God moves in a mysterious way,’ wrote William Cowper in the first line of his famous hymn. It must have seemed that way to John and Barbara Hagger who arrived at St Faith’s church in 2013 during the time of the interregnum when the church was without a vicar. Every time John and Barbara moved house, the church they joined was always in the middle of an interregnum!
In May of that year I wrote an article about the then Church Wardens, Margaret Hunt and Cliff Rook. Last year, after five years of service, Margaret retired. A new Church Warden was needed and, as you might expect in view of the work involved, there wasn’t a mad rush of eager volunteers. However, in spite of being a comparative newcomer, John felt it right to take on the post.
John, the youngest of three with an older brother and sister, was born at Islington in the East End of London within the sound of Bow bells which makes him a true cockney. His father was a Merchant Banker and his mother worked in shops and offices. Barbara was born in nearby Clapton, also the youngest of three with two older brothers. Her father was the senior partner in a firm of quantity surveyors. They met as pupils at school and later married in 1968.
Since leaving school John has always worked in the computer industry, initially as an employee and later as a self-employed project manager. For four years he worked in Stockholm developing management information systems. Barbara, after leaving school, was trained in shorthand, typing and book keeping and has subsequently worked for a Building Society, a Chemical Importing firm and a Bristol college as P.A to the Principal. They have three daughters, a son and seven grandchildren.
Moves during their married life have taken them to Alveston near Bristol and Stonehouse near Stroud at the southern end of the Cotswolds. They have always been actively involved with the church engaging in youth work and, in John’s case, serving as Church Warden in Stroud. It was whilst they were in Stroud that John, being semi-retired and having an interest in transport, decided to become a bus driver (which was always my dream job though I never became one). Unlike me, John fulfilled his wish and, after driving buses of every kind all over the Cotswolds, he ended up by becoming a mentor to new bus drivers.
Wanting to be closer to their children and grandchildren, they eventually moved to Lee where, as you will see in photo, their family grew by one. Indy, a beautiful Labrador/Golden Retriever cross, is being trained by them as a guide dog for the blind. Indy is also a regular at St. Faith’s church though I’ve no way of knowing if he enjoys the sermons. I first met Indy when queuing for communion and, ignoring John, I bent down to greet him though I should have greeted John first as part of a pup’s training in learning to know the proper pecking order.
I am sure St Faith’s will be all the better for having John and Barbara in the congregation and that John will be a brilliant Church Warden. As for Indy, whether or not he takes to church, I can’t imagine him being in better hands when it comes to being trained as a guide dog. Perhaps I should finish with more quotes from famous hymns. Whenever I sing, ‘All creatures of our God and King’ or ‘All things bright and beautiful’, one glance at Indie will assure me that the authors must have had dogs like him in mind.
I wonder how many regulars at St. Faith’s church know who Sandy Pennington is. If they’re like me, very few I suspect. I’ve been a regular for several years now at both the 8 o’clock and 10 o’clock services. I also serve on the P.C.C. However, until a month or so ago, I’d never heard of Sandy who’s been at St. Faith’s for sixteen years and can be seen on the site almost every day of the week. So, who is Sandy?
A clue can be found by anyone who comes to the church or Parish Centre during the week and notices how clean everything is. You won’t see Sandy at any of the services but you might bump into her dashing around with a duster or mop if you call between Lunch Club and Zumba Gold or between any other of the many groups that use the building. Sandy is the person who, with Glynn Burrell the caretaker, keeps everything in tip-top condition. I accidentally bumped into her at church one day and I’m glad I did since Sandy is one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met at St. Faith’s.
One of six siblings, two boys and four girls, Sandy was born in Oldham, Lancashire. Her dad was a turner engineer and her mum, as you might imagine, had more than enough to do bringing up the children. On leaving school during the recession she was accepted on a Y.T.S, scheme at Tesco and later worked in various factories including Harvey’s Overalls folding blankets on piecework and Failsworth Hats where her task took the skin off her hands! She was eventually rescued by her brother’s mate, Mark, who was in the Royal Navy and whom she married in 1987. They moved into married quarters at Fareham and eventually settled in Lee where, apart from a three-year posting in Gibraltar, they’ve been ever since.
Unlike her parents, Mark and Sandy have only one child, Michael, who graduated from Christchurch University, Canterbury and is better known now as “Jackal”, famed internationally as an E.D.M. (Electronic Dance Music) producer and DJ. He lives in Los Angeles, travels the world and is currently preparing for a festival in China later this year. If you Google ‘Jackal Producer’, you’ll see why Sandy and Mark are justifiably proud of their son’s achievements.
