Expert gilder, Teresa Llewellyn is currently at work applying gold leaf to the tabernacle on the high altar of St Gregory's Church, Cheltenham. A very skilled job it is. "Can you see," she asked me, "the tiny animal head gargoyles? Unless you are up here on the scaffolding, they are invisible."
Teresa's work involves removing from the elaborate stonework the grime of ages and gold paint (of the 1970s), before she applies an incredibly thin layer of gold leaf, one of which she is holding in my photograph. A parishioner has given money to the church specifically for this purpose - some £10,000 or more I understand. It raises again the question asked by the disciples of Jesus, when a woman anointed him with a jar of very expensive ointment, "Why this waste? This ointment could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor." (Matthew, 26)
I don't know what today's answer sounds like, but I do think any expenditure of this level needs discussing within a parish community before it's embarked upon. It might even lead to the eventual decision to refuse an earmarked gift, if it was determined not to be right to be spending such a huge sum on what is essentially an unnecessary decoration. God knows there is enough real need in today's world!