The parish church here dates to the 13th Century, and wasn’t the first building on the site (yes Norman wuz ‘ere). So, yeah, we’re pretty established, thanks for asking.
I notice midst the fuss about whether the Church should be severed from the State, and whether we are Post Christian, Christian, Secular, Pluralist, or even merely human, no-one seems to be taking much notice of what is happening on the ground. Except perhaps those of us who spend our lives on the parochial ground, trying to love God and love our neighbour in a not-at-all-post Christian way. Since I arrived here, I’ve become very aware of some disconnects. But not, as you might think, the disconnect between God and people. Not even the disconnect between church and people (although let’s not underestimate that gap). No, the gap I notice is between the ‘sophisticated’ city and suburban life portrayed in our favourite no-longer-necessarily broadsheets and media, and the lives I see people leading here.
Here, life is not dictated by music playing at 220bpm. Here, in a village where we live with wood fires, oil or electric heating, where we are no more than two streets from a field, there is a different way of life, where people know when the bluebells are out, which birds are nesting where, what is still flooded….we live with the sound of our heartbeats, and with the change of the weather and season and condition of the soil. It’s a world in which we live close to creation, and there is less adherence to the aggressively secular stance that humans are in charge – here at least, it is obvious we merely do our best to shape that which is beyond us.
And that shapes spirituality too. Here is a world where being “The Rector” isn’t the important thing, but the fact that there is A Rector matters immensely. More accurately, the fact that there is someone whose business is with God, publicly, matters. Don’t get me wrong, here is a place where lots of people don’t know the Christian stories, who are not great ones for church. But they do value their parish church and graveyard – not just for ancestor worship, but for the more immediate things that the church offers them, unquestioningly, at their points of spiritual need. The church may offer a language which isn’t always intelligible, but we can change that. But establishment means parish, means that everyone, every single person, has a church which is theirs. And round here, that’s important. We welcome our parishioners to celebrate birth, love, lives well lived. We share grief as well as joy. We don’t ask to see membership certificates, we don’t demand presence every Sunday – although we encourage it. But if someone living in this parish needs church, needs a priest, needs help as they find their own access to God, we’re here. We share and support that process, as much or as little as needed. And long may that continue.