Thursday, October 26, 2006

Of organs and window guards

Since our ‘Father Willis’ organ got restored to its original working condition over a year ago, I’ve got so used to the regular monthly routine of Friday lunchtime organ concerts, this rarely gets mentioned in my postings. One reason to mention this now, is that recently we had Thomas Trotter one of Britain’s finest organists back for his second recital, the first being the inaugural concert of the restored instrument. Philip Thomas, our organist and concert organiser, the instrument’s custodian and tireless promoter, had, over nine months careful stewardship of concert retiring collections, succeeded in putting enough money away to cover the cost of Thomas’ second visit. This meant the concert retiring collection could be used to raise funds for another project. What for? Window guards. Window guards? Yes, window guards. Not very sexy or noble, but very necessary.

Before the Cardiff blitz, the church stained glass was removed for protection until the war was over. That’s how we know the age of the window guards covering some, though not all of the stained glass most of which was returned to its place 1945-46. Many of them rotted away over sixty years leaving little trace. A few had been replaced at different stages, several on the north side of the church within the past three years. One new post war window never had a guard over it. This, and a neighbouring window over 120 years old were both vandalised eighteen months ago, on two separate occasions over 48 hours, smashed with a lager bottle by person or persons unknown who had climbed over the fence to do this. It happened the weekend of one of our rare weddings. Sue, the bride’s mother was terribly upset, not because it was going to make the church look unpleasant to photograph, but because in the run-up to the wedding she had simply fallen in love with the building, its people and its activity and was horrified at such sacrilege.

After the wedding Sue and her husband Peter started to attend church regularly. She started obsessing (healthily and constructively) about getting the windows fixed, and getting some preventative measures in place. The outcome of this was a personal campaign to raise funds to get safety guards put on every window lacking one – a project with an estimated cost of £35,000. They had recently retired from business locally, so between them they had lots of professional contacts to solicit for support. To date, over a third of the total needed to install the guards has been raised.

The two vandalised windows took six months to repair at a cost of £7,000. These were the first to receive new guards, since then a third has been done and another is to follow shortly, much to everyone’s great pleasure. At the Trotter concert, Sue stood up and spoke with great eloquence and brevity about the value of the project, and evidently the 300 strong audience agreed with her, for the collection produced an amazing £1,050 – the cost of one more new window guard.

When churchwarden Allan and his wife Lyn celebrated their golden wedding back in the summer, many of their friends joined in by donating to the window guard fund as a thank offering, raising £2,000 beween them all. Neighbouring pizza entrepreneur Tony Venditto taxed his sales a pound a piece, to raise £1,000 for a window guard. We reciprocated with a posed photo for the local papers, with pizza in church. Well, we are the church, not only in the market place, but for the market place, and we are still learning how to value the goodwill people have for a church about its business, even in this secularised multi-cultural new age. Sue has done us good by recognising what the church community values, seeing it with fresh eyes, and realising that our efforts at valuing our heritage encourage others to do likewise. The good old virtuous cycle at work again.

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