News from St Mary’s – July 2023

As I write this we have just taken down the large Open Day vinyl banner which lists and thanks the sponsors and supporters from the local business community. The banner is displayed in the Top Field marquee during the event itself and for a couple of weeks afterwards at the front of the church. Some businesses gave cash donations, others sponsored prizes in the raffle. Many people commented on the quality of the raffle prizes, most of which had a common Sussex theme.

It was very encouraging to see how much the event has been taken up by the crafting community, with several new exhibitors this year. These were combined with village organisations, notably the WI and the Horticultural Society.

This year we had a different approach to music making, and showcased three local musicians playing short sets in the big marquee. Mark Broad is moving northwards from Sussex very soon, and we are glad he managed to fit us in amidst all of his house moving preparations. Also thanks to keyboard ace Simon Mellor and his talented daughter Hermoine, and to guitarist and vocalist Simon Joslin (Buxted based but with roots in Nashville).

As always, a big thank you to the Trustees and volunteers at the Claude Jessett Trust (Tinker’s Park). Again we had a steam engine from their collection, and also the steam miniature railway and fairground organ. All of which go towards making it a special day with a strong ‘heritage’ feel. Also thanks to them for all of the ‘hands-on’ work with setting up the site, where much heavy equipment has to be lugged up the path to the Top Field

It was very encouraging to see such a range of different ages and groupings at the event, relaxing in the sunshine. Our event stewards received so many appreciative comments. A couple of parents commented, half jokingly but perhaps half seriously, how they valued getting their children away from the clutches of tablets and smart phones. Miniature train rides, bouncy castles and ‘Splat the Rat’ are much more fun!

Last but not least, the fund raising. All monies raised go towards the upkeep of the three churches in the parish, and their grounds. It also helps us to keep up our contribution to the Diocese of Chichester, which funds community projects across East and West Sussex. 

The final net profit from the event was £2,475.   

Keith Revoir

News from St Mary’s – June 2023

I am writing this prior to this year’s Open Day and will give some (hopefully) positive feedback to everyone in the July issue. Meanwhile, here is some background to the event. 

Mary Thorley lived at The Granary in the High Street and was a regular member of the congregation until she passed away in 2004. She is buried with her mother in the front churchyard area on the Rectory side. In addition to the property at The Granary, she owned two adjoining fields, including the one immediately behind the established rear churchyard. 

She was anxious to ensure that the environment of St Mary’s retained its rural aspect after her death, particularly as in later years developers were regularly knocking on her door with lucrative offers.

She left the lower field to the Parish, and the upper field to the Countryside Trust, thereby ensuring that they would remain unspoilt and free to all to enjoy. The lower field was consecrated in 2004, and a line of recent graves can be seen along the ridge that divides the two areas.

In 2015-16 there was a substantial voluntary effort to clear large parts of the area which had become overgrown with bracken, and where fly tipping had taken place. 

Providence then took a hand, in the form of the Tesco ‘Bags of Help’ Scheme which funds improvements to green spaces in England and Wales. We developed a project bid and in November 2016 learned that our project was one of 50 in south-east England (out of 3000 applications) to receive a grant. 

The field has commanding views across the Uck valley, and is a place of beauty and calm. Our plan included a seating area and table unit made from reclaimed wood, with a large planter in three parts featuring woodland shrubs and flowers.

The grant also enabled us to tackle long overdue repairs, replace the boundary fencing, and undertake tree surgery. There was also work done to identify and clear a flat, safe pathway along the Rectory boundary up to the garden and seating area. 

The Community Garden Project was blessed and officially opened the Rt Rev Edward Dowler, Archdeacon of Hastings in May 2018.  It was resolved to hold an Open Day & Craft Fair in May of each year, to mark the anniversary of the completion of the project. 

We hope that our work does justice to the wishes of our benefactor, past and present worshippers, and to the wider community of Buxted.  

