Thoughts from the Vicarage 72

Dear Friends of the Valley

Rejoice!

The third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday, and the Christian joy that colours our liturgy on this day is not something that we should keep to ourselves. Gaudete means rejoice! We light the pink candle on the Advent wreath, as opposed to the purple to signify a time of relaxation in the penitential season of Advent.

Services for Gaudete Sunday

  • 9.00 All Saints Eucharist
  • 10.30 St Michael & All Angels Eucharist
  • 4pm St James the Greater Christingle in family groups
  • 6pm All Saints Sacred music and readings by Candlelight

Rejoice for the bells of Lambourn are ringing once again!

Return of the bells – 5

If you live in earshot you will already know that the bells were joyfully test rung last Wednesday evening having been rededicated and viewed by so many on Sunday!

Many have requested that I share what I said in the service about the bells …

‘The ring of 8 bells here in St Michael and All Angels have rung out over Lambourn Valley for hundreds of years – the voice of the church speaking to the community.

The 1st mention of them was in 1552 that’s 468 years ago … It’s easy to get blasé here with numbers – the first Vicar recorded in this place was in 1017 and that’s over a thousand years ago!

Over those 468 plus years the bells

  • remind everyone who hears them that the church is alive.
  • ring regularly to announce that worship is taking place.
  • ring for weddings, for funerals.
  • ring for festivals, and they mark local and national events.

They ring ‘full circle’ in the English style – it’s a unique sound that has become part of our cultural heritage.

The first mention of them is to be found in an inventory of 1552 which refers to ‘IV belles and a sanctuary bell. Some of our 8 bells are on the Listed Bell Register.

The current project began in 2018 thanks to the generosity of the public and grant making organisations.

It began with the aims of firstly, repairing the head stock insulating pads, originally made of wood, and secondly to renovate the running boards and various bits of wood work. It was then discovered that four out of the 8 bells were badly cracked – to repair the cracks actually in bells with the repacking of the bearings meant finding a further £18,000.

For all this to happen was no minor undertaking – so the bells were transported off to … would you believe Newmarket – the other racing centre! to a company called Soundwell who have developed an approved welding technique which means that bells no longer need to be recast. Rather, a small amount of the bell metal is analysed and then replicated under laboratory conditions and injected, so as to speak into the cracks!

Following the crack repair process our 4 bells were transported off to Nicholsons in Bridport and it was their white van you may have seen in the market place last week as Tim arrived to work with the team of volunteers to prepare everything in the Tower – specifically in the Bell chamber – with which of course I am well acquainted!

So in essence St Michael’s now has a ring of bells that after all the detailed work will ‘Go better ‘ – that’s bell ringing speak I am reliably informed! And of course all the effort, hard work and dedication will ensure that they do not need major work in the foreseeable future – certainly not in our lifetime – hence the reason for my so wanting to ensure that people take up this once in a lifetime opportunity to see the bells close up and personal!

The church will remain open until about 4pm today and then it will be closed while weights of a ton and more are raised up through the ringing chamber, the clock chamber and finally into the bell chamber. This is heavy engineering in itself, the clappers alone each weigh half a hundredweight.

Once in the bell chamber each bell has to be manoeuvred into place – with absolutely critical precision.

I cannot emphasise enough the extent to which we must give thanks for the skills, dedication and sheer hard work that has gone on for this project to come to fruition today – and Keith and I are really johnnie’s come lately – so I can only stand back in awe as I reflect upon what has been achieved. Without the high level of skilled, experienced volunteer help we wouldn’t be standing here today. Without volunteer help the cost would have been prohibitive.

I believe this is a precise example of the diversity of gifts we are given as members of Christ’s body –the stewardship of labour has been so evident in this building – so on this historic occasion we give thanks for what has been achieved so far, thanks for the hard work, dedication and generosity of so many people, and we rejoice in the prospect of the glorious sound of the restored bells once again sounding out over Lambourn’.

Angelic Host

Accompanying the bells on Sunday was an ever growing angelic host! Thank you to every one who has donated an angel this year. As I went into church to lock up yesterday – there on the altar was another little bag with more angels … they will be joining the wooden decorated angels the children will bring to St Michael’s on Wednesday when they will give thanks for the angels in their lives who bring them comfort and joy!

St Michael’s will be closed on Monday as there is a funeral in the afternoon and will remain closed till Wednesday afternoon in order to reduce the Covid risk as the classes from school arrive. From then do please come along for peace, quiet, private prayer and take in the heavenly host, the trees, the advent wreath, the travelling nativity and of course, the crib.

The Big Christmas Carol Service

The Big Christmas Carol Service this evening. Streaming begins at 5.45 with the service starting at 6pm. Belinda church mouse and I will be singing along with Mr Vicarage. Do join us singing to the glory of God in your own home!

And finally…

The message of the angels is for each one of us. It has rarely been so needed as it is this year. Amidst all that is happening in our world let’s reflect as the angels say to shepherds outside Bethlehem,: ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people’ (Luke 2.10).

No mention of rhyme or reason, purpose or function. Just joy. Jesus teaches his disciples not in order to impart knowledge, or to share mysterious secrets about the workings of creation, but just for joy and comfort.

And, as the generosity of others has meant The Vicarage has a Christmas tree (!) let’s pray

Father of lights,
the beginning and end of all things,
our one cause and purpose:
illuminate us always with the Light of the World,
your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

May this Advent be a blessing to you and your families.

With love and plenty of warm wishes …

Julie