Christmas Day. Across a muddy field to a small early 13th century Church, the windows of which spill out the golden light that only gas lamps can produce. No electricity in this quiet spot. A single pre-reformation bell tolls out calling congregants to the Christmas Day service, always well attended by parents, children and dogs. Neat lines of wellington boots in the porch gives an idea of how many pilgrims there are inside. With 700 years of parish life embedded in the fabric of this small Grade 1 listed Church, beautifully decorated for this special day to celebrate the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
A one-hour long service, the first half given over to making sure the younger generation have fun and something to remember into adulthood about the meaning of Christmas; the second half, in pin-drop silence, to celebrate the Eucharist, “We do not come to this thy table O merciful Lord” from the Book of Common Prayer. With carols sung heartily, accompanied by a pedal-driven 90-year-old harmonium ending with a striking uplifting voluntary that even this agéd (including the organist) instrument can produce.
It is not always like this, congregants from beyond our parish boundary do come for services but numbers are dwindling; due in part to Covid, fuel costs etc. We have a very committed, small group of 6 people within the parish, determined to keep the two services a month going and struggling to raise the Parish Share. Worries about threats from the Church Commissioners now they have broken cover on their GS2222 Green Paper. Is our restricted fund, a considerable sum, built up over the past 30 years safe from their future plans? They appear unable to find a formula to re-invent themselves to suit today’s ecclesiastical environment. Hit the softest target, the rural parish church, that produces the finance to keep the unfunded, mis-managed Diocese afloat.
The visitors’ book is full of people from all over the world who appreciate the historic and sacred value of this very special little Church that could survive the upkeep costs and general running expenses without the heavy burden of Parish Share. After 700 years are we going to be the generation that sees this Parish decline? No, we are not!