More tributes and reminiscences, written for Valentines Weekend 2017
"St Peter’s Church Clippesby is special. It may be a small church tucked away in rural Norfolk, but to those lucky enough to know it and to have met the lovely people who care for and maintain it, its appeal and influence is massive.
In my case, although I was born in Rollesby, I was baptised at Clippesby as Mum was organist in those days, so one of my earliest memories is being wheeled into the church in my big old black ‘ Tansad ‘ pram, which was stood at the back by the font during the service. I remember being conscious of immense space around me, and acres of pews stretching away to the distance where Mum was playing the organ in the chancel. It was a very different place from the everyday one of home, and later, school. This was a building of space, light, colour and music, and as time went by, I grew to love it more and more. At home in the 1950s, as in most houses and ordinary buildings at that time, everything from the wallpaper to the furniture to the carpets and lino on the floors seemed to be coloured brown or beige, and music was limited to Housewives' Choice or Childrens' Favourites on the radio. Radio 3, then called the Third Programme, was far too stuffy! There was no colour TV and even pictures in books were mostly black and white. And then also at home there seemed to be very little space indoors. With Granny living with us, we were at times falling over ourselves, especially as a significant area of the living room was given over to a massive old American Organ which Mum used for practicing the hymns and voluntaries for Sunday.
So Evensong at Clippesby meant watching the sun streaming through the windows and making colourful patterns of reds, blues and greens on the chancel floor. It meant standing in the lightest and biggest indoor space I knew, even bigger than my classroom at school. It meant singing, certainly with more enthusiasm than skill, from the marvellous 'Hymns Ancient and Modern' where 'Modern' was nothing later than the 19th century! The voluntaries that Mum played at the beginning and end of the service were my first introduction to classical music, and of course the louder it was, the better, with Jeremiah Clarke’s ‘Trumpet Voluntary’ and Handel’s ‘March’ from the opera ‘Scipio’ firm favourites.
I learned to read early, and I firmly believe I owed this skill less to my teacher's efforts at school, than to puzzling over the words of the prayer book on Sunday in my place up in the choirstalls, as week by week Dad patiently turned the pages of the service for me, until with repetition, the jumble of letters started to form themselves into words I could read. And what words they were , old and mysterious with their 'Thee's and 'Thou's' and unfamiliar endings and expressions. What was 'vouchsafe'? Who was the 'Ancient of Days'? And how can you be 'ineffable'?
The formality of these old-fashioned services, not to mention the need to sit still for quite long periods might have been daunting for a small child, but from the beginning I was always surrounded by warm and friendly grown-ups, who smiled and chatted to me, and who I soon grew to love, and sermons slid down painlessly with the aid of a Fox’s ‘Glacier Mint’ surreptitiously passed across to me by Dad!
Aside from the services, Clippesby Church then as now was a thriving community and for years there was the Sunday School Treat to look forward to, and the Christmas party at the Hall, always a noisy and joyful occasion, with energetic games that made the most of the big space of the old ballroom with its acres of polished parquet floor, great for sliding around on.
But of course life moves on and it took me away for very many years, but those Sundays at Clippesby laid the foundations of my Christian faith, and what became a lifelong love of the Church of England, and although at times I’ve gone to other churches and taken part in other traditions, I have always been drawn back to the dear old C of E and as it turned out – to Clippesby Church - for when my husband Neil was appointed Rector to the Ormesby benefice in 2005, it meant that Clippesby was almost next door, so I was able to once again take up threads which though they had stretched somewhat, had never been broken, and year by year from then on were strengthened into unbreakable ties. Jean and her family, Pauline and all the Lakefield singers, Pam, Geoff, Sara and Cicely and everyone all made me so welcome once again that Clippesby became a haven of peace and refreshment, whether helping Jean on Saturday mornings with brass cleaning and flower arranging, on Thursday evenings singing at Lakefield, or joining in on Sundays with Evening Prayer. I was once again a member of Clippesby Church!
When Neil died in 2012, I moved back to Shropshire, where we had spent most of our married life, but what’s a mere 200 miles to a Clippesby girl ? Clippesby Church’s wonderful website, an award-winner in anybody’s book, means that I and every other expat can keep in touch with all the news, there are emails, and phone calls, and best of all, I can come over regularly, staying in one of the Hall’s beautiful holiday cottages, have long mardles with Jean and all my old friends, and once again sing hymns in my beloved Clippesby church.
It’s my spiritual home, and I shall never leave it. Long may it flourish!"
"Having moved to Norfolk in 1975 and to Clippesby in 1981, I fear that despite my 36 years here I will still be regarded as a “foreigner” in these parts, with no distant memories to cement my place here.
However, warmth and friendship is what Clippesby is all about, epitomized by the welcome given by this tiny but devoted church community. If we didn't have St. Peter's, where would we go to meet the scattered peoples of our parish, and form bonds of friendship and love?
For me personally, I can look back on the amazing atmosphere we create each year with the music at Carols by Candlelight, and then also reflect on the silence of a numb heart at my mother's funeral twelve years ago, enfolded by this church's presence (the building and the people) around me.
The churchyard is an oasis of calm – a home and resting place for past souls, and with whom (with no sense of morbidity) I look forward to joining, amongst its wild flowers and rustling trees, when the time comes. It means a lot to me to know that I can “come home” safely at last to this beautiful place.
Lifting the old and noisy latch to tiptoe in to the church transports us, even when it is empty, to a place of loving and caring. Everywhere we see those signs of care and thoughtfulness and the respect and value given to it over generations emanating from its silently breathing walls.
Who could guess that buried in the trees, in this fairly unremarkable area of Norfolk countryside, would be hiding such a treasure house of art, architecture and history?
I think how ordinary country people such as we (and I include myself) are curators of this gem – this priceless living testimony to the desire of people through the centuries to express their love of God, through artistic inspiration and through the graft of their hands.
We need to cherish these very stones, laid with such care centuries ago, the carvings and the colourful windows - we need to continue, by our loving efforts, and our faith in the future, to create and sustain this place, to continue (as Malcolm Muggeridge entitled his book about Mother Teresa) to make “Something Beautiful for God”. "
From Carrie Spencer:~
From Pauline Willmott:~