May 11, 2013

The Last Stretch

 As I write these words (11th May 2013) the chapel is now open and available for use.  We held the Re-dedication service at 3pm on 28th April, which was attended by more than a hundred folk, including the clergy from the Anglican Diocese of St Helena, the Salvation Army and the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

The Re-dedication service included the following:
  • Singing of the Hymns: “Now thank we all our God”, “Great is Thy faithfulness” and “The Church’s one Foundation”
  • 12 minute slide show of the rockfall damage and the various stages of restoration, narrated by Deacon Steve Terry
  • Scripture Reading (I Kings 8:54–61) by Deacon Brian Thomas
  • Reading out of all the various contributors who donated money, lent us the use of their resources and encouraged us in other ways.Some, who requested anonymity, were not mentioned. This was read by Deacon Nick Williams
  • Prayer of dedication, offered by Deacon Vincent March
  • Musical item “Amazing Grace” performed by Gareth Drabble
  • Finally a short address by myself (The Pastor)
  • Bishop Richard Fenwick was called upon to close the service with the benediction.

Refreshments were provided by members, adherents and guests, and were served in the Schoolroom, where for almost three and a half years services had been held while the chapel was awaiting repairs.
Please enjoy the photos taken on the day!


The Day of the Rededication Service at last! Sunday 28th April 2013 at 3pm
Nick Williams acknowledging donors
Chapel from under the balcony
Pastor Graeme Beckett delivers his address

Deborah Williams

Pastor Graeme talking to Bishop Richard Fenwick
Wilson, his sister Jean and their mother "Mamma Lizzie" (93)
Prudie Francis
Jean March and Trevor Stevens (both active helpers)
But I began with the ending!  The final months from January, leading up to the Rededication, included lots of work and frustrating delays.  At last, work was begun on the interior, with the contract having been awarded to Alan Richards.  He did a great job, not only replacing broken floorboards and repairing the windows and railings of the front and balcony, but he also repaired the window to the left of the front entrance which had been badly damaged by termites.  Then after another delay which caused us to worry if the chapel would be finished on time, the decorator, Colin Lawrence did the painting.  We were left with two Saturdays to do the final touches – applying polish to the floors.  One of the local businessmen, Nick Thorpe, kindly loaned us the use of an industrial polisher, which took some getting used to. I was informed that I had been awarded a special license to drive the polisher.  It worked like a charm!

Alan Richards at work!
More floorboards to replace
Getting done!
Looking good
Now the balcony rail (with Trevor Stevens assisting)
Repairs to the windows
Starting to look good!
Repairs to the walls
Looking good!
Termite damaged window is repaired
Then the new carpets were laid and those pews, which had survived the rockfall (three or four didn’t!) were cleaned, polished and minor repairs undertaken by Brian Thomas.  A faithful adherent, and father-in-law of our Son, Arthur, Clarence Stevens, meticulously cleaned and polished all the windows – inside and outside, at one point falling off his ladder (but he was unhurt).  Even the original plaque, put up when the chapel was originally completed in 1854, was moved from its original location to a more appropriate place - and beautifully polished.
Polishing Day - April 20th
Cleaning and polishing pews
Work party hard at it!
The industrial polisher did a great job (after learning how to drive it!)
Brian Thomas repairing minor damage to pews
Even the balcony is looking good
Prudy Francis doing some final sweeping next to the shiny plaque
Carpet laying - Steve Terry with Patrick Francis helping

Clarence Stevens polishing the windows (they never looked so good!)
Finally, Johnny Dillon kindly loaned us his PA system, and my wife, Hazel, and Edyta Drabble did a great job with the flower arrangements.  Our old 1960 model Hammond organ was not up to the occasion so our organist, Steve Terry, brought in his own personal organ, which could plug into the amplifier.  We were all set!

 The Way Forward

If the church has learned anything these last four and a half years, it is that the Lord can accomplish great things through prayer and faith.  The three hymns sung at the Re-dedication were well chosen, because it was clear that this was the work of God, through His people in this church, in other Baptist churches, churches and even further afield: other churches and even non churched people and institutions.  We stand amazed!  We thank God and bless all of you who played some part in this endeavour – and only eternity will reveal (and surely reward) all those efforts that we know of – and those we don’t know of....yet!

But then it is not all about repairing a church building!  It is the real Church of Jesus Christ which meets in this restored chapel and other venues.  As a church we enjoy a recent memory of God’s amazing provision for us, but now we must get on with the real work of the Church, which is about preaching the Good News to the lost, and encouraging and building up of one another, through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, and loving one another, as Jesus both taught and demonstrated.

We face challenges, and big decisions are to be made in the next days and weeks about these very things.  Please pray for us that we, with our thirty-four active members, are up to the task.  With God, we are!  The real work of building begins in earnest, and "unless the Lord builds the house......." (Psalm 127:1a)

Apr 8, 2013

Latest total of funds raised

Hello All

I am unable to amend the total on the right side of this blog (the figure written in red).  If someone knows how, please show me!  I am posting the total collected up to the 14th March 2013.

