An exhibition of vestments and other church treasures entitled “All Things Bright and Beautiful” was held during the first week of August 2016 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Sheringham. It opened with a launch party attended by about sixty people. Canapes and prosecco was served in the church grounds and then the guests drifted into church to see the exhibition.
Throughout the ensuing week there was a steady stream of visitors all day until the church was closed at 6.00pm each evening. A sincere thank you goes out to those members of the congregation who gave up their time to ensure the church was guarded throughout the time the exhibition was open.
The most frequent comment throughout the week was simply the sheer quantity and quality of the work on display: many had not known what to expect. Except for one or time items borrowed or imported for the event, all that was on display (vestments, embroidery, lace, church plate, reliquaries) were all from one collection: that of Fr. Timothy Bugby who has been an avid collector of all things ecclesiastical for almost forty years.
There was a range of vestments spanning some three hundred years: including several pieces dating from the early part of the 18th century right through to modern fabrics bought in recent years on the continent – either Italy or Portugal. Some 60 separate items were on display from chasubles to copes and humeral veils. One amusing addition was the inclusion of a teddy bear dressed as a Bishop with all his vestments in a variety of liturgical colours that had been made to raise funds when the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham had been established in 2011.
The visitors to the church ranged from casual visitors on holiday in North Norfolk (the exhibition coincided with carnival week in Cromer), to serious needlework experts and many from other churches: both local and further afield who had seen the advertising. What became apparent was that a lot of people went away and told their friends to come and pay us a visit or a number of people returned for a second look as they couldn’t take it all in just in one visit. Alongside the exhibits (each with a written description) was a useful brochure of a “Glossary of Terms” – the names of all the various church vestments, their history, usages and a description of the liturgical colours used in church throughout the year. This additional material was much appreciated and almost 250 copies of the booklet were taken away during the week. Some 120 comments were written in the Visitors’ book provided for the week.
Tickets had been sold for the private viewing which opened the exhibition and then donations were invited from those who visited the church during the week. Although a final total has yet to be ascertained, the donations bottle alone raised over £800. Thank you to everyone for your generosity.
As well as the exhibition itself, this week provided the opportunity for the church to be open throughout the day – a fine building architecturally, the only listed building in Sheringham. Many were surprised and awed by the beauty of the place and it proved to be a remarkable setting for a unique exhibition such as this.
The other comment often heard throughout the week was the request to do this again or at least to take the exhibition further afield for others to enjoy. As many of the vestments are kept in storage and not used (sadly) regularly for Masses these days, this may be a distinct possibility to make these treasures more widely visible in the future.
It has been a remarkable week with many blessings. Many people have been touched by the beauty that the Catholic Faith brings to our daily lives. People talked about their Faith and the experiences of their lives and raised questions about why we do things the way we do them (or in some cases – no longer do things the way we used to do them).
Therefore, I witness to the fact that this exhibition has touched peoples’ lives and I hope and pray they will remember it and talk about it for a long time to come.
Fr. Tim Bugby
Priest of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham
Priest-in-residence of the Catholic Parish of Cromer and Sheringham