How the " Team" began
In May 2013, the PCC agreed to a proposal for relieving PCC agendas of minor and routine matters by delegating them, within stated terms of reference, to working groups. The group which is the subject of this brief summary was set up to deal with Finance and Buildings and hence became known as "F&B". Its inaugural meeting took place in July 2013 and those present - groups were open to all willing volunteers interested in their remit - elected the PCC Treasurer as its Chairman, a post he held until the 2021 Annual Meeting.
That first meeting recognised some crucial issues:-
- Inevitably, much of the work of the Group will take place within the legal and financial constraints under which both the Church of England and registered charities have to operate
- Church of England legal and administrative structures are more than a little convoluted. Their basis sometimes does not appear particularly sensible or realistic in the 21st century - but that is the backdrop we have.
- Guidance from regulatory authorities such as the Charity Commission, the Chancellor of the Diocese and the Diocesan Advisory Committee, or grant providers such as the National Heritage Memorial Fund has to be observed if we want to succeed
- We are there to serve the best interests of St. Patrick's and must put those interests first in what we do, as is required of PCC members.
F&B began addressing its work by producing a list of matters requiring its attention, divided into quick fixes (although some did not turn out to be quickly or easily fixable), medium term issues and longer-term/strategic matters. Perhaps not unexpectedly, most of them related to buildings rather than finance and arose from the needs of an iconic Grade 1 listed building - plus the Church Hall, which had (and has) its own issues to address. Recognising this change of role, the PCC agreed in September 2019 to change the group's designation to Building Management, so "F&B" has become "BMG" The rest of this note deals with how the group found ways of addressing many matters which have, from comments in the Visitors' Book as well as from the congregation and from the local community, have enhanced our lovely church.
Working through the list, there were one-line entries which were very resource-intensive. An example was "repaint heating pipes and radiators", which consumed hundreds of hours of volunteers' time in rubbing down paintwork and applying undercoat and topcoat (there are 37 radiators of various sizes, perhaps best described as either awkward or very awkward to paint, plus some 400 feet of connecting pipework, some of it hidden below gratings, which needed cleaning out first). Conversely, there were some which were discrete tasks relatively easily addressed, such as stripping ivy from the church car park wall - which immediately resulted in a need to repoint the top three courses of brickwork!
Listing everything BMG has achieved since inception is beyond the scope of this summary for the church website; and would potentially become a repetitive recital, as there have been more than a dozen revisions of the original list and some items have persisted on it, or taken longer than others to address. However, it is worth stating that the group's approach has developed and metamorphosed over time, particularly in its liaison with the church's Inspecting Architect, Chris Cotton. Part of our resources came from Community Payback workers and our experience of using this resource was entirely positive. All of us have learned (and in some cases devised - or perhaps reinvented) new techniques to deal with what we have encountered; and lateral thinking is often useful in a building designed 600 years ago!
There were practical issues we encountered, such as Danish Oil masking the scent of flowers (no matter how artistically arranged) several days after application; or the verger being less than amused at the fine dust from sanding pew plinths finally settling just before a service. Foresight and commonsense was often essential, such as stopping and sealing the clock mechanism (entirely mechanical and industrial size) before cleaning the levels of the tower above it.
We learned as we went along and we did not make too many mistakes, probably because of the commitment of the individuals in the team and their personal skills, plus the help and advice of the architect and the willingness of the PCC to trust us to get on with our allotted tasks without going beyond our capabilities or our terms of reference. If you're interested in the preservation, repair and maintenance of medieval buildings and have time on your hands, come and join us - there is more than enough work to go round!