Sandy’s involvement with St Faith’s began when, saving up for a holiday, she needed to earn some money. She describes herself as feeling like Yosser Hughes in Alan Bleasdale’s B.B.C. TV series, Boys from the Blackstuff. It was a case of ‘gizza job’ when she knocked on the vicarage door in 1999 and asked Peter Sutton, then priest in charge, if he had any work. Fortunately for her the Bulson Hall had just been built and, with no cleaner or even cleaning materials for the building, the job was hers. She has had other jobs that have kept her busy including housekeeper at the vicarage and full-time employment at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital on the older persons mental health ward. But Sandy now thinks of herself as being ‘semi-retired’ and is more than content with her 10 hours a week keeping the Church and Parish Centre clean and tidy.
So, if you didn’t already know who Sandy is, you do now and, thankfully, so do I. One of the things I love about writing for St. Faith’s is that it gives me the opportunity to meet people I’d otherwise never have met – and meeting Sandy has been one of the people I really enjoyed meeting, so much so that I think of her now as a friend. Oddly enough, when I first suggested an interview, Sandy’s no-nonsense reply was a definite ‘NO!’ I’m glad I persisted and even more pleased that, eventually, Sandy changed her mind.
At this time of year, as well as looking forward to Christmas, I enjoy looking back over the past year at the people I had the pleasure to meet.
In January I found myself at Stubblee Hill, in the ‘Action for Children’ centre where Denise MacDonald, the Admin and Business Support Officer, told me about the activities for mums-to-be, families and children under five. I remember coming away impressed both by the opportunities provided and dedication of the staff involved.
In February I wrote about my visit to the Isle of Wight where I met Peter Sutton, St Faith’s last vicar, now Archdeacon of the Island’s 58 churches. After a meal with him, his wife Pippa and Karen Schmidt, once a curate at St. Faith’s, I enjoyed a whistle top tour of the Island’s ‘wild west’ in Karen’s car to see the five churches for which she was responsible and later caught the St. Faith’s ferry home after a day full of happy memories. Karen has since retired and is living at Cirencester.
Back on terra firma, March gave me the chance to meet Richard Dewland, the amazingly energetic and enthusiastic musician who conducts the Lee Choral Society. I look forward to hearing them at their next concert in St. Faith’s (details below).
In April I attended he launch of the ICANGO bus service sponsored Eckersley White and run by volunteers for anyone wanting low cost transport in one of the Jolly buses, so named after Connie Jolly who, with Lawrence Brodley, started the scheme (contact no. 07787 292666)
I met Joyce Dawson in May who chairs St Faith’s Pastoral Ministry group which provides pastoral care for those in need. The group can be contacted via the church office (see below).
June gave me the chance to meet two wonderful nonagenarians who have worshipped and served at St. Faith’s church for nearly seventy years. Bob Jepson, once a butcher in Lee, and his wife Rachael told me all about their past lives. If newcomers to St, Faith’s serve the church for as long and as loyally as they have, its future is assured.
In July I visited the Knit and Natter group which meets in the Lowry Room every Friday from 2 – 4 pm knitting for various charitable causes. I enjoyed it so much that I still call in, mainly for a natter. New members are welcome so do come and join them.
August brought me to the Rowan’s Hospice shop in Lee where I spent an afternoon at the back drinking tea and hearing about the work of the volunteers from the manager, Anne Wressell and her team. Having benefitted from the Rowan’s Hospice when my late partner was ill, I knew it would be a cause worth championing and it was. Do support them!
It was back to music and the Lee Choral Society in September, this time to share in one of the rehearsals for the Christmas service. Hilary Bremner, who chairs the committee, told me all about the group which rehearses on Wednesday nights in the Bulson Hall from 7.30 – 9.15. New members are welcomed – especially men!
In October I met our new curate and his wife, Steve and Jayne at their home in Fareham and completed the year in November with a review of the Lee Art group. I enjoyed every moment with everyone I met and, should you want to re-read any of their stories, you will find them at on the church website (stfaithslee.org) under ‘News & events’.
And so to Christmas and the New Year when the church service times will be at 8 am, 9.30 am, and 6.p.m. with a new service at 11 am (beginning on Advent Sunday, November 29th) which promises to be something different! Meanwhile we hope to see you at one of our Christmas events and/or services and I wish you all a Happy Christmas and all you wish for in the year ahead.
I enjoyed school art lessons back in the late 1950s. It was the only period of the week in which we were allowed to chat to each other in a relaxed setting while attempting to paint something vaguely recognisable. Our art teacher, Miss Carter, was an artist in her own right having trained at the Slade School of Art in London and thanks to her I even managed to scrape an O level in the subject. But, after leaving school, I never touched a paint brush again apart from covering walls with emulsion.