It is £69,657.29

This is for the Restoration of the Chapel, Schoolroom and Manse damaged by the rockfall on 14th August 2008.  The church's financial year runs from 1 March through to 28th February, and funds raised have been as follows:
2008/09     25,472.45
2009/10     15,873.36
2010/11       9,546.52
2011/12     18,327.56
2012/13          437.40

Isn't the Lord good!

Jan 9, 2013


I do apologise for the long delay in updating this blog.  The truth is that I was hoping for the process to be finalised and that I could happily report on a sort of “Grand Re-dedication” ceremony, but to date it is not finalised, and that ceremony has yet to be.

Let me fill you in on progress to date (January 2013).

Hazel and I took over the pastorate from Nick and Lynn Clevely in December 2009, and Nick and family moved on to a new pastorate in Timaru, New Zealand (after a short break in South Africa), where they are to this day.

While a remarkable effort had been made to raise funds, and to identify the most urgent repairs (manse and schoolroom) so we could have a place to live, and for the Jamestown congregation to meet, a sort of plateau was reached, where for months not too much happened.  Perhaps the reason was threefold:

1.     The repairs to date had taken their toll on many members, who were simply exhausted and washed out, and needed a rest.

2.     Available funds had become exhausted, and more fundraising was necessary.  Various projects were suggested, but so much was still needed (about £15,000). There was about £12,000 in the “kitty” but a quotation for replacing the chapel roof came to £26,000.  This sum just seemed too “far fetched” and out of reach.

3.     The church had lodged a legal claim against the St Helena Government for damages.  It was learned that the government had received a survey report some five years before that a major rock fall was imminent, and failed to warn us to take precautions (for example, to insure).  Secondly, the rocks that fell came from crown land, i.e. “their” rocks fell on “our” property.  Finally, there was a precedence for government assistance: the chapel wall had been breached in 1978 by a large rock, and the government had paid for all materials to effect repairs.  We were hoping that this claim would be successful, thus obviating the need for further fundraising.

As 2010 rolled on, moves were made to do some fundraising, and the church ladies organised a “sale” of clothing, cakes and other items.  It was called a “Coffee Morning” and it was held on Saturday 14th August 2010, exactly 2 years after the rockfall, and a little over £600 was raised.  This was followed by other events, but the sum needed just seemed unattainable....but our God is the God of the impossible, and His help was called upon at church prayer meetings, Bible Studies, services and private prayers.

Then came a blow.  Our lawyer called a meeting with our co-claimants and informed us that the government had the resources to spend heavily, and had already gotten a legal opinion from a firm of barristers in the UK, and had threatened us that if we proceeded with the claim and lost, we would be liable to pay costs, which would run into big money, since they would likely bring in barristers to argue the case.  We felt obliged to withdraw the claim.  We were on our own.

I remember early in 2011 feeling a sense of discouragement – in spite of friends overseas, even previous pastors, making contributions, and encouraging us.  We were able to engage a man experienced in stone walls to repair the damaged wall near the entrance to the Schoolyard, and several months later to install an excellent gate (made by one of our deacons) at the entrance.

Then a different kind of blow hit us in March 2011:  A church member, working on the Falklands sent a donation of £12,000!  It was unbelievable!  But it was true.  We now had the money to engage a contractor to replace the chapel roof.

The chapel, prior to the rockfall, had a rather unsightly white painted corrugated iron ceiling. If the 150 year old iron roof trusses were still good, they could be open to view, giving the interior an all new look. The new corrugated iron roof would be insulated for heat and noise and have a ceiling flush with the roof.  The contractors carried out the work during September and October 2011, and we thought the end was in sight.  But not yet!

The new roof is beautiful, and the interior delightfully cool.  We were again short of funds, and there still remained repairs to the windows, floor boards, balcony and front railings.  Next, there were the light fittings, carpeting, and finally the painting.  But money was coming in slowly.  An ex pastor, now in the UK, persuaded his congregation to donate their Christmas offering towards our Restoration Project – approximately £600.  Another ex pastor made a personal donation of £1,000.  A “Gospel Sing” using the high school assembly hall was held, with the assistance of other churches on the island – in particular the Seventh Day Adventists and Salvation Army, and some more money was raised. Other events followed, even a few “Beetle Drives”. Money was trickling in.

Early in 2012 a work party cleared out much of the debris in the chapel, but other projects required our attention, including replacing the roof of our Sandy Bay chapel, but we could not use Rockfall Restoration money for that.  The money was available, and the work was carried out.

In June 2012, we received a quotation for repairs to the railings, floorboards and windows by a local contractor, for £1,850 which was accepted, but to date the work has not been completed.

