The Friends of St James the Great, Thorley

Chairman's Report to the

Annual General Meeting

held on Friday, 13 March 2020

Good evening and thank you all for coming to the 2020 Annual General Meeting of the Friends of St James the Great, Thorley.

The Friends' main fundraising events during the past 12 months were a sale of plants in May, an Autumn Craft Fair in November, and a sale of Sunday Afternoon Teas from the Church Room during the summer months. Last Saturday we also held another very successful and most enjoyable Quiz Evening. A particularly big thank you is due to Pam and Steve Robertson for once again setting the questions for the Quiz and overseeing the marking, and to Daniel Daniells-Smith for his sterling performance as Quiz Master. As usual, a great time was had by all.

The Friends' Grass Cutting Team continued to maintain the Churchyard throughout last year's growing season from March to December. The team undertaking this important task is small and we were grateful to those who came to help. The Churchyard Machines have all recently been serviced in readiness for the 2020 season. If you enjoy fresh air and camaraderie and can spare an hour or two a month to come and help us with Churchyard Maintenance, please contact Margaret and Peter Morley who will be delighted to hear from you.

As I reported at our 2018 Annual General Meeting, it had by then become clear that significant sums of money were required to undertake work in areas of the St James' estate that fall outside the remit of the Friends to support. The Committee therefore agreed that the Friends should step aside from organising a Festival of Flowers and Music and associated Craft Fair over the 2018 August Bank Holiday weekend to enable the Parochial Church Council to use the extended weekend for fundraising in support of other parts of St James. The Parochial Church Council decided to hold a Festival of a similar format to that organised by the Friends during the preceding years. Following the success of the 2018 event, and the continuing requirement for funds for areas of St James' outside the remit of the Friends, the Committee agreed at its meeting in October 2018 that it should once again step aside from organising a Festival in 2019 should the Parochial Church Council wished to do so. The Parochial Church Council took up this offer and organised another very successful Festival over the 2019 August Bank Holiday Weekend.

When the time came to discuss the way forward in respect of the 2020 August Bank Holiday weekend, the Committee noted that the Festival had grown substantially in terms of its organisational complexity over the more than thirty years since the first that was organised by the Friends in 1987. It was also noted that the fact that the Parochial Church Council had taken on the responsibility for the preceding two Festivals had resulted in these benefiting from a significantly wider community being involved in their organisation. It was therefore concluded that it would be preferable if this were to continue. I accordingly wrote to Pippa Roy-Chowdhury in her capacity as Churchwarden, noting that, although individual members of the Friends would no doubt be happy to continue to be involved as members of the Church family, the Committee had concluded that it would be preferable if the Parochial Church Council were to take overall responsibility for the organisation of future Festivals, noting that the whole of the St James estate, and not just the Church building and Churchyard, would then also be able to benefit from the funds raised by them. Pippa responded agreeing to this way forward. She expressed her thanks for the Friends' hard work and dedication in the organisation of the Festival over so many years and for establishing it as such a great occasion, noting that it would be a hard act to follow.

During both 2017 and 2018 the Friends made substantial grants to the Parochial Church Council to cover the full costs of the re-decoration of the Church and an upgrade to its heating system. Together these amounted to over 25,000. I will leave it to our Treasurer to report on our expenditure during 2019, but you will see that it is at a much lower level than in the preceding two years. This has meant that, despite the loss of income from the Festivals of Flowers and Music, the Friends now has a significant sum available for future projects. The Committee had been giving consideration to funding the remaining work that had been identified as being required on the Church during the Quinquennial Inspection undertaken in 2014, but, as the next inspection was due in 2019, we held back from agreeing to do so in case this were to identify other more urgent work. The 2019 Quinquennial Inspection did identify a new crack in the south wall of the Church and this is undergoing further inspection. However, it also concluded that the work outstanding from the 2014 Inspection should cost far less that had previously been estimated. It has therefore now been agreed that the Friends will fund the approximately 2,000 required for this work, holding back a decision on the use of the remainder of the funds at its disposal until a conclusion has been reached in respect of the crack in the south wall.

We have also been in discussion with the Parochial Church Council on the future of the Churchyard. One of our members noted at our 2016 Annual General Meeting that burial space in the Churchyard appeared to be running out and wondered whether the Friends should offer to assist the Parochial Church Council in raising funds to acquire land to extend it. It was observed at the time that, although such additional land, if acquired, would clearly fall within the remit of the Friends to help to maintain, it would be necessary to check whether The Friends' current Constitution would permit it assisting the Parochial Church Council in such a purchase. The Parochial Church Council has recently been giving the matter some consideration, but concluded at its meeting in December 2019 that a final decision on the way forward should await the appointment of a new Rector. In the meantime the Parochial Church Council has undertaken some basic research that has indicated that, although the local authority might officially take over the Churchyard if it were to become full and closed to further burials, much of the decision making in its future respect would still remain with the Church.

The upshot is that the Friends next significant project has yet to be agreed. So, if you do have any other suggestions in this respect, please raise them during our "Any other Business" agenda item. One small but important item that the Friends has just funded is the construction of a new board to display the names of future Rectors, as the board used hitherto has no room for further additions. The new board reflects the design of the now full board, which has been resited higher on the wall than before, with the new one beneath it, awaiting the engraving of the yet unknown name of our next Rector.

As you will have seen from the letter inviting you to this Annual General Meeting, the Committee's plans for the remainder of this year are once again to hold a sale of Nursery plants in May and to host an Autumn Craft Fair in November. The Committee would also like to be able to offer Teas from the Church Room during the months of May, June, July, August and September. However, this will only be possible if volunteers come forward who are prepared to organise rotas for segments of this season, together with those willing to sign-up for the weekly slots in these rotas. Please let me or any of the other Committee members know if you can help in either way.

I will now draw my report to a close by thanking Margaret Morley, our Vice Chairman and Des Conridge, our Treasurer, and indeed all the members of the Committee, for their help and support during the past year. On behalf of the Committee I would also like to thank you for the support you have given us.

Unless there are any questions in respect of my report, I will now pass you over to Des to deliver the Treasurer's Report, his first since taking on that role after the 2019 Annual General Meeting.

Thank you very much.

Philip Hargrave

13 March 2020

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