Monthly Archives: September 2019

Father Philip celebrates half-century

Father Philip, who was ordained priest at Chelmsford Cathedral on September 21, 1969, is an honorary chaplain to the Norfolk Churches Trust and chaplain to the Round Tower Churches Society. He is a trustee and chaplain of the Friends of Friendless Churches.

Father Philip cuts a cake marking his 50 years as a priest.

A half-century of ordination to the priesthood was celebrated by Father Philip Gray in September 2019. The vicar of St Mary’s, Mendlesham, for 45 years, he also serves as honorary chaplain to three church heritage charities.

After a special celebration lunch, he was invited to cut a fruit cake, which was decorated with icing images of three Norfolk churches, Beeston St Lawrence, complete with its round tower, St Peter, Great Walsingham and St Mary’s, Anmer.

The cake also featured icing showing a steam locomotive and four carriages of the Mid-Suffolk Light Railway, which runs from Brockford through part of the neighbouring parish of Wetheringsett.

Earlier almost 150 people had filled the Mid-Suffolk church for a sung mass on the feast of St Matthew. Family, friends and parishioners also celebrated another anniversary when on September 22, 1968 he was ordained deacon at St Mary the Virgin, Prittlewell, Essex.

Father Philip’s long career has included six years as curate of St Clement, Leigh-on-Sea until 1968 until moved to Mendlesham in 1974.

His five children, Peter, Catherine, Andrew, Rachel and Tom all took part in the service and Bishop of Richborough, the Rt Rev Norman Banks gave the sermon.

Detail from the cake showing three Norfolk churches - Beeston St Lawrence, Great Walsingham and Anmer. Photographs: Lyn Stilgoe.
Detail from the cake showing three Norfolk churches – Beeston St Lawrence, Great Walsingham and Anmer.
Photographs: Lyn Stilgoe.

In a brief address to the congregation, Father Philip also thanked his wife, Anne, for her great support in his ministry and his work in the parish.

He had specifically requested that no personal donations be made but gifts could be made to the Friends of St Mary’s Church. Adding that in cricketing terms, he was 50 not out, he hoped to continue his innings for as long as possible.

Then the entire company was invited to a hog roast lunch, which had been prepared by members of the parish.

It later emerged that the parish had clubbed together to give “a much loved friend and priest” an engraved glass decanter and also a special steam railway holiday break. And, it was revealed too that as a teenager while staying with his grandmother, he had visited the village in the 1950s in the days before electricity when the streets were cobbled and oil lamps light homes. He had declared that one day he would like to return to serve the parish – and a quarter of a century later, he came to Mendlesham as its priest.

Roof alarm success but plea for more funds

Thefts of lead from Norfolk’s churches have halved in the past two years – thanks to the roof alarm scheme.
A £250,000 fund has enabled 70 of the most vulnerable churches to be protected by the Roof Alarm Scheme. Initially, it was planned to install 50 alarms when the scheme was launched two years ago by the Diocese of Norwich.
According to the Eastern Daily Press (Saturday, 7 September), which has backed the roof alarm initiative, Lorne Green, Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner, pledged £100,000 at a meeting in December 2017 to kick-start the alarm scheme. And the diocese of Norwich, the Norfolk Churches Trust, the Round Tower Churches Society and Allchurches Trust immediately gave their financial support.
The former Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, supported the roof alarm scheme as a total of about £250,000 was raised.
But funds are needed to continue the work and to protect other churches in the diocese as Norfolk police revealed that the number of incidents of lead theft has halved in the past two years. In the two years before the roof alarm scheme was started, there had been 48 incidents but only 26 in the last two years, according to Norfolk police.
The Ven Steven Betts, Archdeacon of Norfolk, said: “The partnership with the Police and Crime Commissioner and other donors means the vast majority of our vulnerable churches are now protected by alarms.”
Mr Green said: “It is reassuring to hear that since the scheme was launched the police have recorded a near 50pc drop in reports of lead theft, however this does not mean we should rest on our laurels.”
An urgent plea for funds has been made to protect more churches across the county by donating money to the Raise the Alarm scheme.
Donations can be made online to the Norfolk Community Foundation, (Raise the Alarm) or by post to Norfolk Community Foundation, St James Mill, Whitefriars, Norwich NR3 1TN.