In May of this year, however, I spent a thoroughly enjoyable evening looking at numerous paintings and admiring the artistry. Jean Hedley, a member of the Lowry Art Group, had contacted Barry Staples, chair of the Lee Art Group, and suggested mounting a joint exhibition at the Bulson Hall at St. Faith’s church. The gathering was well supported and during the evening Gillian Ashby, who runs the Lowry Art group, introduced me to Barry Staples. He was busy talking to others at the time but we managed to exchange telephone numbers and he agreed to a future meeting.
The meeting was duly arranged and we met over a cup of coffee in the cosy surroundings of the Lanes Way Café in Lee. Unlike me, enjoying art at school but never touching it afterwards, Barry wasn’t interested at school but became interested after he retired at the age of 60. Very much local lad, born and educated in Gosport, he worked for the IKC grocers and spent the rest of his working life in the Retail Building Merchant industry and for the last 43 years has been married to Jenny.
It was watching the TV programme ‘Water Colour Challenge’ before he’d retired that sparked his interest in Art. Wanting to follow it up he attended adult classes for several years at St Vincent’s, the Ashcroft and Holy Trinity, Fareham, later joined the Lee Art Group and took over the chair from Avril Poppit in 2013.
The aim of the group – to meet regularly for ‘the encouragement, appreciation and practice of the visual arts in the local community’, has remained the same for over 40 years since it was founded in 1972. They meet on the second Tuesday of each month in the Methodist church at Lee between 7.30 and 9.30 pm. The meetings include visits and demonstrations by professional artists in their chosen medium. Each year there are two Members’ meetings, one in August and the other in December when everyone brings light refreshments and entertainments are provided. On both evenings this year the ‘Spirit of the South’ harmony group has been invited.
An annual competition for the Lee Art Group Trophy, sponsored by Lee’s ‘White Dog Gallery’ is held in October. In September, an annual exhibition is arranged which, for the past few years, has been held at the Explosion Museum running for four days from Thursday – Sunday. On Monday mornings the groups runs ‘Paint as You Please’ sessions over tea or coffee when members can view and discuss each other’s work. There are also workshops and visits to various places – this year for example to the Houses of Parliament and a Museum. During the summer months, weather permitting, outdoor exhibitions are held at the Methodist church.
Visitors are always welcomed for a small entrance fee of £3 to their Tuesday evening meetings. If you’re interested in becoming a member, you can look at the website, www.lee-on-the-solent-art.group@yolasite’com or phone Barry Staples on 02392 550581. Who knows, like Barry, you might discover a new talent. Meanwhile don’t forget the Lowry Art Group but I’ll save that for a future article.
This year St Faith’s church welcomed a new couple – Steve Dent and his wife Jayne. Steve was ordained as a Deacon at Portsmouth Cathedral on July 4th and on the following day he arrived at church as our new curate. I’d already noticed how friendly, sociable and approachable they both seemed and on meeting them at their home in Fareham my initial impressions were quickly confirmed with the immediate offer of coffee and chocolate biscuits!
Steve was born in Fareham, an only child whose father had various jobs including hospital porter and steward at Collingwood and whose mother worked at Plessey’s. After attending Fareham County Primary and Bishopsfield Secondary schools he completed a 3-year telephone-engineering apprenticeship at the Post Office and spent the rest of his career working for BT in different capacities.
Jayne, who was born in Twerton, near Bath, spent most of her childhood with her older brother at Trowbridge, Wiltshire. Her father was a heating engineer and her mother a bookbinder. Her grandmother lived with the family and was always there to look after the children when their parents were at work. Jayne was interested in physics at school but eventually took up a career as a nanny and moved to Fareham.
Steve and Jayne were members of the youth group at Holy Trinity Church, Fareham, and it was there, in 1974, that they met. After one of the meetings Jayne accidently tripped, twisted her ankle and had to be helped home supported by Steve and one of his mates. As a result Steve and Jayne fell for each other and were married at Staverton church, near Trowbridge, two years later. They now have three children, Catherine, Louise and Matt and four grandchildren.
It was reading a Bible passage together whilst on holiday in Egypt on the Sinai Peninsula that led to Steve’s later decision to leave his job and train as a deacon. After seeking and receiving more definite assurance and guidance, he felt led to serve the church as a ‘distinctive’ deacon: i.e. some who intends to serve permanently as a deacon and not progress to becoming a priest as is the case with a ‘transitional’ deacon. And so, after attending the Bishop’s Advisory Panel which decides whether or not someone is suited to church ministry, he was accepted for training. His 3 year distance-learning course involving home study, tutorials, and 5-day residential sessions was successfully completed and on June 4th he was ordained.
