St Mary's is a member of the Quiet Garden Trust
St Mary’s Rewiring Project
Selwyn Tillett – Sunday 17th November 2002
is not really a sermon; it’s more a fireside chat, which is why I’m standing
here [at the lectern rather than in the pulpit].
probably read in the last parish magazine that there was some problem with our
electrics, or you might even have heard PCC members talk about it. As a result of our PCC meeting on Friday night, I thought the
sensible thing to do was explain it to everyone now that some decisions have
actually been taken, and even though this is not a sermon, it does have a text
taken from our cheerful first reading: At that time I will search Jerusalem
with lamps… and it has a second text which consists of the four most
important words you will hear me say: We can afford this!
back over old PCC minutes and parish records, as I have to do from time to time,
it seems that adequate lighting has always been a problem in this building.
The dormer windows in the roof were put in about 100 years ago
deliberately to introduce more light, which worked well until someone went and
filled them with stained glass. At
some time, I believe round about the end of the second world war, a lot of the
Victorian stencil-work on the walls was deliberately whitewashed over to provide
some plain reflective surfaces off which light could bounce.
of you, I guess, may remember what the lighting system was in the late 1950s,
before the present electric lights in the nave were introduced. These are a memorial to my predecessor, Guy Milsom Jukes, and
the PCC minutes of that
time are great fun to read. A sum
of money was raised in his memory, and the PCC debated endlessly what could
suitably be bought. Every
suggestion they made was presented to Mrs Milsom Jukes for her approval, and
time after time she turned them down. It
was only as very much a last resort that a new lighting system was suggested,
and at last she agreed (or did she die?!); and the lights were introduced
as you see them today. At the same
time, or possibly a little later, they were shielded in those plastic shades
which you will all remember, which lasted until the Archdeacon allowed us to
take them down about 18 months ago.
took them down because, over the last couple of years, the PCC has been slowly
working through what our responsibilities will be under the Disability
Discrimination Act, which comes into force the year after next.
Three members of the PCC conducted a kind of audit of the building to
identify areas which might present problems to people with a visual impairment
or a disability of any kind. Their
report concluded that at some time we would have to “renew and improve
virtually all lighting in church for everyone’s sake – it’s
presently awful.” The PCC
concluded, in July of last year, that despite the light in the nave being
slightly improved by removing the shades, this was merely a temporary measure,
and a completely new lighting system would be desirable at such time in the
indefinite future as the church’s finances were in a more healthy position.
You’ll all remember the time, I suppose about twelve months ago, when the old intruder alarm that we had at the back of the church died a very noisy and persistent death. The PCC considered replacing it with a new and up-to-date security system, and we received a quotation for something much more sophisticated and remarkably cheap from a local firm. All suggestions for introducing new items like this into any church have to go before the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC), as any of you who have ever served on a PCC anywhere will know. The Southwark DAC were entirely happy with the system we proposed, and sent along their own electrics advisor, purely as a matter of form, to take a look at exactly where we intended to site the movement detectors and how we proposed to wire the system into our existing electrical supply. He came, he saw and he took not only a look but some photographs. He sent a report back to the DAC, and copied it and the photographs to the Archdeacon.
we hadn’t realised was that a lot of the electrical wiring all over the
building is probably at least as old as Guy Milsom Jukes’ lights, and some of
it possibly older – and over the last 40 years, we have made numerous
home-grown adaptations and additions to the system as we tried to make it
conform to the ways we wish to use the building today.
It came therefore as something of a shock to myself, and Margaret &
Pat as churchwardens, when, at the end of May, we received a letter from the
Archdeacon. I quote:
have recently been sent a set of photographs regarding some appalling wiring
and, in fact, illegal conditions, in respect of your church building.
I say “illegal” because some of the photographs show conditions which
would break health & safety rules and render the church’s third party
insurance void. The situation is regarded as so serious that it is verging on
the point where I may have to close the church as a health & safety hazard
to the public. If I consider the
church to be unsafe and a danger to the public, I will issue an order and it
will be closed immediately until the fault is rectified.
Tony is very good at putting the frighteners on, but we knew that he meant what
he said. The DAC, in any case, had
insisted that before any new installation was made, our entire electrical system
should receive a complete inspection from an electrical firm registered with the
National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting.
short, even in Anglican terms this was a matter of the most extreme urgency.
