Monday, September 04, 2006

This summer of change

Where did August go?

A month already since my last post. Was I busy or something? I'm not really sure. Everyday life has been pretty routine one way or another, except that both my colleagues were on leave in the first two weeks, which meant there was nobody around to discuss things with. There's been a few special events, concerts, and a mission fayre raising nearly £1,100 one busy sunny Saturday at St John's, but nothing too frantic, apart from in the Tea Room, where valiant volunteers have been coping somedays with long queues of expectant customers.
This summer there has been a significant rise in the number of visitors to St John's. This must be partly due to the publication of the Centenary Town Trail booklet, which guide visitors to places worth visiting, marking the pavement outside each with a special plaque to identify it. Early in July, we received a box with a couple of hundred English copies and a couple of dozen translation copies in French, German and Welsh. These disappeared off our literature rack in a month, and we had to ask for more. They vanish at the rate of half a dozen a day, and our church guide leaflets vanish sometimes so quickly that the racks need replenishing two, three times a week. Happily we bought a new photocopier for the church and can now replenish in situ.
From these small telltale signs, I'd guesstimate that we're getting over a thousand visitors a week this summer. That's what we normally get in the run up to Christmas when there's a charity card shop operating, and it's double what we were getting last summer. This year our first serious efforts to make the church better known in the realm of tourism publicity (i.e. we invested money in the coty's marketing programme for the first time). It has certainly shown pleasing results. It's not just about culture or history either. We offer in our literature rack four Christian enquiry leaflets which I wrote several years ago, the beginning of a series I have yet to complete. These have been taken up in double the numbers per week usually expected, in line with the overall visitor increase, rather than a sudden upsurge of interest in Christian questions. Come to think of it, I've not posted these leaflets on the parish website. I must do this now......
Here's the link

Demolition days
Now, where was I? August has seen more city centre building closures in preparation for the three year redevelopment programme. The Public Library, barely 25 years old, yet due to vanish soon, stands empty. It has been re-located just the other side of the main railway line in quite a smartly done up collection of large yellow portakabins arranged as temporary housing for stock, plus a lending facility, all destined to last until the new 'iconic' building is constructed (four years or so?). This will open next week. The Ice Rink, to be re-located in the Sports Village to be constructed down in Cardiff Bay, will get temporary housing until the Sports Village project gets fully under way, in a pupose built arena imported from Finland. Within days of final closure the old rink was being stripped, them demolished from the back, out towards the main street. Soon there'll be no more than a hole, and lots of modern memories. It too was built only 25 years ago.
The 29th August, when the church commemorated the Martyrdom of our parish patron, St John the Baptist, was also the date when, for the first time since 1932, you could look past the west front of St James’ Parish Church, from Newport Road, and see Tredegarville church school, on the south side of the building, behind a pile of rubble following the demolition of the church hall. It’s a different school you see today, as the Victorian buildings were demolished and rebuilt in the 1960s. The poshly named 'Guildhall' was built in 1933, and used in various ways as a both Parish hall and school building, until the new school was erected.

Forgotten history quest
Nobody seems to recall when the dingy looking Guildhall Annex was added. Also an eyesore. It's gone too. I'd like to find out more, as we’re gathering information to enable the whole story of School and Parish Church at Tredegarville to be told when we have a European Heritage Open Day at St James’ on 16th September. Church records, will be available for inspection in church, and school log books in school. I've been researching these for points of interest over the past 145 years to mount an exhibition chronicling the journey since the early 1860s when a Parish educational mission started on the site which then became a proper school. It later developed into a ‘church planting’ project. St James was built and opened in 1894.
Mission through education was the means to building a church of ‘living stones’, a thriving community of faith. Nowadays there’s no more than a handful of ‘living stones’ left. We haven’t yet discovered how to rise to the missionary challenge of the 21st century. But we do have a great model from our own parish history to guide us, and two outstanding Parish schools that are a vital sign of Christian new life. Multi-racial, multi-cultural, including children of many gifts, abilities and disabilities as equals who learn together and build together with their teachers a community of learning with faith at its heart – faith in God, faith in others. Bricks and mortar, the space occupied, are means to this end.
In their neglected dilapidated state, the Guildhall and Annex had become an eyesore wedged between a dignified Victorian monument, and the shiny new surfaces of Admiral House, transformed from unused office space, to apartments for 140 people. Their demolition relieves the Parish of a burden. It makes space to enlarge the school’s playground, and provides extra vehicle access and parking for the church. How much more pleasing to the eye it all will be once the job is finished. The relief at this step is immense.
Chris, my new curate, working with speed and enthusiasm has edited and updated the St James' history guide with new pictures and extra text bringing it all up to date. She's desk-top published an edition to make souvenir copies for people when they gather to mourn the closure of St James' and mark the move into the school for worship, on Heritage day. It's a bit ironic. Some might say it's rubbing salt into the wound to show off a glorious building and its history, then shut the doors on it. But nobody wants to pay to keep it open, either for worship or for socail purposes, as I have found out painfully this past two years. But, in moving back worship into the school, we are returning to where the church community in West Adamsdown first began.

Mighty incompetence
Part of the answer to where August went is the intense worrying produced by the necessity of getting the gas supply cut off from the mains to allow the demolition team to work. For four weeks, British Gas held us to ransom from mid-July, promising on four separate occasions to show up and do the job, which we'd promptly paid £250 for, (in advance, before they would even consider scheduling the job), involving taking out the gas meter and terminating the supply at the main pipe. On three occasions success was sabotaged by the inability of the three companies involved in managing aspects of the gas supply to pass accurate information between them. It held up progress on demolition for the best part of three weeks. At last, it’s over, and new boundary fencing has been erected. The re-surfacing of the playground will now have to happen in the first week of term. The city centre re-development team have all my sympathy!

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