As with Paul, our vicar, and his wife Becca, I thought I’d ask similar QA questions:
Q What super-power would you like to have? A (S) Climb walls like Spiderman. (J) Be invisible.
Q Marmite, love it or hate it? A (S) Hate it, (J) love it.
Q Tea or coffee? A (S) Tea (J) Coffee (black).
Q What were you rubbish at school? A (both) P.E. (which made me sure I’d get on with them!)
After spending more than an hour with Steve and Jayne, I felt how lucky we were to have them both at St. Faiths as well as being certain that they would add so much to the life of the church and the Lee community. Both are keen to get to know everyone and serve in any way they can.
And as for the coffee and chocolate biscuits – they were delicious!
It was the Reverend Sills (vicar of St. Faith’s from 1955- 1965) who, being fond of music himself and having once sung in the choir at Ely Cathedral, encouraged his then newly-appointed organist, John Witham, to start a new singing group. The group was formed in 1959 with John acting as both accompanist and conductor. At first there were only nine singers including John’s wife, June, and rehearsals were held in the long-since demolished Lowry Hut. In time the group grew in numbers and became known as the Lee Singers (recently re-named the Lee Choral Society. They now meet every Wednesday in the Bulson Hall at St. Faith’s church under the baton of Richard Dewland, their new musical director who took over after the death of John Witham.Eager to learn more about the choir, I contacted Hilary Bremner who joined the group in 1997 and currently chairs their committee of ten. She enrolled with a friend and admits that she’s never learned to read music (apart from knowing that the notes go up or down). She also admits that, at first, she spent more rehearsal time giggling with her friend than singing! She was keen to stress, however, that whether or not you can read music, by being in a choir you soon learn to sing your part. She now sings with the altos and can be seen in the photograph sitting in the front row right wearing a pink cardigan.
Hilary’s interest in singing with others began when she joined her junior school choir and, later, the choir at her secondary school. As chair of the Lee Singers’ committee, her present role is to lead committee meetings, coordinate concerts and deal with correspondence. In 2013 she also orchestrated the auditions, interviews and subsequent appointment of the new musical director.
The Lee Choral Society concerts take place three times a year. In the summer they usually perform a selection of light music and in winter a mixture of carols old and new along with various other works. The Manchester Carols, for example (poems by Carol Anne Duffy set to music by Sasha Johnson Manning), will be on the programme for Christmas 2015. In spring their concerts are usually devoted to more serious choral music. In the past they’ve sung Berlioz’ ‘Te Deum’, Benjamin Britten’s ‘Saint Nicholas cantata’ and, as recently as May this year, Mozart’s Requiem Mass.
After talking with Hilary I spent an hour listening to the choir rehearse. They began with simple exercises singing vowel sounds up and down the first five notes of the scale at different speeds and pitches. Having finished the warm-up session they began on the serious business of rehearsing Mozart’s Requiem, singing all four parts together as well as singly or in various combinations.
It has been said that the benefits of joining a choir can be even healthier for the body and soul than practicing Yoga! Even though I wasn’t singing with the choir, I felt all the better just for hearing them sing! If you think that joining a choir might be of benefit you, there’s no need to read music. With the help of others around you you’ll soon learn your particular part. The Lee Choral Society, I’m certain, would welcome new members with open arms. They are always in need of more people to swell their ranks – sopranos, altos, tenors and basses, men and women – but especially men! The tenors are few in number and the basses fewer still! Rehearsals take place at St. Faith’s church on Wednesday nights from 7.30 to 9.15 with a break in between to rest the voice and make new friends. If you enjoy singing, why not join the Lee Choral Society? It’s better than watching TV and it’s good for your health.
Some weeks ago I inadvertently walked into the Bulson Hall at St. Faith’s without realising that a group of women were gathered around a table in the middle of a meeting. Before I could apologise for barging in on them they all began laughing and asking if I was there to join them. They were busy chatting to each other, eating cakes, drinking tea and knitting. Having heard of a Knit and Natter group at the church, I realised who they were, explained that I was useless at knitting (apart from French knitting) but asked if I could join them sometime with a view to finding out what they did. And a few week’s later I joined them, not so much to knit as to natter and avail myself of the tea and cake.
On arriving at the Lowry room where they usually meet on Friday afternoons, I was immediately welcomed and found myself sitting at table between Anne and Lydia, two of the original members, along with ten other women all frantically knitting and all, including me, nattering about everything under the sun. Before long I was drinking tea, enjoying a delicious sponge cake provided by Anne, listening to everyone and wondering what on earth I could write about. But by the time I left, I’d managed to pick up enough information from the general conversation to gain some idea of the group’s history and purpose.
