History 1990-2000  Back 




In February, a meeting took place with the Archdeacon to discuss the possibility of amalgamating St. John’s with St. Mark’s Sophia Antipolis.  At that time, the chaplaincy at Marseilles would have found it difficult to continue without the financial support from St. Raphaël, however, Marseilles was expanding westwards towards Perpignan.  Amalgamation with Holy Trinity Cannes was ruled out on the grounds of administration differences; St. Raphaël being administered by the U.S.P.G., a missionary society which is basically High Church, whereas Cannes was administered by the Intercontinental Church Society, also a missionary society but basically Low Church.  The new church to serve the technology park at Sophia Antipolis had the advantage of being closer than Marseilles and administratively compatible.


Discussions on this merger continued through the summer, but towards the autumn it became clear that the needs of the two communities were very different, and their criteria for a chaplain differed.  St. Marks was looking for someone with experience as an industrial chaplain.  St. John’s favoured the appointment of Rev Tom Unsworth, who had recently retired, and after due consideration a deal was worked out whereby St. John’s would provide his accommodation and an allowance of FF4,000 per month.  The first “permanent” chaplain for St. John’s had arrived!




The arrival of a permanent full-time chaplain brought about other changes – following the 1990 Christmas carol service, a monthly service was initiated in Bagnols-en-Forêt up to October, and in Port Grimaud for June to September.  The tradition of an Ascension Day picnic at Prasada began.  On the financial front, the budget had to be increased by FF40,000 to take into account the costs of the fulltime chaplain.


Temporary accommodation was made available by Katherine Tanner who allowed them to use her apartment in Bagnols-en-Forêt, but by the end of the year a project to buy a small house in La Bouverie, Roquebrune-sur-Argens at a cost of £85,000, was underway.  Katherine Tanner later very generously gifted her apartment to St. John’s, and the proceeds assisted with the purchase of the chaplaincy house




The housing project was recognised as a major undertaking, with a budget of 10 times the 1983 restoration budget.  Greater emphasis was placed on extending the planned giving scheme to as many members of the church as possible.  The revised pamphlet on the church history was being prepared for issue.  In the summer, BBC Television broadcast the service from Port Grimaud on 16th August as part of its “Summer Sunday” series. 


A working party tackled various items of maintenance, including repainting areas which had been affected by rising damp, repainting the toilet, and clearing the garden area.


In January, Cyril Maplethorp, probably the oldest and certainly the longest serving member of the congregation, sadly died.




Fund-raising continued to be high on the agenda to cover the costs of the chaplaincy house and full-time chaplain.


A choir which had been formed in the Alpes-Maritime came and gave a concert performance of “My Fair Lady” in the church on the 8th May.  A series of video films were shown in congregation members’ houses during the autumn to help with funds.


A long-standing anomaly, that the Seillans area was under the care of the chaplain at Cannes, was resolved, with the chaplain at St. John’s having his licence revised to cover the whole of the Var.


At Christmas, Carol services were held in Bagnols-en-Forêt and Port Grimaud, as well as St. John’s.




The year began with a boost to the financial situation through the wonderfully generous bequest by Mr Wilfred Edleston of his apartment in Le Dramont.  This produced some useful rental income until its sale in 1996 for FF340,000, the proceeds of which helped to repay some of the loans associated with the chaplain’s house.


A recipe book called “After Grace in Provence” was initiated, with the intention that 200 copies would be printed at a cost of FF2,500, for sale at FF50 per copy.


Ted Anderson, a longstanding member of the church and a churchwarden until the spring, sadly died.




Much of the year was occupied with discussions on the disposal of the apartment donated the previous year.  Problems started arising with the drainage at the chaplain’s house, and at one point consideration was even given to selling the chaplain’s house and retaining the gifted apartment as the chaplain’s accommodation.


Services continued in Seillans on a quarterly basis.  The possibility of starting a Sunday school, at least one Sunday per month, was discussed.  The new Bishop decided that the Riviera Churches Archdeaconry should be subsumed into a single Archdeaconry for France.


Meanwhile the heating in St. John’s was once more giving cause for concern, and despite some improvements to the electrical system, it was decided to buy a Canon gas heater which used bottled gas.




The donated apartment was finally sold for FF340,000 (including contents) and this sum enabled the main loan taken out for the chaplaincy house to be repaid.


Social events in the spring included coach trips to the Villa Thuret and the Fondation Ephrussel, also to the Hanbury gardens, a Kenya curry lunch and a shrove Tuesday party, a talk on a pilgrimage to St. James at Compostella, and a one-man show on “Keats”.  In the summer, another curry party took place, also a luncheon party and Harvest Festival picnic.


