Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Christmas in retrospect - and the blessing

Looking back over another snowy Christmas, there were lots of decisions and changes but most things seem to have gone very well. The Christmas Eve Midnight Communion, which we decided this year to move 30 minutes earlier to 11:00pm so that people were not too late getting home, was moved to the Roman Catholic Church, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in Great Missenden. Father Tim was very supportive when we asked him. However, we had to move back again to 11:30 as there was another service at 10:00 pm. Access to the Church was much safer than the road up to St Peter & St Paul, particularly in the dark. The team brought all the necessary kit down in time, although we only just found the service booklets in time. We used the local hymn books - they have over 600 hymns!  I found the service in the 1960s building quite inspirational. Very different, of course, from mediaeval architecture. The roof in IHM slopes upwards towards the altar - very much the opposite to the rather confined feeling of older chancels. I noticed that IHM doesn’t point to the East - I guess this was to make the most of the site.

Earlier on Christmas Eve, the Crib Service had been moved to the school. I didn’t attend this but the reports were very positive and the photos I’ve seen looked great. I hear the star was Rosie’s granddaughter. The snow around the school had to be cleared in time for the service: a few phone calls rounded up a gang of helpers at very short notice - thanks!

The early Christmas Day Communion was moved to the Oldham Hall and Bishop Alan took the service. Again, I didn’t make it. Margaret managed her communion kit again for this service. The Christmas Communion was held in St Peter & St Paul and was well attended by nearly 300 worshippers. We had a team of car parkers (actually non-car parkers) preventing cars driving up to Church where the parking was very limited. But everyone had heeded the warning and lots of people parked in the village and walked up in good time. We had e-mailed and phoned round as many people as possible and I’m sure this helped. Several people thanked me for the phone calls.

We decided to hold the Sunday service up at the Church as the access was improving all the time. By Tuesday, we were able to clear enough of the carpark for guests at the wedding blessing of Dalisay and Bryan.

Earlier in the Christmas season the concerts of the Great Missenden Choral Society and the Roald Dahl Foundation had to be cancelled. Although we weren’t directly involved in these, we were sorry that these two events which we were to host were not able to continue. There’s much talk about people being risk-averse these days but I don’t think any of our changes or cancellations were inappropriate. I think some people were unhappy about the changes but I enjoyed them - but I guess I’m much more used to change, having worked for so many years in a very dynamic environment.

A very big ‘thank you’ is due to everyone who helped with such an eventful few weeks. And it’s not over yet: we plan to hold the cancelled 9 lessons and carols service, complete with mulled wine and mince pies on Epiphany - 6:00pm on Sunday 2nd January.

Our family Christmas was fun but uneventful. We are having a few days of peace before they all descend on us again for new year. We can see the carpet again now it’s free of lego!

The sun came out on Sunday allowing us a little time to play in the snow and take some more pictures of the beauty of Little Hampden.

Thursday, 23 December 2010


The snow is still very much around. There's a lot of pressure to keep services in the Church at Great Missenden but with snow like this we can't take the risk. So all but the 10:00am on Christmas Day will be held elsewhere.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Quite a weekend

The same as last year: snow on the weekend before Christmas. This time we had a wedding at Gt Missenden. Paul, who's son was to be married, arranged a gang of helpers and a tractor to clear the access and spread the extra grit we'd persuaded the council to deliver. Together with some Church volunteers, we managed to achieve this by mid morning – but the snow was starting to fall. We had already arranged contingency plans for an organist and arranged for Vicar Rosie to be collected by a 4x4. Both of these turned out to have been good decisions! Paul had hired a 4wd minibus to relay guests to and from the Church. I hear the wedding went very well, although they were late starting and several guests failed to arrive.

By the afternoon we'd had a very heavy snowfall – at least 8 inches (20cm) at Little Hampden. So some phone calls and decisions: the 8am service on Sunday had been cancelled. We decided to move the 10am down from the Church to the Oldham Hall in the village and to take a decision on the planned 6pm service of lessons and carols on Sunday morning. Communicating with everybody was a challenge: we e-mailed round regularly and put updates on the web site. Not everyone is into these communication methods but we hope that those who are told their less techie friends.