The Knit and Natter group was formed around ten years ago by Jean Crook who was then a member at St. Faith’s and the first lady in the Portsmouth diocese to train as a Reader. Having a friend who belonged to a knitting group in Farlington, Jean decided that a similar group should be established at St. Faith’s where, as well as meeting to chat and make new friends, they could knit for the various charities in area. Their main activity (apart from nattering) is to knit squares which Lydia, sometimes helped by others when too many mount up, eventually sews together to make warm, blankets for whoever might need them. Among the recipients who currently receive them are the homeless at the ‘Two Saints’ hostel in Fareham, the ‘Hope and Aid’ charity who transport them to Kosovo for use in orphanages or elsewhere and the local Women’s Refuge and Premature Baby Unit at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth. All of the wool required is given to the group by friends and well-wishers.
From time to time other articles apart from squares are knitted. On one occasion an incredibly long strip was created to wrap around the conning tower of the submarine, HMS Alliance after it had been refurbished. Brenda Savage (the only member of the group who for some reason is missing from the photograph) remembers that her contribution to the strip was knitted in vivid lipstick red! On another occasion George (a regular Cuppa and Company member who came from Wolverhampton) asked for some woolly hats to be knitted for the Wolves football supporters.
On taking my leave after a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon I asked if the group would welcome new members and the resounding response was a loud, enthusiastic YES. There is no need to belong to St Faith’s or any other church. Some of the present members are churchgoers and some are not. The only requirement seems to be that, as well as having something to natter about you should know what to do with a pair of knitting needles. Everyone in the group is really welcoming and more than friendly. So, if you’d like to catch up on the latest gossip and maybe add to it yourself and if you’d like to escape for an hour or two on Fridays from 2 – 4 pm, please feel free to come along. The tea is tasty, the cake is superb and the company, I promise, is second to none.
They’d make an interesting couple to interview,’ a sidesman suggested as I arrived at St Faith’s for the 10 o’clock service having overslept and missed the 8 o’clock service which I normally attend. Keen to discover who they were, I strolled down the aisle, made myself known and asked if I could interview them sometime. Needless to say they were both bemused and assured me there was nothing of exceptional interest in their lives to write about but, tentatively, agreed to a meeting.
A few weeks later when I met them at their home in Lee, I discovered there was plenty of interest that marked them out as an exceptional couple. With both approaching their 92nd birthdays they are still active and can claim to be amongst the longest-serving regular worshipers at St. Faith’s having attended and served in the church for nearly 70 years. But what about their early lives, and how did they come to meet and end up at St Faith’s?
Bob and Rachael Jepson could hardly have lived much further apart before they met. Bob, the ‘baby of the family’ with an older sister and two brothers, was born in Sunderland in 1923. After leaving school he worked as a butcher until he was called up by the Royal Navy in 1942 (the year I was born!). He was sent to Portsmouth and served as a cook travelling to West Africa and Scapa Flow before ending up at the Stamshaw Camp prior to demob.
Rachael was born in Winchester, the eldest of two girls and, after leaving Winchester High school, helped with the cooking in her aunt’s Guest House until she was asked to help with the War effort by joining the Land Army. Not liking the idea of working with pitchforks she opted instead to join the WRENs as a cook and ended up at Stamshaw Camp where she met Bob. ‘I was her boss at the time,’ Bob told me, admitting that Rachael is now the boss!
On leaving the Navy Bob returned to Sunderland and Rachael to Winchester where they took up the jobs they’d had before the war. They kept in contact by letters and visits, Bob travelling to Lee and Rachael to Sunderland – a city which didn’t impress her on first sight! She remembers her first visit when Bob arranged to meet her at Durham station. On arrival there was no sign of Bob and she’d resigned herself to catching the next train home when he suddenly appeared and saved the day.
The rest, as they say, is history. Rachael’s uncle owned a butchers shop in Pier Street, ‘S.F. Webb and Son’ (later renamed ‘R. Jepson and Son’). People living in Lee before it closed in 1984 might still remember it. Bob jumped at the offer to work there, moved to Lee and, six months later, married Rachael at Holy Trinity church, Winchester. They now have a son and daughter, Timothy and Anne (both Christened and confirmed at St. Faith’s), two grandchildren and four great grandchildren – all girls! Bob retired when the shop closed and has since enjoyed 30 years of retirement with Rachael. Apart from family, gardening and cooking (they both ‘wear the apron’) they’ve toured Britain in a camper van and made the most of their time together.
The sidesman was right – they did make an interesting couple to interview. St Faith’s church, like so many others, owes much to its older members like Bob and Rachael who, through the years, have played their part. My hope is younger people will fill the pews in the years to come and that, maybe, in decades from now, there will still be people to write about who, in their turn, have served the church for 70 years.
