The Friends of St James the Great, Thorley

Chairman's Report to the

Annual General Meeting

held on Friday, 10 March 2023

Good evening and thank you for coming to the 2023 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Friends of St James the Great, Thorley.

Since our 2022 AGM, we have been saddened to learn of the death of one of our long-standing members, Betsy Griffin.

When the Friends Committee met in early January 2022 there was some concern that bringing people together for several hours for the Quiz Evening that we were planning to hold the following month might lead to further COVID-19 infections at a time when there was continuing pressure on the health service. We nevertheless concluded that simply not proceeding with the Quiz Evening would not itself be without adverse consequences. It was felt that many people, although still worried about the pandemic, were nevertheless very keen to return to some form of normality. So, we started our 2022 fundraising with a Quiz Evening with a limit on the number of attendees and appropriate precautions in place as set out in a Risk Assessment we undertook for the event. The remainder of 2022 saw a post pandemic return to some sort of fundraising normality, with a Sale of Nursery plants in May, an Autumn Craft Fair in November, and the provision of Sunday Afternoon Teas from the Church Room during the months of May, June, July, August and September. I’ll leave it to Des to cover the financial aspects of these activities in his Treasurer’s Report.

We also started this year with a Quiz Evening in February, but with a new twist. The Friends joined forces with St James Church to host a Family Quiz Night, with questions of a similar format to those in previous years set by Pam Robertson interspersed with more family friendly ones. Our Rector, Gaz, ably took on the role of Quiz Master and Chris Collins prepared a fantastic selection of meals for the interval. Primarily consisting of homemade curries for adults and pizzas for children, these also catered for those with a range of dietary requirements. I think I speak for everyone who took part in saying that it was a most enjoyable evening and that a great time was had by all.

The Friends volunteer Churchyard Team continued their work throughout last year’s March to December growing season. We were very grateful to our small band of regular helpers who undertook this important task, and to those others who came when they could. The Churchyard powered machinery has recently been serviced in readiness for the new season. If you can spare a couple of hours per month to assist with Churchyard maintenance, please contact Margaret and Peter Morley who will be pleased to hear from you.

As was the case for our activities, I will also leave it to Des to cover the financial details of our Church Related expenditure last year, but I am pleased to report that the Friends made a grant to the Parochial Church Council in February 2022 to fund the purchase of a new microphone for the Church lectern and a further grant in July 2022 to fund the construction and installation of a new notice board to replace the one adjacent to the lychgate that had collapsed through rot. As I noted during my report to last year’s AGM, despite the Friends’ covering the full cost of an upgrade to the Church’s heating system in 2018 that included the installation of more efficient radiators and new pipe work, it subsequently became apparent that that there were still issues with the system that would necessitate the replacement of the boiler. The Parochial Church Council received a substantial donation from a trust fund towards the purchase and installation of a new boiler which the Friends were pleased to supplement with a grant in August 2022 to cover the remainder of the cost.

Looking forward, the Committee has agreed that the Friends will fund the purchase and installation of audio-visual equipment to enable the more straightforward and professional streaming of services in the Church than is possible with the portable camera and associated components that are currently in use. Such streaming is now an important element of our Church services, with typically about one third of the congregation participating in this way.

During the Quinquennial inspection that was undertaken in 2019, the stained-glass window in the tower was identified as in need of some restoration work. The Parochial Church Council therefore commissioned a report on its condition by Andrew Taylor, the Wiltshire based ecclesiastical stained-glass designer and conservator who undertook the major restoration of that window that was funded by the Friends back in 1991. That restoration had involved the removal of all the glass, the re-joining of broken pieces using copper foil, clear silicone and epoxy resins, the plating of such repaired areas with protective clear glass, and the addition of new glass to replace missing pieces and those damaged beyond repair. This new glass was then painted, and the eroded areas of the original glass repainted. Andrew’s inspection report noted that the current need for further work was because the painted glass had eroded back to the condition it had been in before the 1991 restoration and because there had also been paint erosion in previously unaffected areas in the intervening 30 plus years. Although he advised that the best remedy would be to repaint such eroded areas and to seek to prevent future paint loss by installing an isothermal glazing system at a cost of around £15,000, he noted that simply repainting these areas, at a likely cost of around £500, would provide a remedy that should last for a number of years. Subject to seeking approval by the diocese through a Faculty application, the Parochial Church Council has decided to proceed with this latter approach, and the Committee has agreed that the Friends will cover the cost.

During my report to the 2021 AGM, I noted that the Parochial Church Council was giving consideration to the acquisition of land to extend the Churchyard as it was becoming full. That was something that had been viewed as worthy of a contributory grant by the Friends at our 2016 AGM. However, with the requirement for new graves now running at only two or three per year, the Parochial Church Council has concluded that the current Churchyard is likely to have sufficient capacity for a further seven to ten years. Given this and other considerations, it has decided to defer further discussions on its enlargement for the time being.

As you will have seen from the letter inviting you to this year’s AGM, the Committee’s plans for the remainder of this year once again include a Sale of Nursery Plants in May and an Autumn Craft Fair in November. The Committee is currently seeking a new person to coordinate with the Craft Stallholders in the organisation of this latter event. Please let Bill Hardy or me know if this is something you would be willing to consider.

We would also like to be able to offer Sunday Afternoon 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. If you happen to have your diary to hand and are aware of your availability over the coming months, why not sign up for one or more of the unfilled slots on the rota that is on display here tonight?

One change in the provision of Sunday Afternoon Teas that the Committee has agreed to make this year is to seek donations for the refreshments rather than selling them in accordance with a price list as in previous years. This approach worked well when trialled during the 2022 season on the Sunday when our Rector, Gaz, was installed as Area Dean. As well as simplifying the serving of the teas, it also has the advantage of enabling the Friends to benefit from the 25% uplift obtainable on charitable cash or contactless donations that are individually no more than £30 through the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme (GASDS) administered by HMRC.

It has been suggested that the Friends should consider being able to accept contactless donations for Sunday Afternoon Teas, given that individuals now often carried little cash, and this is something that the Committee will be investigating going forward.

Once the necessary business of this AGM has been completed, the evening will conclude with a ‘bring and share buffet’ with drinks provided.

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 since our last AGM. On behalf of the Committee, I would also like to thank you all for the support you have given us.

Unless there are any questions at this stage, I will now pass over to Des for him to deliver his Treasurer’s Report.

Thank you very much.

10 March 2023

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