Meanwhile, the carpets and electrical fittings were ordered from the UK with members generously donating the money for them, leaving the church to merely cover freight charges. These are waiting boxed or rolled up in the Schoolroom.  The last major expenditure will be to paint the interior, and the funds are on hand.

We are nearly there!  God willing, 2013 will be the year of the opening of the repaired chapel.

There are many other repairs yet to be carried out, like these old iron railings which are badly rusted, but one thing at a time...

The church was founded in 1845, and it has some unusual features.  The “church” has comprised, almost from its very beginning, of multiple congregations and centres of worship.  At present there are three: Jamestown, Sandy Bay and Head O’Wain, with a forth chapel, Knollcombes, currently not in use.  The island community is small (about 4,000 inhabitants) and the church too small to consider splitting into 3 churches.  That was tried back in the 1930s, but it didn’t work out.

The church is small, with less than 40 members, yet with a core of faithful and committed believers.  The average age of members is cause for concern (about 70), with a dearth of younger members and adherents.  If our Saviour helped us to make repairs to our property, with the help of members, friends and the worldwide church, will He build the real church by bringing in new and younger people, as living stones, to ensure our Christian witness to future generations?  I believe so!

Thank you to all who prayed, helped, encouraged, gave, and simply took an interest.  It is our prayer that we will, in the power of God, vindicate all your efforts by making a difference in the lives of our island community, visitors and (dare we think it!) to the world.  God bless you.

(Please continue to stand by for further news updates)

Jan 3, 2011

New Pastor comes to St Helena

In Decenber 2009, Pastor Nick Clevely was succeeded by Pastor Graeme Beckett, who has now taken over the management of this blog. Please stand by for an update of events.

Aug 26, 2009

One year later

The 14th of August marked the one-year anniversary of the 300-ton rockfall that came down in Jamestown. The St Helena Baptist Church would like to thank and acknowledge all those, including churches, businesses and individuals, who have been so generous in their support of the various fundraising efforts as well as making private donations. We would like to thank all those on the Falklands, Ascension Island, in the UK, South Africa, USA and even as far as New Zealand, and not least of all, all those on St Helena who have made it possible for us to come so far in the restoration and repair process. To date ₤32,121.40 has been raised towards repairs. This is a mammoth effort on the part of all who have given and we give glory to God for His blessings through you. With deepest gratitude we appreciate your ongoing support.

Jul 29, 2009

Rapid progress

We are glad to report that much progress has been made with the manse and towards the facilities in the schoolroom. The hole in the bathroom wall in the manse has been sealed up - the picture below shows that the bathroom repairs are nearly completed - the wall has been tiled and the bath and toilet are awaiting installation. The boundary wall and house walls have also been repaired and repainted as below.
The new cloakroom facilities in the schoolroom are coming along nicely - pictured is Gavin and his team. Gavin has completed the archway of the window between the church and schoolroom that was badly damaged, even repairing it with the original technique of lathe and plaster. We give God thanks for His ongoing provision.

May 4, 2009

Sponsored walk-the-island

On the 4th of April, Darren Duncan and Jacqui Leo undertook a sponsored walk-the-island to raise funds for our ongoing efforts. They started at 6.30 am at the Baptist Chapel in town and finished after 5 pm, covering nearly 60 kms of the island. This is no small feat, given the extreme ascents and descents. Darren and Jacqui only decided a week before the event to do it, and within one week had managed to raise an enormous amount of sponsorship. The total takings was ₤697.22, with some sponsorship even coming in from Ascension Island. They had t-shirts printed especially for the day by Simon Henry.
Progress at the end of April is as you see below: the roof is now complete on the schoolroom but there remain further jobs on the interior of the schoolroom before we will be able to recommence our services inside. We are planning to install some spacious toilets and change-room facilities as well as a kitchenette.
We have received much support from individuals on the Falkland Islands - those who are attached to our church and those who are not. Without mentioning any names, the latest large donation by an individual was ₤400. We would also like to acknowledge the money that the Rock club raised, from their parade last year. They have contributed a further ₤300 to the fundraising efforts. Our heartfelt thanks to all of those who continue to support us, as well as to our Heavenly Father for his abundant blessing.

Mar 18, 2009

Building, donation and books

We are excited to report that the repair work is progressing well. Gavin Williams and his team have reconstructed the outer wall of the schoolroom, put in two of the three needed lintels and have begun the reroofing, already having put several sheets. Major work on the arch of one of the church windows adjoining the schoolroom needs to be completed before the final lintel and roofing can be installed.
We would like to extend our thanks to the St Mary's Anglican Church on Ascension Island who presented Jean March (above) with a cheque of ₤500, from a special offering taken in one of their services.
We have today received the 500 copies of our long-awaited book on the birth of our little church on St Helena island. This book will be sold at ₤8 per copy, with all the profits going to the restoration fund. We would like to thank once again the Bank of St Helena for their generous funding which made the printing of this book possible.