Keith Revoir

SAVE OUR MURALS

In 1887, the building of S. Mary’s was complete, and Father Arthur Wagner instructed a team of artists to paint murals throughout the interior of the church.  The murals, designed by him in the ‘Arts and Crafts’ style, took almost twenty years to complete.  Sadly Father Wagner died before they were completed.  The murals consisted of saints (some painted using the ‘Marouflage technique) and angels all emblazoned in bright colours; red, blue and lashings of gold.  Friezes of vines and pomegranates enhanced the borders along with biblical texts above the arches.  

In 1951, the then Parish Priest decided he didn’t like the murals, and in an act of total vandalism (my words) whitewashed over all of them.  Lost forever?  Well, until 2020 when the emulsion paint (9 layers) started peeling off the east wall, revealing part of the mural which we now know was painted in oil, and was therefore protected beneath the emulsion.  A recent inspection by art conservators found the partly revealed murals to be of good quality, and well worth restoring.  The cost of which will be around £30,000.  If you would like to find out more about the murals, come to S. Mary’s – the church is open most days, or contact me on 

Tel: 01825 830076, Email: colinhwoolgrove@aol.com  

Please help us save our murals.  Donations can be made by bank transfer: Account Name: Parish of Buxted and Hadlow Down.  

Account No: 11454064.  Sort Code: 40-45-32.  Reference: V Mural.

Cheques should be made payable to: Parish of Buxted and Hadlow Down, and sent to: The Rectory, Church Road, Buxted, TN22 4LP.

If you are a UK taxpayer and would like to Gift Aid your donation (25p in every £1 you donate can be claimed from the government), please ask me for a Charity Gift Aid Declaration Form.  

Thank you for your support.

News from St Mary’s – May 2023

Our special day at St Mary’s is fast approaching, and by the time this appears everything should be in place for this year’s bigger and better event. 

We have a total of 20 craft stalls booked, both inside the Church Hall and outside in the car park area and grounds surrounding the church. The Horticultural Society will have a plant sale on the large grassed area alongside the church, by the Hall.

The church itself will be looking its best, with a chance to hear the organ between 2.00 and 3.00. We have our own parish stall in the church, selling donated books and bric-a-brac. Also Hadlow Down author Paul Newton-Palmer will be there promoting his new novel.

The Harvey’s beer tent in the Top Field will be in full swing from mid-day, serving both Best and IPA, along with lager, cider and soft drinks. Our BBQ with Bishop’s burgers will once again be staffed by sisters Linda and Shirley.  

Tinker’s Park and their volunteers are an indispensable part of the event, with a centrepiece steam engine in the car park, along with their fairground organ. The ever popular miniature steam railway will once again be providing rides up in the Top Field, with the Bouncy Castle at the end of the line.

This year we are showcasing local musical talent under the Big Marquee from 2.00 – 4.00. We have Mark Broad, aka Dr Bo Karma (guitar and vocals), Simon Mellor (jazz keyboard) and Simon Joslin (blues and country) playing short sets.

 A short note about money! Many, but not all, of the craft stalls will have a card facility but the beer tent, BBQ and parish cake stall are cash only. 

Also do look out for our bucket donation collectors. We do not charge for entry or parking, so these donations are an important part of our fund raising effort.

Finally a big thank you to our group of business sponsors, which you will see listed on the big vinyl sponsor banner in the marquee.

Look forward to seeing you all on the day!

Keith Revoir 

  

News from St Mary’s – March 2023

Retirement has its benefits and drawbacks, but one of the benefits is time to re-visit home book shelves and re-read some volumes perhaps last read twenty or thirty years ago. I have a small collection of twentieth century biographies, one of which concerns the quest for faith of Siegfried Sassoon (1886 -1967). Sassoon is best known for his stark and brutally honest poetic accounts of life as an officer in the trenches of the First World War. 

As the war dragged on he became disillusioned with what he saw as its needless prolongation to enrich vested interests. So much so that he threw his medal for bravery into the River Mersey and penned a public condemnation of the military command and the government. Not knowing quite what to do with a decorated officer expressing such opinions, it was decided that Sassoon had experienced a mental breakdown, and he was admitted to Craiglockhart Hospital in Scotland. Fortuitously while there he met and was able to befriend and advise the younger poet Wilfred Owen, who returned to the front and was killed in the closing weeks of the war.

