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March 2015
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newlsettersThe story of a church
By Diana Taylor

What a wonderful evening we experienced in the ‘new’ church of St John the Baptist on 12th February. The church became packed as Charlotte Reynolds prepared to give her talk about the building and its history in relation to the village.

Charlotte began by giving a brief history of the village from ancient times. The Lee is connected not only to the Romans, the Anglo Saxons and the Domesday Book but also to William the Conqueror who granted The Lee to his cousin, Bishop Odo – of Bayeux Tapestry fame. Later, the village belonged to the 1st Earl of Bedford who was granted a lease by Edward VI.

The history of our present church, however, is more detailed and records the many philanthropic efforts begun by Arthur Liberty when the new church was enlarged and enhanced in 1910. We were shown drawings and plans for this work and informed that, alongside the donations made by the Liberty family, the congregation also raised money to revive their church building and make it glorious. Anyone hearing how this was done would be proud to be living in such a community, where an ethos of care for the village as we know it, and its inhabitants, has prevailed for well over a hundred years. It is that ethos of care that became the genesis of the evening and of Charlotte’s talk.

Serving the community
newlsettersThe church organ given in 1917 by Lady Liberty in remembrance of her husband, Arthur, is now in need of service and repair and the estimate for this is £6,000. A group of friends at the church decided that the work to be done is both urgent and important. They believe that when services are held, the sound of a real and fine church organ takes a lot of beating and that there is something even more special when that organ has served our own community for such a long time.

Through the unfolding talk, we learnt much. We discovered that NADFAS had made a study of the church and its fine art. Thanks to this, Charlotte was equipped with detailed facts and dates about the artefacts in the church.

Many of us would have felt humbled to hear that, at the end of the First World War, the Reverend Constantine Phipps donated the silver altar cross and two silver candle sticks in memory of his two sons, who were killed in that war. That emotion of humility was tinged with a peppering of disappointment, in my case, as Charlotte added that the silver candle sticks had been stolen in 1973.

Overwhelmingly though, it was a joy to be able to see slides of such things as the fine oak carving and the pewter, silver and iron work whilst sitting amidst the real items. There cannot be many lecturers who have their audience sitting amongst such fine examples of the Arts and Crafts period whilst they are speaking about it. Any item in the church in the ‘style of Liberty’ is Liberty and much of it was commissioned or produced by Liberty himself, often in his own workshops. Surely, this is a unique situation!

newlsettersBeautifully lit
The church was lit by the beautiful lanterns, once powered by gas brought here by Arthur Liberty and now electric. These lanterns were designed to illustrate the branches of the vine that Jesus says we are. At this talk I really felt that we are, and can be, the branches of the vine that stretches through our community to bear fruit for one another. It seemed apt that the whole team supporting Charlotte’s talk ended the evening by providing wonderful canapés and wine for everyone who came. It was a chance to meet old friends and, in my case, to admire one young gentleman who wore his Liberty tie!

A community effort
newlsettersMrs Stewart-Liberty made a supportive speech of thanks and spoke of her gratitude and love for the church and its history. She also made a most generous donation to be added to the funds raised by the evening’s event to help ensure that the organ has a good future. History seemed to be repeating itself as the community pulled together.

I cannot list all the names of those who were in Charlotte’s team on 12th February but I should like to thank every one of them and also our vicar David Burgess.

It is a fact that even a cracking presentation and delicious canapés cannot do the trick when raising funds without the support of those in attendance; so to everyone who helped pack the church and give support – a big thank you too!

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