Like most churches, St Faith’s has a Pastoral Ministry Group but, before writing about its work and its co-ordinator, Joyce Dawson, I thought I’d find out for myself what ‘pastoral’ means having always associated it with countryside meadows and Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. Joyce explained that its original meaning had to do with ‘shepherding’ in the sense of ‘caring for’ and that she hoped this article would focus on the pastoral ministry of St. Faith’s rather than the Pastoral Ministry Group itself. I promised it would apart from a brief sketch of how her life’s story would account for her interest and current involvement with pastoral care.
Joyce, the middle child of three, was born Worcester. Church for her family was the Salvation Army and it was through this organisation she chose to pursue her calling to Christian ministry. It was at the S.A. officer training college in London where she met her husband-to-be, Trevor. Commissioned as an officer in 1968, she married Trevor a year later and spent the following decade working with him as a parish minister in the Home Counties where they brought up their two children, Paul and Anna. After further service at Barton on Humber they ended up as training officers themselves at the college where they’d trained. Throughout her years of pastoral ministry Joyce felt the need to acquire greater skills and understanding to help people with more complex needs and a move to the Salvation Army Counselling Service gave opportunity for further professional training. She qualified at the Westminster Pastoral Foundation as a psycho-analytic therapist. In 1995 she resigned from the Salvation Army, worked in London for the NHS as a psychological therapist for the next ten years and eventually moved closer to her daughter in Lee as an NHS therapist in the Gosport and Fareham area. Since retirement she has trained as a volunteer advisor at Gosport’s Citizens’ Advice Bureau. Not surprisingly, after joining St Faith’s, her involvement with pastoral care in the church began.
As the group’s co-ordinator, Joyce now works with a team of around ten volunteers for Paul, St. Faith’s priest, whose duty it is to provide care for everyone in the Parish of Lee whether they are churchgoers or not. At present some are referred by local organisations, some through word of mouth and others by coming into contact with St. Faith’s through Christenings, weddings funerals or other church functions. Joyce’s genuine concern for those in need of support was unmistakable. She wanted me to stress that pastoral care must extend beyond the church to the whole town. She really believes that Christ’s injunction to ‘love one another as I have loved you’ means what it says and that pastoral care in the community is one of the ways in which it can be fulfilled. Such care might involve taking communion to people no longer able to attend church or listening to and hopefully helping anyone in need. Joyce was keen for the work of the team to be known and used by anybody in Lee who feels it might be of help to them whether or not they have any connection with St. Faith’s.
Before I left I asked if Joyce would be willing to hear from anyone who, reading this, might want to get in touch with the team. I needn’t have asked. True to her word she said that the pastoral response of St Faiths is available to anyone in the town who requests it. If you think that a visit from her or one of the team would be of help to you or to someone you know, please contact the St. Faith’s Parish Church Office (02392 556 445). That pastoral help should extend beyond the church to the whole town was what she wanted this article to stress. So don’t be afraid to pick up the phone if you think the service might be of help to you. The pastoral team, I know, would welcome your call.
When I first saw ‘ICANGO’ emblazoned on the front of the mini-buses parked at St Faith’s I wondered what the word meant and, since it rhymed with Tango, I assumed it might refer to some kind of new Argentinean dance until I realised it was a combination of three words, I Can Go! I’ve since discovered that for people living in the area, ‘I can go’ means exactly what it says if a bus with a driver is needed for any occasion. Costs to users are kept to a minimum and only used to cover costs and provide a small profit to maintain and develop the service.
On the 13th of February this year, Caroline Dinenage M.P., Councillor Chris Carter, St Faith’s vicar, Paul Chamberlain and the volunteers involved arrived at St Faith’s for the launch of the ICANGO service with Eckersley White, Estate Agents, as its new official sponsors. As such the firm will provide for the mechanical maintenance of the buses and, with the volunteers, ensure that the service continues to grow.
Although the official launch took place last month, the service began eight years ago when two Lee residents, Connie Jolly (hence the name, ‘Jolly buses’) and Lawrence Brodley, a local resident, wondered if might be possible to provide a minibus so that older people in the area who had no means of transport could be taken on trips to various places for pub lunches and afternoon teas. Lawrence contacted other organisations and managed to hire buses from them when required. Soon other helpers became involved including Cliff Rook (who appears in the photo standing next to Caroline Dinenage) and who is still one of the volunteer drivers. He is also qualified to train and assess drivers for the MIDAS certificate run by Hampshire C.C., a legal requirement, and to give refresher tests required every four years.