Discussions began on the need to replace the organ, and it was decided later in the year to buy a Viscount Classic 4500, costing FF22,270.


The chaplain (Rev Tom Unsworth) announced that due to personal circumstances he would have to leave the chaplaincy at the end of December.  In the event, he remained until virtually the end of 1997.


It was agreed to buy 80 copies of a new hymnbook “Hymns old and New




The diocesan loan relating to the chaplaincy house stood at £19,008.41.  It was proposed to offer £10,000 in “final settlement”, on the basis that St. John’s had not received any financial benefit from the sale of All Saints at Valescure or the sale of a plot of land to the S.N.C.F.  The Diocese responded that it would accept £14,504.20 as final settlement, and this was agreed.  This and all the outstanding loans relating to the chaplaincy house were repaid by the end of the year.  However, the Diocese now required the church to meet the costs for insurance, previously reimbursed by the Diocese. 


Rising damp was back on the agenda, following repaving to the pavement outside the church.  A letter was sent to the Mairie, who agreed to attend to the sealing between the paving and the church.


Sister Cécile of the Community of the Glorious Ascension, Prasada, Montauroux, was ordained a Deacon on the 31st of January by Bishop John in St. John’s, and later that year went on to be ordained a priest by the Archbishop of Canterbury in Canterbury Cathedral.


Social events included a performance by the “Riding Lights” religious theatre group, a one-man show on “Lord Byron”, an Aioli lunch, bingo and musical evening, food and wine fair, Paella Party, Curry party (2) and Harvest picnic.


Steps commenced to find a successor for the chaplain, Rev Tom Unsworth, and it was agreed, “that we were unwilling to have a woman priest as chaplain.”  In the event, the Rev David Sharpe was appointed before the end of the year, and his induction took place on 24th January 1998.




The new 3-year lectionary came into force, rendering the ASB obsolete.  In St. John’s, the changeover took place at Easter 1998.  The new chaplain emphasised the need for “outreach”, with services continuing in Grimaud, Seillans and possibly Dramont.  He was also concerned about the distance of the chaplaincy house to the church, and it was proposed to sell the house and seek an apartment closer to St. John’s.  It was agreed later in the year to put the chaplaincy house up for sale, and to seek a 3-bedroom apartment in St. Raphaël or Fréjus.


The church fabric gave cause for concern, after flooding on Whit Sunday.  However, it was determined that there was no structural problem which had given rise to the flooding.  It was agreed to set about repositioning the altar, to allow the chaplain to serve from behind it, as had become customary.  This would entail removing the elevated part of the altar.


The possibility of holding services in Lorgues was discussed, with a view to commencing in September.  A proposal was made to ask the library, a feature of the church for many years, to find alternative accommodation.  The possibility of opening the church during the week was also discussed, but this seemed impracticable with so many people living at significant distances from the church.


Social events included a paella lunch, a barbecue evening, a curry evening and a Sunday lunch at the chaplaincy house, as well as the harvest festival picnic and 2 curry luncheons.


The church finances showed a deficit on the year, but there had been “exceptional items” relating to the chaplaincy house and the change of chaplain.


Technology was coming to the fore, with the provision of a computer and printer (together with lessons in their usage for the chaplain!)




Attendance at Lorgues was disappointing, and some discussion took place on perhaps holding an Evensong in Fayence. (this was later dropped)  The Ascension Day picnic took place at Montauroux.   However the outreach service seemed to do little to bring people into St. Raphaël.  The Rev David Sharpe said “The movement of the ex-patriate population from St. Raphaël into the hills is bound to present difficulties, which at some point is going to need an imaginative response.  Even at the moment, some people have a long journey to church.”


On 13th April there was a celebration of 50 years since the reconsecration of St. John’s church after the war.  Gifts were made to the church of a new chalice and paten, a silver paten to match the existing chalice, and a baptismal shell.


Social events included the paella party and curry lunches, a chaplaincy lunch on Whit Sunday, and the harvest festival picnic.


A stewardship committee was established with a view to improving income, which was barely meeting current needs.  The chaplaincy house was put on the market at FF890,000, after a valuation of FF850,000.  By the end of the year, an offer of FF800,000 had been received for the house, and this was accepted.  The search began in earnest to find a suitable apartment, and eventually a suitable apartment in Fréjus was identified.


A break-in took place at the church, with no significant damage.  Meanwhile, the Diocesan office was compiling a list of church property, which raised the question of who actually owns St. John’s church building – the land having originally been bought by U.S.P.G.