Medieval Churches – blessings or burdens?
As always, there was a busy build-up to Easter around the Benefice. Last year we had snow on Palm Sunday. This year, there was glorious spring sunshine as we made our way up to Keyston Church singing ‘All Glory Laud and Honour’. Our churchyards are wonderful green spaces and I greatly enjoyed helping at Molesworth with the church spring clean. As I neared the end of AGM season, I found myself giving a great deal of thought to the importance of these wonderful medieval buildings and their churchyards. They are, I think, much more than a Christian place of worship. They are a symbol of community, almost certainly the oldest building in the village, and they hold the memories of that community on headstones and plaques and in the love and care with which they have been built and sustained by successive generations of villagers.
However, the stark reality is that these buildings, for which our Parochial Church Councils are trustees, have considerable overheads which are often shouldered by a small group of people. Without the support of the wider village community, they sometimes struggle to keep afloat financially and, if they feel unsupported, their morale drops. The level of support varies enormously across the Benefice. Just like every householder, the PCCs are responsible for insurance (ranging from £700 to over £2000 across the group), utility bills, and short and long-term maintenance. In addition, they are required to contribute to the cost of having a full-time minister (me). You may feel that someone like me is not necessary to the life of your community and that my activities are irrelevant to you personally. But if you have a child at Brington pre-school and primary, your child knows me well, and I’m a school governor too. And if you’ve been to a baptism, wedding or funeral locally, I will have helped the family prepare and they will have been able to use the church building for a very important family occasion. But setting aside whether I’m considered valuable, ask yourself how you would feel if your church closed? Would it matter? Sunday worship would stop but, more importantly, your community would lose the right to use the church for those very important occasions, baptisms, weddings and funerals, when communities come together.
So please consider how you might support your parish church – in practical ways by helping with maintenance, perhaps. If you are Christians who worship elsewhere, perhaps you might support your parish church on the Sunday’s when it has worship. If you are not Christian but value the building and what it represents, your donation as part of your charitable giving would help cover the overheads allowing the congregation to focus their giving on covering ministry costs. And if you are a tax payer, gift aid adds another 25%. Or you might have good ideas for fund-raisers that would not only help support the church but also enliven village life.
It may be that in the next month or two you will receive a letter from your parish church asking for your support. Please take a moment to read it and consider how you might be able to help ensure the future of a very precious medieval building which is part of the fabric of your community.