A committee was formed with Peter Sutton (then St Faith’s vicar) as chairman, Lawrence as secretary and Mike Tiernan as treasurer. Peter provided parking space at the church and Pippa, his wife, acted as ‘scheduler’ taking bookings and arranging drivers. In time with contributions from local people, Hampshire County Council, Fareham Community Transport, Gosport Voluntary Action and a donation from Lawrence before he moved away there were eventually three buses available for use.
Since then there have been a number of developments. The service has become a registered charity, Lee ICANGO, committee members have changed over time with Adrian Groves currently in the Chair and Sue Morgan acting as scheduler and juggling dates, bus availability and contacts etc. There are now regular commitments when various groups are transported to meetings including Parkinson’s Disease (PDS), Alzheimers, Gosport Display Club, Stroke clubs and Chesterholm etc. Wheelchair facilities are provided for those who need them. As well as travelling all over the south of England, one of the buses has ventured as far the Scottish Highlands. There are currently 14 volunteer drivers and others who clean and maintain the vehicles.
After its recent launch with Eckersley White as its official sponsor, it hoped that the service will continue to expand and be used by schools, local parties and other organisations. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer or, just as importantly, if you live in the area and think a Jolly bus might suit some activity you have in mind, please telephone 07787 292666. ‘Serving the local community’ appears on all of the buses and serving the local community is exactly what the ‘ICANGO Lee’ charity aims to do.
I suppose you could call this ‘News from Abroad’ if the Isle of Wight counts as such. It was during the week of torrential downpours and gale force winds last October when I’d arranged to visit Peter Sutton (St. Faith’s last vicar, now Archdeacon of the Island) and Karen Schmidt (once Peter’s curate, later Acting Archdeacon on the Island and now serving several churches on the West of the Island).
The day began ominously with me, at 7 a.m. in the semi-darkness, sheltering from a sudden deluge while I waited for the bus to the ferry but, as soon as I reached the ferry, the rain stopped. For the first time in a week the winds had dropped and the sea was dead calm as I stood on the top deck of St Cecelia (named after the patron saint of music) snapping photos of a rainbow arching over the harbour entrance, falling at the foot of the Spinnaker Tower and disappearing into the sea.
On disembarking I was met by Peter and driven the short distance to his new house in a quiet close just off the main road between Fishbourne and Wootton Creek. Soon joined by Pippa, Peter’s wife who’d just popped out to the shops, we were lounging in comfy chairs, drinking coffee and catching up on the news. The Island, I learned, had more than sixty Anglican churches for a population roughly the same as Portsmouth’s. With so many buildings to keep and maintain, often close to each other with small congregations, the Island faces a challenging future.
Quite what an archdeacon does is still a mystery to me apart from the fact that it includes nearly everything and that Peter enjoys the role. He seems to be on the go all the time attending PCC meetings, taking services, getting things done, visiting all of the churches, sorting out problems, mentoring clergy and making frequent trips every week to the mainland – the list was endless. I was shown his study, bursting to the seams with files and books. I sat at his computer and saw pictures of every church. We passed through the adjacent room where his part-time secretary works and leaves a pile of things for him to do when he gets back from his countless visits. But his optimism, enthusiasm and sense of fun seemed just as it always was.
Pippa, apart from everything else she does (which on that day included frequent trips to the kitchen to keep an eye on the cooking , works par-time at the Earl Mountbatten Hospice both on the wards and in the office dealing with administration while answering telephone calls. It seems that neither Pippa nor Peter have any plans yet for the quiet life.
Soon after midday, Karen arrived and we all enjoyed Pippa’s delicious lunch before Karen drove me away to what she refers to as the Island’s ‘Wild West’ on a whistle-stop tour of the churches she serves at Brighstone, Mottistone, Brook, Shorwell and Chale. The visits were brief but fascinating – St Peter’s at Shorwell with its fifteenth century mural of St Christopher painted over the North door, St Andrews at Chale, close to the sea at the foot of St. Catherine’s Down. Every church had a story to tell but time was fast running out. I was hoping to catch the 5 o’clock sailing. Needless to say, driving back as fast as we could, we were caught behind a combine harvester on a narrow road and held up in traffic jams at Newport. But St Faith was on our side. Although we were ten minutes late, so was the ferry and all ended well. Soon I was sailing back, appropriately on St Faith, having enjoyed a truly memorable day. And apart from anything else I’d learned how true it is that not only does the sun shine on the righteous but, even after a stormy week, it also shines on people like me!
Until recently I knew little about Stubblee Hill – what it did or why it was so called although I guessed the name had nothing to do with stubbly chins since the building was located right next to Lee infant school. I assumed it was probably a nursery or some kind of pre-school facility. It was only after meeting Denise McDonald that I learned its role was far more wide-ranging than anything I’d imagined. Growing from the Government’s SureStart initiative which was launched in 1998, the centre was opened in 2008 and is currently funded by the national charity, Action for Children and run in association with Hampshire County Council.