A sharp-eyed member of the PCC spotted an advert in The Bridge,
from a firm called Complete Electrical Services (CES), whose head office
is in Coulsdon. We discovered (after
they had been invited to come and carry out such an inspection) first, that they
are ecclesiastical lighting and design specialists; second, that they are very
well known throughout the Diocese and have about 25 years’ experience in
lighting projects in churches all over the country; and last, that they have
recently rewired the Cathedral. They
are the best in their field, and respected for it.
came and made their inspection in the middle of September.
They tested almost everything in the body of the church and in the tower,
and in addition they checked our floodlighting.
When their report was issued, it detailed 37 separate violations of
British Standard Code of Practice (BS7671).
Thirteen of these were identified as requiring “urgent remedial
attention”, and words like unsafe, unsatisfactory, dangerous
and illegal occur on every page of the report.
In the opinion of the firm’s Director, Graham Smith, they should have
disconnected several of our installations on the spot, and the whole system is
so antiquated that we have no option but to plan ahead for a new wiring and
lighting system throughout the church. I
repeat my four important words: we can afford this.
in mind the urgency of this, and the reputation which CES have in this field,
the PCC at once appointed them to come up with a design for such a complete new
wiring and lighting installation. Graham Smith came and spent an entire day on
his own in church, looking and thinking, and studying some suggestions I had put
to him. These were on the basis of comments which people have frequently made to
me over the past ten years about areas of the church where light levels
obviously need improving or where there are features which it would be wonderful
to see more clearly. He presented
his design and costings to a joint meeting of the Standing and Finance
Committees in October, and his proposals have been refined by members of those
committees since. The final scheme
came to the PCC on Friday night, when Graham himself attended and demonstrated
for over an hour here in church the kind of installations he proposes and the
sort of improved light levels that would result.
In doing so, he has (with very good grace, but not a little difficulty)
kept within the budget the PCC identified as fundable from our own resources
across the next twelve months. That
sum is about £26,000. I repeat: we
can afford this.
this is an interactive presentation, I’m going to ask Margaret & Pat to
turn off all the lights in church, and I’d be grateful if someone in the choir
would do the same with the lights in the chancel.
If you had to start from here, what would you do?
Bear in mind - introducing a completely new lighting system is something
we are now required to do on health & safety and insurance grounds.
This is not a case of merely changing some bits of wiring and introducing a few
new bulbs; nor is it a case of doing something that’s largely cosmetic and
squandering a lot of money in doing it. This is something we have to do because
it’s essential, and therefore we need to take this opportunity to get it right
and to do something which will be not only convenient but beautiful.
Look around, and think.
suppose you would start with the high altar and the east end.
Over the last few years, every time there has been a concert or some
other event which has required extra light shone here on the platform, we have
turned the spotlights on the back of the screen downwards to provide it, and
we’ve had to bring in extra lights of various kinds to remove shadows and make
scripts or music legible. The
following Sunday morning, Gerrie or Heather or both and I have spent ages trying
to angle those spotlights back again so as not to glare straight into my eyes
behind the altar, but yet to highlight as much as possible of the mosaics either
side of the window, and perhaps even a little of the highly decorated roof.
We have never been entirely happy with the result, as in highlighting one
of those areas inevitably you hide others.
Now a system of uplighting is proposed on the back of the screen and from
behind the pelmet above the altar to illuminate the roof, and a system of
downlighting mounted on the far side of the posts nearest the altar to provide
brighter and more efficient lighting for the altar itself, the step and the
forward now to the choir. The light
level required by regulations for sensible lighting in a public place is between
150 and 200 lux (whatever that is – no, don’t bother to tell me!). The light level currently obtainable at the screen end of the
choir seating, where Kevin, Chris & Jackie normally are, is measured at 40
lux or lower. It’s an absolute
marvel that our music is of such a high standard when large parts of the choir
can barely see the dots on the page in front of them. The proposal is to replace the existing downlights high in
the angle of the walls above their heads with new ones which will not only
direct greater light over the choir stalls, but also over the wall paintings.
No excuse now for bum notes…
mentioned concerts and other events which take place here on the platform:
weddings, key parts of Christingle services, nativity scenes and suchlike.
