With the surprise resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, it got me thinking about our local churches, both now and in earlier times.
Our parish church still has its choir, not as fully populated as it once was, regrettably, and certainly missing young faces and even more importantly, young voices.
Thinking of those young people got my thoughts drifting back to my choirboy days in the early 1950s and spent at St Faith’s Church in Gaywood. Being boarders at school, we were prime targets to make up the required numbers and our housemaster was all too keen to help.
The Rev Dennis Bringlow was the vicar for most of this time, ably supported at one stage by a Rev Hodgkinson. As young boys we enjoyed these trips away from the every day drudge of school work, choir practice being on Tuesday evenings when we were actually trusted to walk from school to church and back again without supervision. We generally behaved well, but once I got a wigging for being caught not wearing my school cap.
During services we particularly enjoyed the Rev Hodgkinson and his sermons, which were delivered with such passion and with so much body action and arm waving from the lofty pulpit, that we were sure one Sunday he would deliver himself over its front rail onto the floor below. It never happened of course, but young imaginations still ran riot.
Moving on a few years, my wife and I decided our two young sons should join St Peter and St Paul’s Church choir in Swaffham. They had much support and encouragement from many around them and not least from the wonderful Robert Gillings, an excellent choirmaster and church organist for many years and a true gentleman.
Our elder lad, not one to stand still too long, was even enticed by Robert to sing a solo, or perhaps even more than one, and a good job he made of them, too.
Younger son was altogether quieter and more organised, except once, while processing down the aisle at a Christmas service, when the candle he was carrying flared and nearly set fire to his surplice. Quick action by his father, stood nearby, saved the day.
We have had some inspiring vicars in our church over the years and I must mention the Rev Basil Jenkins and his daughter. We were treated occasionally to having her sing during services taken by her father. What a voice she was blessed with.
People generally these days seem to think of church choirs as a thing of the past. Certainly there is little thought given now to children joining such worthwhile groups, which is such a pity.