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Over the last year, the churches of the East Trent Group in the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham have been exploring how they might draw on the opportunities offered by traditional rural and farming festivals.
In 2019 we decided to get the Harvest Festival season off to a good start by holding a Lammastide service at St Bartholomew’s Church and an invitation was delivered to every household in the village.
A Christian Theology of Place – John Inge Ashgate, 2003, ISBN 978 0 9546 3499 7
This is one of those books that I last read fifteen years ago and have waxed lyrical about ever since. Then our editor asked me to review it for this ‘Common Ground’ edition of Country Way. Rereading this seminal work has been very hard indeed. I had forgotten how academic it is in style (nothing wrong with that), and my own engagement with theology of place over the last decade and a half has evolved so that I no longer have the same sense of excitement and discovery as I remember from my first few times of reading. Given it is seventeen years old, that shouldn’t be a surprise.
Imagine that you are a vicar walking into an ancient medieval church in rural Buckinghamshire. You step inside, turn right and are faced with rows of high box pews.
What are your first thoughts? ‘This church should be a museum; they could sell tickets to raise funds!’ ‘How can you preach to people sitting backwards?’
‘That pew would make a great ball pit.’?
Like everyone else, we at the Arthur Rank Centre didn’t expect to find ourselves trying to work in the middle of a pandemic this Spring. As government advice was published, we worked from home and became proficient in using Zoom, particularly so that we could continue our office custom of having coffee together at 11am. This social time has been a blessing, particularly for those on the team who live alone.
Life will never be the same again.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard this refrain on the radio, the news, on social media over the last few weeks. In times of immense change, it can be hard to imagine life ever really going back to normal, and yet we all know from past experience as individuals and as Christian communities just how easy is it to fall back into try and tested patterns – good and not so good – after we’ve been through experiences that we think will change us forever.
Much of what this ‘new’ post-COVID-19 world will look like is – and will remain – impossible to predict, but we can, even now, begin to engage intentionally with its possible impact and in doing so equip ourselves to be better able to respond appropriately over the next weeks, months and years.
When I arrived in my parishes just under six years ago, communal Morning Prayer was not part of the routine. I had talked with my spiritual director about moving into parish ministry from chaplaincy and the one thing he said that stuck in my head was the importance of ringing the church bell and praying. Day one after my induction I duly rang the bell and said Morning Prayer on my own.
I stand at the door of the church, alternately looking along the path to the lychgate and glancing at my watch. Not every erstwhile pilgrim arrives on time, so I usually allow ten minutes after the ‘we are definitely leaving at x o’clock’ deadline. Two more people turn into the churchyard, one carrying a large rucksack, the other a small shoulder bag, together exemplifying the range of pack which individuals deem suitable for a day’s walk. I smile to myself – one of them will have everything they could possibly need, including a magnificent packed lunch; the other will have to make do with the generosity of fellow pilgrims if they want to eat. However, one pilgrim will become very tired on the uphill’s, maybe even needing their bag carried, while the other will merrily stride along in the vanguard of the group, keeping up a lively conversation as they go.
Nobody does breakfast like a farming family and I am certainly enjoying this one. Round the table are the Rev Rob Kelsey and the Birketts, Ali and Ruth. Over bacon and steaming pots of coffee I am hearing that something new is happening in Horncliffe.
Caring for God’s Acre will be twenty years old in 2020. We have been supporting and advising churchwardens, PCCs and churchyard volunteers since the birth of the charity in 2000, helping them to keep these unique sites beautiful and accessible.
To celebrate our 20th anniversary we have designated 2020 as the Year of the Burial Ground and have committed ourselves to raising the profile of these unique spaces and celebrating with the people and communities who care for them.