Sassoon’s war poems are now widely known and are included in the GCSE curriculum, as are those of Owen. Little is heard though of Sassoon’s later work, much of which concerns his sometimes faltering but always insistent journey towards faith. Sassoon made a perhaps unwise marriage in the 1930s, with his only child George settling in Scotland with his mother after the couple’s divorce. 

One can only wonder how Sassoon felt as the world was again plunged into a second World War in 1939. After the war he retreated to live a solitary life at his country seat in Wiltshire, Heytesbury House, where he battled with the leaking roof, damp and defective plumbing. Happily he did not live to see the dissection of his estate by the Warminster by-pass, which took place in the 1980s.

The book I am re-reading is called ‘Poet’s Pilgrimage’ which includes extracts from letters between Dame Felicitas Corrigan of Stanbrook Abbey, who also edited the book. The later Sassoon poems are included, as are letters between Sassoon and other luminaries of the period such as the then aged Thomas Hardy.  

Sassoon’s final coming to faith was completed in his 70s, and culminated in his being received into the Roman Catholic Church. The summation of this is contained in a five part poem called ‘Lenten Iluminations’, part of which is quoted below. 

As we enter into our own Lenten devotions, his description of being ‘scultptured with Stations of the Cross’ makes me think of St Mary’s, where we are surrounded by these stations on the walls, week in and week out. A visit to just such a place, presumably in the West Country, must have at least partly informed his inspiration for the poem –

‘I never felt it more than now, when out beyond these safening walls

Sculptured with Stations of the Cross, spring-confident, unburdened, bold,

The first March blackbird overheard to forward vision flutes and calls.’

Keith Revoir 

       

      

News from St Mary’s – February 2023

We had our first burial in seven years at St Mary’s just after Christmas, where we bade farewell to a long standing member of our congregation. Burials seem to have grown less common in recent years, but I was struck by the dignity of the occasion and the sense of calm and purpose. A large part of this comes, I think, from the Requiem Mass and burial rite being in the same place, rather than having to get into cars afterwards and proceed to a Crematorium. 

It is entirely natural to put off thinking about last wishes, but my own will is now very out of date, written some years ago when work took me away from Sussex. Now that I am firmly established in Buxted and at St Mary’s, (nine years this year) I think the place for me is going to be our churchyard.

In the Anglo Catholic tradition it is often the practice to receive the coffin at the church the night before, with a brief service of prayer. This was the case with our friend. Six tall candles, called Catafalque candles, are lit at each side of the coffin. 

The Requiem Mass follows the next day. It is not usual to have a eulogy or a detailed reference to the deceased and their life. This can surprise some attending, even giving rise to feelings that the church has ‘not done its homework’ as regards the deceased. The eulogy in our tradition is either given at a separate memorial service, or at the post funeral reception. In the case of our friend the reception was held at the Buxted Park Hotel, where in the relaxed atmosphere of a buffet lunch, we were able to hear about many aspects of his life, including a number of amusing anecdotes.

On another but related note, we try to make sure that we always keep in mind how we welcome and care for those who come to church, both regular attenders but particularly new members of the congregation. This is very much part of my weekly role as a sidesman as I am usually the first person encountered after ascending the front steps. 

There is a group of what I can only describe as church ‘mystery shoppers’ who visit churches and rate the quality of the welcome and interest shown to them as newcomers. I wish I could remember the name of this group, but I am reasonably confident that we would receive a good rating! 

Just as important is the period at the end of the service. Some research I saw once described this as the ‘golden half hour’ where people are either made to feel valued and truly welcome, or simply slip away un-noticed, probably never to return. 

Other things occupying us currently are our quarterly Church Committee meeting, and plans for a bigger and better Open Day & Craft Fair in May. Watch this space!

Keith Revoir

 

    

        

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