Our last Newsletter was issued over a year ago, which requires an explanation. The main driving force behind the Friends Scheme since its inception in June 2014 has been Roy Partridge who, in addition to his duty as Secretary and Treasurer for the church, covered most of the administration for the Friends. In recent months Roy has had to slow down a bit and has handed over the administration to me and a small team of others. We are much indebted to Roy for bringing the scheme to where it now is with care and responsibility, establishing a framework within which it can develop and grow.
The aim of the Friends Scheme is to promote a shared sense of community, both locally and universally, centred on a beautiful historic building in a peaceful Thames-side setting. Members learn more about the architecture, art and archaeology of the church, and about the church’s role in the history of Bisham and its district. Our main form of communication will continue to be our Newsletters, but we also envisage social gatherings and presentations to enable members to meet each other and share a common interest. To date Friends have also joined in two excursions away from Bisham, and we expect further such opportunities to arise in the future.
The Register of Friends now stands at 56, with slow but steady growth. Several members worship regularly at Bisham, but the majority do not and some come from quite far away. Anyone, of whatever faith or none, who wishes to uphold the value of this beautiful, peaceful, historic place, and see it preserved, is welcome to join. While we do not emphasise fundraising as the primary aim, Friends are invited to subscribe to a ring-fenced fund within the charity, essentially to help maintain the fabric. Some very helpful grants have already been made by the Friends, which is much appreciated.
The serenity of this place is very special and our Team Vicar, Sarah Fitzgerald, willingly responded to my invitation to write a piece for this Newsletter on this theme. Her article, accompanied by an appropriate photograph in magical evening light, captures this unique quality perfectly. It also expresses the wish for the building to be open more often and hints at steps that are being taken to make this possible. There might be a way in which the Friends can play a part in this, especially if our numbers increase, and we shall be bearing this in mind.
Since our last Newsletter, there has been a major development. After decades of intention and seemingly insurmountable problems, the church is to have a proper toilet at last, followed at a later date by the provision of a kitchenette and flower preparation area. This will be of wider significance in the community and will help to increase the potential use of the building for appropriate events by anyone who might wish to take advantage of the opportunity. Many people, both donors and doers, are to be thanked for this, not least our Church Warden Rod Stevens, from whom an update is included in this Newsletter.
I’ve lost count of the number of people who have commented to me on what a peaceful place they have found All Saints’ Bisham’s building and churchyard to be. Many people come to sit and enjoy some peace and stillness in the churchyard. Visitors often say on entering the church building what a peaceful atmosphere they feel. Why is this such a special place?
Perhaps it is the wonderful location right next to the river. There is something very calming about water and its gentle flow. Being close to nature has a healing effect on our spirits. Standing on the riverbank at All Saints’ you can’t see any other building and are surrounded by natural beauty and wildlife. Or perhaps it is the beauty of the building with its airy roof, stained class, carved wooden pews, and historic monuments.
But I also feel it is because of the heritage of the site where a church has stood for many hundreds of years and from all the prayer that has been said there. Places with a rich history of prayer often have that special quality. For those who pray it is sometimes easier to do so where many others have done so before us and spiritual people (not necessarily Christian) frequently come to pray in this place of prayer and its grounds.
Of course you don’t have to be religious to enjoy the peace. In our fast paced and pressured lives we are increasingly recognising the need to take time out and find some calm. A peaceful place like All Saints’ Bisham can help us do that whether we have faith or not. This is why I think it is a special place and one we want to ensure continues to be there now and in the future. I would also love the church building to be open more often for those who want to pray, enjoy the quiet there or appreciate the beauty and history of the building. We are looking at ways we might be able to make this possible. (Of course the graveyard is always open.)
So we are very pleased to welcome anyone who comes to benefit from this place of peace and quiet.
Always something to reflect on (Robert Frost)
When I visit the church I always find something to reflect on. Sarah Fitzgerald mentioned the stained glass in her article above. Our greatest treasure in this respect is undoubtedly the Hoby window (1609), but All Saints’ Bisham also owes much to the skill of the Victorians and others. Try sitting in the Williams Chapel early on a sunny morning. I find the colour and craftsmanship of the east window (1875) breathtaking. Here is a detail:
The toilet construction is proceeding well. The installation of the waste is complete and the path relaid. The work in the car park was completed in time for the start of the new school year. Internally the construction is going well and completion is expected during early October. The new facility will be formally opened and Blessed by the Archdeacon of Buckingham The Venerable Guy Elsmore on 4 November, which is All Saints Day and our Saints Day. This will be a regular Parish Communion service.
1st Sunday in the month 8.00am Holy Communion
9.30am All Age Service
Other Sundays in the month 9.30am Sung Eucharist
Church opening and guided tours
Anyone wishing to visit All Saints’ Bisham outside service times should call the Parish Office, 01628 481806, and arrangements can then be made to open the church at an agreed date and time. If required, a guided tour of the church and churchyard can be organised, depending on the availability of volunteers.
Even if the church is not open when you visit, the churchyard is an experience to be savoured and enjoyed, and you will find plenty of benches with views in different directions, especially of the river.
Joining the Friends
If you know of others who might like to join, whether they live in Bisham, Marlow or further afield, please do encourage them to do so. Your help in spreading the word would be invaluable. Please also let us know if there is anything you would particularly like us to try and do.
For further information, including an application form, prospective Friends should email us at email@example.com, write to Friends of the Church of All Saints Bisham, c/o Parish Office, Parish of Great Marlow and Marlow Bottom with Little Marlow and Bisham, The Causeway, Marlow, Bucks SL7 2AA, or telephone me on 01628 476772. If they live in Marlow or Bisham and would like me to visit them personally to discuss the Friends, including ways in which they might help, I should be glad to do so.