I was up long before dawn…yesterday was going to be another busy day on the back of several busy weeks interspersed with illness. I have scarcely known whether I was coming or going and the bags have seldom been unpacked for long. Not that I am complaining…I wouldn’t change it for the world… but I am looking forward to a little of what passes for normality for a while.
There were kites crying as the sun rose and I went out to watch, in spite of the small dog’s continued absence. It had been too late to bring her home when I had finally arrived the night before. I had come home to mayhem… a couple of hundred miles commute to work was followed by finding myself locked out of email. The account had been compromised, emails deleted, strange contacts added and the whole thing left me with a series of hoops to jump through before I could get it finally sorted out Sunday morning before work.
Just time to reinstate and console an injured small dog, who has somehow managed to rip a hole in her rump, then shower, change and drive to the church where my youngest granddaughter was to be baptised. There were low-flying kites all along the route, though I had no time to stop and watch, but the great sun birds seemed a good omen for the day.
Imogen Lucie, whose name means maiden of light, was baptised in a rather unusual church dedicated to Our Lady of Light. This time, I actually went to the right one. From outside, it is an unprepossessing building, but like the more ancient church, it too has a story to tell. The twelve sided structure was built under the aegis of Father Wilbur Boswell who was appointed to the parish in 1963 . There was an Anglican, but no Catholic church in the village of Long Crendon and the determined priest set about changing that.
First, an old farm cottage with a little land was acquired where he could perform services. One of the building committee members, John Butler, happened to work for the Crendon Concrete Company. He managed to persuade the company to let him have the concrete moulds for an exhibition building they had just erected and in 1965, for the sum of just two thousand pounds, the twelve sided body of the church was built, largely by volunteers.
The interior is simple, the furnishings mostly recycled from other churches and places of worship. The altar stands beneath the central oculus of the roof and its reredos is a simple wall of stones with a central round boulder placed as if rolling away from the tomb. The font itself is nineteenth century and was brought from Pugin’s church in Marlow.
The most remarkable thing about the church is the glass. Under the edge of the roof, clear glass allows the waving branches of living trees to be part of the inner landscape of the church. Below them are panels of dalle de verre stained glass by Goddard and Gibbs. Made by laying antique French glass in resin, the walls seem made of light; their colours echo the passing of the day from sunrise to sunset or of a life from birth to death and beyond. The glass cost rather more than the church… five thousand pounds… and was a gift from Father Boswell’s mother.
The young children played and Imogen Lucie, clothed in her mother’s family christening gown, behaved beautifully. The priest once again delivered a gentle and very human service, that managed to stay within the tenets of his own branch of faith but with an openness that allowed those of us not Catholic to be included with love and humour and to bring our own silent blessings on a new life.
My son’s home was bursting at the seams with family, laughter and warmth as we gathered there later to celebrate. Sneaking a few moments’ peace in the garden, we watched the kites flying low overhead. The day too had flown, the light was fading and there was no way I was going to catch up on all the work that was waiting…but there are days when that doesn’t matter. Work will always be there waiting… but there will not always be small granddaughters to cuddle.