Meanwhile we were prepared to hold another DIY Carol Service at Little Hampden. Geoff was available to play our new organ (and was, I believe, delighted to do so) We had e-mailed round the village inviting all to attend and suggesting that any children who had nativity costumes should turn up. In the event we had a donkey, a king and two angels. We also had an impromptu shepherd. Brenda improvised a nativity getting us to imagine the missing players. We had a full Church for the service which ended with the messy grace!

Cancelling the 6pm service at Great Missenden was the right decision in view of the weather – the roads and pavements are still very dangerous. We're all sorry fr the choir who have been practising but we'll try to include some of their work in the Christmas Eve service – weather permitting.

So I was able to spend some time at Little Hampden where the snow is beautiful and the sunset and moon coming up were wonderful.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Christmas trees again – what's that smell?

Just received this from Graham: “During preparations For the Christmas Tree Festival (to be exact 10 mins before the doors opened on Saturday) an unpleasant odour was noticed, near the main door. Call in the ‘staff’ for a decision and before you could blink the metal floor covers were up, a torch had appeared and the offending rodent (to be precise ‘an ex rodent’) was spotted. Surgical instruments were considered but in the end a few ‘digits’ and a plastic bag, did the trick. Alas your correspondent was not allowed out of the tea bar for the internment!”

Church access cleared for the wedding

… we hope! A big “thank you” to all the helpers.

And this is what it's like at Little Hampden and about noon!

Friday, 17 December 2010

An exciting weekend to look forward to

With bad weather forecast – and here – it's going to be an exciting weekend. We've had about 2 inches (OK, 5cm) of snow and it's now very cold – minus 6° C at Little Hampden. Tomorrow there's a wedding at Great Missenden and on Sunday, two Carol Services as well as the 10:00 communion. The forecast is for more snow tonight but it's not certain that it will come as far north as us. We've already cancelled the 8:00am service. With very heavy frost expected overnight it's unreasonable to expect people to travel early.

We've had an extra delivery of grit thanks to the council and are arranging a work party on Saturday morning to clear snow or spread grit or both. The wedding family have offered to help and have been making special arrangements to get guests up and down the hill.

The Dahl Foundation have their concert on Saturday evening. Their web site says they will be making a decision in the morning about whether to go ahead or not. I guess they'll cancel if we do have extra snow overnight.

Which leaves Sunday....

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Christmas trees

A successful weekend – here are some images...
Rosie opening the festival

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Christmas Tree Festival

Preparations for the festival are well advanced and some lovely trees are already decorated. The festival opens tomorrow (Friday) evening from 7 to 9pm when the Choir will be singing and mulled wines and mince pies are available. Saturday opening times are 10am to 6pm and on Sunday the festival will open at 12:30pm. At 3pm the Sticna Youth Choir from Slvovenia will be giving a short concert.

Here are some of the preparations and trees – more tomorrow

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Nearly a week with no e-mail!

We managed to get away this week in spite of the weather. We were planning to visit Reims – for the Christmas Market and, of course, the champagne. The plan was to cross the channel on Tuesday and drive on to Reims – it's almost exactly 300 miles from home. However, the weather forecast on Sunday evening wasn't promising so we made a quick decision to zoom down to Dover on Monday afternoon and cross earlier on Tuesday. This turned out to be an excellent decision as Kent was probably virtually impassible by Tuesday.

More on the trip later – but I managed without any internet access for nearly a week. I missed a lot of excitement while concerts and services at Church were cancelled or changed – and I'm sorry to have left the rest of the staff with these difficulties but they seem to have managed very well without me. When I logged on today I had an inbox of about 280 e-mails. Quite a lot of junk was easy to get rid of and with some ruthless deletion I managed to get the list down to under 100.  That's about manageable so my first few days of finding time has been fairly successful – although I'm sure the rest of the Church team may not agree!

And Reims? Cold, the Christmas Market was as before: wonderful atmosphere but the usual mixture of stuff – I think the only thing we bought in the market was some mustard from a new local company. The fizz was great, of course and the fields of vines as extensive as ever. Not quite like these: