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The Restored Tower At St Margaretís Streatley
I donít like thermometers. Around thirty years ago, when Frances and I were living in Sevenoaks, the library was temporarily housed in the parish church and right outside was a hardboard thermometer, its red line about half-way up, announcing how much money had been raised and how much was still needed for the repair of the church roof. We moved from there to Morristown, New Jersey, some three and a half thousand miles and finding myself in need of a book, I went to the library, only to discover that it was temporarily housed in the town church and outside was a hardboard thermometer, its red line about half-way up. We had travelled a third of the way around the world and the thermometer had come too.
So I was glad that we didnít have one outside St Margaretís.
I am always nervous in any case of repairs; it seems to me that quite often after a job is started you find a little while later a workman in overalls standing in front of you explaining how having taken off the ďwhirly gig dongle adjuster thingyĒ that they have found underneath, unanticipated, untold rot, decay, corrosion, leaks, misalignments, poor prior workmanship and so on, all of which extends the task and escalates the cost beyond imagining.
So I was glad that this didnít happen at St Margaretís
Sometimes the situation is catastrophic and interferes with your way of life. Shortly after moving to Tythe Farm, the gas board had occasion to turn off all the gas to the village in the way of a new main and upon reconnection visited every house to be sure that the flow was safely restored. Up until then our Rayburn had been a comforting source of farmhouse bacon and eggs on a Saturday morning but suddenly there it was instantly swathed in black and yellow tape and imperious notices saying ďDanger, do not use under any circumstances!Ē
So I was glad that we had nothing like that at St Margaretís.
No, we have had a project to restore and repair our 15th century church tower where money was generously raised without thermometers, where the bad surprises, and there were one or two, were balanced by the good ones and there were no catastrophes. No one was hurt during the work, the roof is intact and all of our church services continued without interruption and the work was completed on time. And the result as we shall shortly see is beautiful
I am glad we had that at St Margaretís.
Our architect, Michael Dales and our churchwardens, persuaded me up the tower to see the work in progress. I went gingerly and up the inside, for I may not like thermometers, I may be nervous about repairs, I try to avoid catastrophes but I am petrified of heights! Anyway, I went and so was able to appreciate, close up, the skill of the masons, putting together a 3D jigsaw of Totternhoe Clunch retaining and sometimes rebuilding the original intent.
I am glad for their craftsmanship at St Margaretís.
So we do want to give thanks for all of these things, for the skills, the talent, energy, enthusiasm, fellowship and knowledge of the many people that came together this last year to make this all possible. The privilege we have had of being part of seven centuries of worship in this place cannot be overstated, so we join with joy the countless faithful ones who have gone before us lavishing their care and nurture on this church built, maintained, ennobled, furnished, cleaned and polished to the glory of God.
T S Elliottís poem Burnt Norton, from his Four Quartets, opens with this couplet:
ďTime present and time past
And we pray that that is so, in continuing tradition, in restoring the tower of St Margaretís, we are building for the present, restoring the past and building for the future.
Our passage from Revelation, clarifies further this idea, for it speaks of God. God is him who is and who was and who is to come, the Alpha and the Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.
Continuity you see is important, not rigidity, not inflexibility, for we must know how to adapt, grow, learn, develop and listen to God in our age but it is also good to recognise the qualities of the past and know where it makes sense to retain, preserve and even improve on them for generations to come.