View from the Vicarage
It was time to lock St Giles after the last of the Church Mice had left. I inserted the huge key in the ancient lock. It turned a short way then jammed. The key would not move either way and remained stuck in the lock.
When the specialist locksmith removed the mechanism, tucked inside was a browning fragile piece of paper. Written in pencil were these words:
“This lock was taken off & cleaned &oiled in June 1936 by F N Read, Churchwarden. And also vestry lock Sept 30 1954.”
Frederick Reed was church warden for 45 years. During that time he must have lovingly cared for this precious ancient monument, and been proud enough of his work to leave a record behind for us to discover long after his death. Until then, we had considered changing the locks for more modern ones. Finding this note encouraged us to have the locks cleaned, oiled and fixed so that now we can look forward to many more years of good service in the future. We might even leave a note of our own. I have the precious note in front of me now, and will be scanning it for our records.
St Giles is by far the oldest building in the village. I often think about the changes it has seen over many centuries. Many occasions of joy and sadness. Many dangers and threats. If the world changed out of all recognition between 1936 and 1954, just imagine its witness over many lifetimes.
It’s wrong that the cost of maintaining this ancient monument should fall solely on those who are regular members of the church, and that is why we are asking for help from the village. At some time or other, very many of us look to the church or its vicar and church wardens at significant moments in our families’ lives. What we really need are covenants of small amounts paid monthly to support the fabric and the work of the church in our village. If you would like to participate in any way, please email me with your name and address and I will send you a sponsorship form.
St Giles is of course not just a building but a community of faith. St Giles is your parish church, regardless of your own religious beliefs. There is an apparent permanence to its presence on the hill outside the village. It is a testament to the faith of those countless folk like Mr Read who served the church faithfully and are now at rest in its graveyard. But its continued existence in its present form is not guaranteed, as we know from the number of redundant churches in villages and towns around the country.
As a community we are in rude health, but financially we need help. The fading, brown note is evidence of faithful service, but faith itself is not certainty, nor is the future of our building assured. Faith is the courage to live with uncertainty. It is never easy. All of us wrestle with our faith, but the reward is that we find a life with meaning. Please consider joining us.