two talented young ladies, Freya and Olivia, finalists of the Open Mic Competition in Southampton. In the interval more mulled wine was served with home-made mince pies.
The service finished all too soon, we all felt, and the church once again fell silent – until next week that is, when two more sessions will be led by Mat, our secretary.