It is currently very difficult for anyone standing on the platform to
read and/or sing with ease, and also difficult for people sitting in the nave to
see people on the platform with clarity, because the light levels here are
simply so low. It is proposed that
there should be lights from high above the nearest pillars to provide direct
light onto the platform, and that these lights should be controllable separately
from the lighting in the rest of the nave. Further, lighting for a person
standing at the lectern or in the pulpit is barely adequate at present. We
discovered only a couple of weeks ago, when the spotlight which shines directly
on to the lectern had blown during a storm overnight, that this is virtually the
darkest spot in church, and I had to ask Cassie to arrive in church with a small
reading light which could be clipped to the back of the eagle to make the book
visible at all during our 9.30 service. It
is proposed that there should be separate spotlights to provide pools of light
on the reader at the lectern and the person in the pulpit – it actually helps
to make what is being said more understandable when you can physically see the
person clearly - and additional lights shining onto the reading desks for the
benefit of the people reading.
back into the nave where you are sitting at present, it is proposed to do away
entirely with the existing lights, though English Heritage’s restrictions may
not allow us to do away with the actual fittings.
We are not allowed, obviously enough, to cause damage to the wall
paintings by removing these. The new lighting will be sited high up at cornice
level, above the centre of each arch on each side, so as to provide not merely
better lighting for people in the pews, but better presentation of the paintings
themselves. Similarly, a
system of very discreet uplighting will be mounted above the heads of each of
the carved figures so as to make the best of this wonderful roof which very few
will have seen as it deserves to be seen for many years.
I repeat, starting (as we are required to) from scratch, this is an
opportunity to make our lighting not merely functional but beautiful.
of these systems and others which will concentrate light in a similar way on the
pews, the altar and the doom painting in the St Nicholas chapel; on the seating,
the lectern and the altar in the Carew Chapel; in the tower well and in the
south porch, will be controllable in a far more flexible way than at present and
at a variety of light levels, depending on the time of day, time of year and
importance of those areas for the service or event taking place.
I pass over comments made by more than one member of the PCC that this
will allow the lights to be turned off completely over the lectern or the pulpit
if people don’t much care for the quality of the reading or the competence of
have stressed several times that we can afford this, and you will all be
wondering how. The answer is by two
separate routes. The first of these
is the outstanding tax reclaim from your covenanted giving.
We are currently three years behind with this, and the average amount
reclaimable for one year is about £6,000.
One of these three years is part of our budget for this financial year,
and the other two are effectively undesignated “windfalls”. Heather, in her
capacity as Covenant Secretary, has promised that all three years’ amounts
will be back in our hands either by the end of this year, or very early next
year – and the PCC has agreed that two years’ worth of this reclaimed money
will go to fund about half the cost of the new lighting scheme.
through your enormous generosity supporting the shopping list over the last five
years, we have been paying off our “mortgage” for the new Centre at the rate
of £12,000 or more per year. I can’t thank you enough. By the end of this
year, we shall have just one final year’s mortgage to pay off at that rate,
which by then will all be interest-free. The
Diocesan Board of Finance has agreed to allow us to repay virtually nothing
towards the mortgage during 2003, so that if we continue to fund-raise at the
same rate as we have been doing, the £12,000 that we know we can raise in a
year, and would have paid the last of our mortgage, will instead be used to fund
the other half of the lighting scheme. In
other words, the line on the shopping list which this year says “mortgage”
will next year be replaced by an identical line saying “lighting”.
means, of course, that we will return to making our final year’s repayment on
the Centre in 2004; but remember that when in 1997 we owed over £100,000 to the
Diocese, we did not anticipate completing payments until around 2013.
It’s because we’ve kept up our payments to the Diocese each year that
they have been granted us a year’s grace.
If we confidently expect that by prayer, reclaim and fundraising we can raise this money within the next 12 months, what is the timetable for all this work? It will be split into 2 phases. The so-called “remedial” work (making safe installations which are dangerous before other work can be carried out) will be done as soon as possible in the new year, at a fraction of the total cost. The remainder of the work is provisionally scheduled to begin at this time next year, and to be completed in time for Christmas, thereby allowing us the longest period possible for our fundraising. To repeat once more: we can afford this.
of course, we are not relying entirely on tax reclaim and our own efforts.
It is only right, and a good stewardship of everyone’s resources, if we
seek grant aid towards the whole project. The
Treasurer has on her desk at this moment an application form for a grant from
Marshall’s Charity. This is a
charity founded from the will of a Dr Marshall in 1627, which currently
administers a very large annual sum for building vicarages across the country,
and for repairs of a specific nature to churches in Kent, Surrey &
Lincolnshire. We hope and, indeed,
expect that we may qualify under their terms of reference.