Stubblee Hill, so named because it originally served Stubbington, Lee and Hill Head, is now one of five local Children’s Centres overseen by the Gosport Cluster Manager, Wendy Lee. Denise McDonald is the cluster’s Admin and Business Support Officer who, although she serves all of the other centres, spends much of her time at Stubblee Hill. Originally from Essex where she spent 25 years working for the Civil Service, Denise moved to Lee in 2006 and, two years later, was appointed to her present post while Stubblee Hill was still in the process of being built. At the time it was managed by the Infant School until Action for Children took over in 2012.
On entering the building I expected to be greeted by a crowd of bustling under-fives but was surprised to find mums-to-be attending the antenatal clinic and Denise who immediately put me at ease with a cup of coffee and invited me to ask whatever I wanted to know. Far from being a nursery school, the centre, I discovered, was a focal point for all kinds of activities aimed at parents, mums-to-be and all children under 5 who would benefit from the services offered.
The various activities ranging from parenting groups to weekly drop-in play and stay sessions are shared between Stubblee Hill and the other centres. There are different courses such as PEEP (Parents Early Education Partnership) sessions supporting parents who want to create the best start for their children, Parentcraft run by midwives and maternity support workers and Life with Baby courses where parents can meet, get advice and share problems. Other activities include Child Health Clinics where babies can be weighed and checked by health visitors, Boogie Mites with workshops offering music and movement, breastfeeding cafes, cooking courses, baby massage sessions, a Family Men group and Grandparents’ group. For those interested, more information is available online at http://www.actionforchildren.org.uk/our-services/rowner-and-stubblee-hill-childrens-centre or visit the Gosport Cluster Childrens Facebook Page for all the latest news.
Review of 2014
It’s two years since Peter Sutton asked if I’d take over his St Faith’s space in Big Voice. I remember panicking and wondering what on earth I would find to write about until it occurred to me that other people’s stories should provide me with endless material. Since then I’ve enjoyed meeting and interviewing people who have served the local community and St Faith’s church in a variety of ways and I’m looking forward to meeting more in the year to come.
With Christmas approaching I thought it might be appropriate to review the past year and all those whom I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to meet. In January I was treated to a cup of coffee and a chat with Darren Kish, the Manager of Lee Co-op. At the time the store was in the process raising money with its Green Card scheme for Crofton Saints YFC, the steamboat Steam Pinnace and St Faith’s church. Since then the targets were reached and a few months ago St. Faiths received a cheque for £7,500. Thank you Darren and everyone who used their Green Cards!
The weather changed for the better after a wet January and in February, again supplied with coffee and biscuits, I heard the stories of Bob and Anne Earl, both now in their eighties, who have served St. Faith’s church in various capacities for over 50 years and still do. In March I spent a morning with the wildly enthusiastic Rainbow Toddlers who meet, accompanied by parents, carers and grandparents, in the Bulson Hall on Tuesdays from 9.30 – 11.15. The group is always keen to welcome newcomers and, from what I saw, it provides a really enjoyable time not only for the toddlers but the adults as well. In April I interviewed John and Christine Beavis, then nearing the end of their term of office as Mayor and Mayoress of Gosport. Like everyone else, their stories were full of interest and drama but what I shall always remember is their tireless energy and enthusiasm for serving the community.
After eighteen months of being without a vicar at St Faith’s, May arrived with the chance to interview our new priest in charge, the Rev Dr. Paul Chamberlain with his wife, Becca and their children, Noah and Daniel. Interviewing them was real pleasure and left me feeling that, under their stewardship, St Faith’s future is in the best possible hands.
In June I met with Maurice and Sylvia Bell, both veterans of WW2 whose stories could easily have filled a book. And so the year progressed – July with a morning at the Stroke Association, August drinking tea with St Faith’s ‘Cuppa and Company’ group and, in September, a meeting with Anne and John Hurley whose son’s tragic death brought about the creation of St Faith’s Memorial Garden. In October I shared an anniversary meal with the Mothers’ Union and, finally, in November, I enjoyed a morning at the studio of Fareport Talking News, a voluntary group providing the visually impaired with recorded news. The group is always in need of more volunteers and so, if you’re interested, please contact Terry Wilson (02392 552548).
I am always looking for more people from the church or local community who have stories to tell. If you or your organisation has one, please get in touch by contacting me either through the church office or directly by email. I leave you with this month’s photo taken from the ferry on route to the Isle of Wight in October where I spent a day with Peter Sutton and Karen Schmidt – but that’s a story for the New Year! Meanwhile I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and, if you’ve yet to visit St Faiths, I hope you might consider coming to one of our Christmas services