|The Angel of The Lord in Roughton Church|
On Tuesday, I wandered across a rolling section of the southern Lincolnshire Wolds and came upon several rural churches. They were all unlocked. In other parts of the country, churches tend to be locked these days - mostly because of light-fingered visitors. Sadly, in these modern times, the church authorities have been forced to learn from experience.
When I find a church unlocked I go in and marvel at the stonework, the artefacts and the windows while absorbing atmospheres that speak of past times - the christenings, the marriages, the funerals and of rural vicars preaching to God-fearing congregations. Tales from The Bible, prayers and hymns. A chain of human life going way back in time. To when Christianity first came to these islands and gradually smothered our ancient paganism.
In Tuesday's churches there were visitors' books which I duly signed, leaving comments like this: "Thank you for leaving the church unlocked for passing visitors like me. Much appreciated." It is important to make a point of signing visitors' books in such churches as this provides evidence of footfall which may help in pleas for financial aid. These old churches need a lot of expensive maintenance even though their congregations may have dwindled down to single figures. Many rural churches are in fact now redundant - their last ever services but distant memories.
They are monuments to rural life and to a religion that swept across our land - into every valley, every hamlet, every hilltop and every riverside. You could say that these churches became the glue that held England together - promoting a shared belief system with all of its do's and don'ts. Arguably they provided the foundations upon which the mighty British Empire was built.
I have been an atheist since the age of ten, never wavering in my disbelief but I love old churches. Listen carefully and you can still hear the songs of folk who went before us and their mumbled prayers from the pews. The cobbler, the blacksmith, the farrier, the farmer, the lord of the manor, the schoolteacher, their wives, their children - all cowering beneath the shadow of The Lord. All hoping for something impossible called heaven.
|Somersby (as in my "Tennyson" post)|