Our own Archdeacon has access to certain funds which can be given in
grant aid to churches which are helped either not at all or insufficiently by
Marshall’s Charity, and when we know the result of our application to
Marshall’s we shall, of course, inform the Archdeacon.
I shall also very shortly receive an application form from the Heritage
Lottery Fund, which is believed to look favourably on churches in circumstances
similar to ours.
therefore hope, and at the moment I can’t say it any more strongly than that,
that there may be substantial outside funding available for us; but the PCC has
been prudent in restricting the budget for the rewiring to what we believe we
can raise ourselves. If we
receive extra funding, we shall direct it towards one area of our lighting which
I have hardly mentioned at all so far, and that is our floodlighting outside.
This is the one area of the whole project where for some months we may
experience inconvenience. Some of
the floodlights are currently in poor condition, owing to vandalism over the
years, and some of the housing, terminations, earthing and cabling are now, and
probably always have been, unsuitable and unsafe.
To name only one obvious problem, the system is such that when it rains
the ground around some of the floodlights is not only wet but live – at least
this explains the dead squirrels I constantly find in the churchyard in the
would like to pay tribute to Gerrie & Peter for the ways in which they have
wrestled with the floodlighting system and the timer it’s meant to run from
over the last few years. We have
all been aware of those many occasions when the lighting has been working badly,
if at all; most of you have probably not been aware of the number of times when
Gerrie & Peter have been here (almost daily in some winters) trying to
persuade it to co-operate. We owe
you both huge thanks for persevering for so long.
But now we are required to say, on health & safety grounds,
that the system is so unreliable as to be unsafe, and we are advised that we
have no option but to make it safe and shut down the whole floodlighting system
for the foreseeable future, as soon as the remedial work begins.
This is obviously of greatest inconvenience in the winter, and of course
it is during the dark months that are upon us now that the remedial work will be
begun. As a means of partially
compensating for this, built into the internal rewiring plans are a new external
lantern at the west door, and a replacement external lantern at the south porch,
each of which is intended to cast a very wide arc of light.
I shall ask CES, once DAC and Faculty permission have been obtained for
the whole project, to make sure these new lanterns are installed at the earliest
possible opportunity. But of
course, if at an early point during the next twelve months we receive a
substantial grant from Marshall’s or anyone else, then it is the PCC’s
intention to instruct CES to draw up at once a scheme for entirely new and
adequate floodlighting within that budget.
which has been identified as necessary in the Centre is absolutely tiny, and in
no way urgent. It will be carried
out during the general rewiring in about a year’s time.
Work which has been identified as advisable in the tower and vestry is in
no way urgent either, and this will be carried out, and indeed funded, during
the work to the tower & bells for which our ringers are continuing such a
wonderful pattern of fund-raising.
proposals for the remedial work and the major re-wiring will go to the DAC on
Tuesday 10th December. Please
keep this in your prayers as this meeting draws nearer.
The reputation of CES within the Diocese is such that we have every
reason to believe no objection will be raised, even in the context of a listed
building of such beauty and difficulty as this. If we receive the DAC certificate approving the work and
commending it to the Chancellor of the Diocese, a Faculty application and all
other legalities can, we hope, be progressed speedily to allow the work to begin
as soon as possible in the new year.
I am under no illusion that this work which we are suddenly required to carry out could be viewed as a major annoyance and an interruption to the smooth running of our finances and our mortgage repayment. I would prefer to see it, hard though it is, as a sudden opportunity to do something creative not only for ourselves and all who use this building now, but as something to be handed on to those who will enjoy it after us. I am under no illusion either as to whose shoulders much of the administration and regular contact involved with this project will fall on. I have therefore resigned from all my responsibilities as Area Post-Ordination Training Co-Ordinator with effect from the end of this year. It should remain true that I have time for this as it remains true that . . . we can afford this.
is not altogether facetious to pick up Paul’s phrase in today’s middle
reading that we are all children of the light, and to look seriously at
Christ’s parable of the talents in our Gospel reading.
By the sensitive and creative use of light in this building which we have
inherited, we may not only draw attention to its beauties but help people to use
them as pointers to God, and by using our own time and talents in moving this
project forward, and accepting gratefully the talents offered by those who will
actually carry out the work, we should continue to prove ourselves good stewards
of so many of the good things that we have received, and allow them to grow and
flourish. I commend it all to your
generosity, your goodwill, and your prayers.