Our churches may have been closed for some time, but their life continues. At Ryhall we have fine new cast iron gutters and downpipes, which should ensure rather drier walls in future. Many of the hoppers and downpipes were cracked, letting water leak into the walls for many years.
Essendine church has been cleaned and is drying out, though as I write the moats are full to the brim (with a family of ducks in residence,) we have received another flood warning, the river is very high and may well flood the churchyard again. Our Church Warden Katy and her family have been wonderful in putting sandbags in place and moving all items that are not fixed to the floor, but as the water table rises, water comes up through the floor and we can’t stop that.
There is somewhat happier news from Carlby church where slipping slates on the roof are being dealt with to keep wind and rain out—but mediaeval buildings will, inevitably, involve a great deal of maintenance if we are to preserve them for future generations.
I often think of those who worshipped in our churches in mediaeval times. Did the dwellers in Essendine castle watch the river flood their church each winter? Probably, and as our church architect remarked, it’s still standing strong and firm, good for a thousand more years. Their neighbours at Carlby probably looked down the valley to note the river level and observe that ‘Essendine will be flooded if this weather goes on.’ As the writer of Ecclesiastes said: What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. (Eccles.1.9)
But what is new is the way so many people have taken to Zoom to worship (and to explore new forms of it,) to take pleasure in seeing church friends and, even better, some new faces from the villages and beyond. We extend a very warm welcome to you all. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15.7)
Bishop Donald has written recently that we should not go back to ‘church as it was’ but take the best of the old and the best of the new, and find new ways of worshipping, embracing technology and encouraging its use alongside more traditional worship. He recognises that in small rural churches this may not always be possible, but suggests that we look beyond old parish boundaries much more. If the church is to survive in an increasingly secular world, that is exactly what we must do. When we were holding services in church I was much encouraged by the increased numbers coming to benefice services. ’I only like services in my own church’ isn’t really a valid statement any more (and actually it never was…) We are a benefice, a deanery, a diocese, a part of the body of Christ and this should be reflected in the way we worship.
As I write this I’m listening on Radio 3 to Sibelius’ ‘Finlandia.’ In the C18th Katharina von Schlegel wrote hymn words to the tune which were subsequently translated into English by Jane Borthwick. Amidst all that the pandemic has wrought, all the worry over our church buildings, fear of change, perhaps we should remind ourselves of her words:
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
With all good wishes