21 February 2016

Churches

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.
Tetford
High Toynton
Bag Enderby
Somersby (as in my "Tennyson" post)
Ashby Puerorum

27 comments:

  1. There is a massive difference between churches and the Church. The former need preserving as wonderful buildings and also as a reminder never to let the clergy get as powerful again. They preyed on peoples ignorance and that is inexcusable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with you Adrian but for many people ignorance can be a very comfortable sanctuary.

      Delete
  2. Like you, I'm not a religious person, but I too love old churches. I've even been known to rarely go to a service just to experience the old buildings. And I do like being able to enter unlocked rural churches. It sends such a powerful message of trust.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In the past pretty much ALL English churches were unlocked.

      Delete
  3. Thank you so much for this tour of the churches - especially Tetford where my uncle farmed and where my cousin was married many years ago - brought back memories.
    My views on religion are much like yours but it bears no relation to my enjoyment of churches.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can you remember the name of your uncle's farm Mrs Weaver?

      Delete
  4. I agree with your atheism and your take (literally and figuratively) on the old churches. Thanks so much for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are welcome Sister Mary.

      Delete
  5. The angel at the top of the page reminds me of Julia Roberts.

    I love being in old buildings that have been preserved, though "old" here in the western U.S. is nothing compared to your treasures. Our oldest buildings are the Spanish adobe churches. Unlike rock, they crumble easily. California history is about as long as our attention span.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As you know, I love America but I am grateful to live in a country that has so much history to explore.

      Delete
  6. What a beautiful post. With stunning pictures. Thank you.

    I think that in yesteryear as in modern times, the Church fulfilled the longing for something in a lot of people that they might think of as bigger than themselves, as a safe place for their innermost longings and fears to find rest, a place where they might find the idea that one could have a better life in the future without trouble, hard work, hunger or pain.

    Hogwash!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you are going to give me a nickname Mama Bear, I would prefer something other than Hogwash!

      Your thoughts about the Church and religion chime with mine. It is a pity that so many millions of Muslims haven't caught up with us.

      Delete
  7. Beautiful post, my friend. I, too, am an atheist but I love religious art and would love to have old churches like that to explore or to simply sit in and quietly meditate. Unfortunately we have very few old churches around here, and no ancient ones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Arizona bought the old London Bridge and had it shipped over. Perhaps South Carolina could buy a couple of our redundant old churches. One of them should be renamed St Jennifer's.

      Delete
  8. Lovely old buildings with loads of history ... Thank you for showing them to us on your blog.

    Surely you remember that Bag End was the home of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins. Do you think Mr. Tolkien was familiar with Bag Enderby and was making a humorous reference for the in crowd?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No. I do not believe that Tolkien ever visited this corner of England Bob.

      Delete
  9. A lot of history within those walls; a lot of song, happiness and sorrow....many stories sheltered from the storms.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I like the way you think about the churches and how it takes you back in history. I find it hard to get my head around the age of some of the buildings. I guess there were so many churches as transportation wouldn't allow them to travel so far to worship.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is right Red. Mostly the people walked and in the olden days there were far more agricultural workers.

      Delete
  11. It must have been a cold day - there is frost on the grass in one of those photos.
    And seats and benches to sit on and consider the past. And the future when you look in the directions of the headstones.

    Ms Soup

    ReplyDelete
  12. I love old churches (and even some new ones, as surprising as this may seem) for mostly the same reasons like you do, and if open, I will always go inside one I come across on my walks. But most of the time, in Germany you'll find them locked unless a service is going on, which is when I rather not intrude.

    To me, a village has two focal points of village life: the church and the pub. Both important in their own way, and both in decline in many villages.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To me a village is not complete without a living pub and indeed a church too. A village shop always helps too but they are also in sad decline.

      Delete
    2. You're right, I forgot the shop. A school is a nice plus, too.

      Delete
    3. And for you - a hairdresser's salon?

      Delete
    4. Would come in handy every four weeks!

      Delete

Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.