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Thursday February 27 2020

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My mission memories

Posted on August 26 2010 at 9:00:32

In response to the letter “Mission Memories” (Village Views, July/August 2010) I do have memories of the Church at Hopwood which your correspondent requested, as follows:

I came to reside in Alvechurch in 1959 and shortly afterwards was licensed to St Laurence Church in Alvechurch by Bishop Mervyn Charles-Edwards to the office of Lay Reader (nowadays just termed ‘”Reader”).

One of my duties was to officiate and preach at services of Evensong at the little church in Hopwood on a fairly regular basis. There was a similar such mission church at Rowney Green, where I also fairly regularly was asked to do the same at Morning Prayer or Matins. Both churches had little pipe organs and the “offices” themselves were sung throughout.

Both buildings were of substantial wooden construction with tiled roofs and the one at Rowney Green still stands, with alterations of course, as a residential house but easily recognisable as the church it was. Both were part of the ecclesiastical parish of Alvechurch and in the benefice of the Rector.

Hopwood Mission Church

It is interesting that when the office of Reader was reintroduced in the Church of England in the 19th Century, one of the earliest of those licensed was appointed specifically to officiate and preach at Hopwood.

He had the imposing surname of Cave-Brown-Cave. A certain Mr Smedley Crook had, I understand, an influential part in the setting up of the church and his name lives on in the name of one of the streets in the village.

He also composed and published a set of chants for the canticles and psalms, and a copy of this publication may be seen under a glass-topped museum case in the clergy vestry of St Laurence Church.

Also in St Laurence Church, and in use there every Sunday morning, is an attractive wooden lectern, with a very artistically carved inscription frontispiece from one of the psalms, which was commissioned for use at Hopwood and crafted by yet another Reader and church-ornament maker from Bromsgrove named Robert Panchieri.

I believe I am correct in saying that the last pro-warden of the church, also a Parish Councillor, was Roland Goldsmith, a resident of Waterside Orchard. The last organist was, at the time, a pupil of King Edward’s School in Birmingham, namely Frazer Goulding, who later became Musical Director of the D’Oyley-Carte Opera Company, which at the time held the sole professional performing rights of the Gilbert & Sullivan operas.

Bishop Mervyn preached at a centenary service held there; but shortly afterwards Bishop Philip decommissioned both mission churches which had become too difficult to staff and too expensive to maintain.

Dick Russell, Reader Emeritus
St Laurence Church


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