An English Village Church

An English Village Church

One of the glories of England’s quiet shires is the patchwork of little country parishes each with its own church and churchyard, many of them national treasures. Come and see ours and find out how mistaken Philip Larkin was!

An English Village Church

Our Village Church

This old yew tree has been standing as guardian of this even more ancient place of worship here in our own village since the early 1500’s. What history has it witnessed and is now recorded hidden in its annual growth rings? How many people have passed it on their way to worship in this church? Here it stands a witness of time – it has outlasted many generations and it will outlast ours.

An ancient English Churchyard Yew Tree

Stand here awhile and drink the silence in

Pause with me and enjoy the stillness in this quiet spot as the traffic rushes past outside. Churchyards are so often havens for wildlife as well as people. This is ‘God’s acre’, a place of peace in a disturbed and noisy world. Long may these precious spaces be maintained. Here, (in the words of Thomas Grey’s ‘Elegy in a Country Churchyard‘), ‘Far from the madding crowd…. all the air a solemn stillness holds’.

IMG_2498Tawny owls (Thomas Grey’s  ‘moping owl’) live in this churchyard, sometimes we hear their calls in the evenings. As the church clock strikes the hours and the quarters we can hear it from our nearby home. It adds such character to our village. We are so privileged to live here.

Come with me inside this church. As we pass by this ancient yew and go into the renovated church entrance, the old and the new sit happily together in a quiet harmony. Parts of the building date from the 12th century. Time seems to stand still and there is a feel of history.

But churches are not museums and happily today this church is well cared for and well used with good congregations. The sound of praise still sounds out here on Sundays, as it has for nearly a millenium.  People come seeking God and his grace and many have found their ‘Bethel’ here as they’ve met with God, found comfort when in need, or guidance in times of uncertainty. Mourners are still comforted here and joyful couples set on their way into marriage.  All ages  belong to the church family here and seek to care for each other and serve the local village community.

A Sceptic Visits Church

The sceptic Philip Larkin in his poem ‘Churchgoing’ visiting an empty church, starts to mock what he sees as a symbol of a dead religion. However, much to his surprise, he seems compelled to stay in this sacred spot. Something about this place has drawn him and keeps him here as if challenging his unbelief. Malcolm Guite’s words about one empty village church speak to the Philip Larkins of this world:

.”….Stand here awhile and drink the silence in.
You cannot stand as long and still as these;
This ancient beech {yew} and still more ancient church.
So let them stand, as they have stood, for you.
Let them disclose their gifts of time and place,
A secret kept for you through all these years.
Open your eyes. This empty church is full,
Thronging with life and light your eyes have missed

The Living Church Meets Here

Today’s living ‘Church Family’ meets each Sunday in this ancient building, as our predecessors have done for a thousand years. Surrounded by the churchyard memories of Christians who have worshipped here before us and who are now in heaven, we take to heart these encouraging words from the New Testament:

Seeing we are compassed about by so many witnesses…… let us run with perseverance the race set before us, looking unto Jesus.

Hebrews chapter 12 verses 1-2


Thank you for visiting.

Next time, come on a Sunday morning and see the ’living church’ in action. But come early, this place is often full. Yes, the English village Church is alive and well here.  If only Philip Larkin could have joined us on a Sunday!

15 thoughts on “An English Village Church

  1. I am no churchgoer, but I am a lover of history and find it virtually impossible to pass an ancient church without having a look. Isn’t it something of a national pastime: “Oh look, there’s a church; shall we go in?” All have witnessed great events to some extent or another and at many there is this sense of standing where generations have gone before. Sometimes, I’ll be moved to linger – it happened fairly recently at Dornoch Cathedral – Your church is a peach – love the flint facing used around the South Downs.


    1. Sorry if you find many village churches locked for most weekdays these days because of vandals. Churches are often treasures of our nation’s history, as well as places of prayer. We love ours, but we love what happens here on Sundays even more. This old church comes to life then with people!
      Thanks for the link. I’ve glimpsed at it and will have to return to see more. I’m impressed by the research you must put in for your posts.


  2. What a lovely church you have and aren’t you fortunate in having a thriving place of worship? Our local population is so small and most are happy to ignore the call to church on a Sunday. I am pleased that Philip Larkin was able to write of his urge to linger in the church. He could have avoided mentioning it altogether!


    1. Yes we are indeed. I think we owe it to other less favoured churches like yours to give them our support. I’m praying for yours. Greetings to the folk there. Thank you for your comment about Philip Larkin. His openness and honesty in revealing his feelings are much to be commended. If only he’d been with us here he might have written another poem!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank-you for your prayers, Richard. We are in need of much help as we are without a vicar for I don’t know how long and many of us (not me, though) are not sure if we’ll survive the interregnum.
        It is a pity Philip Larkin wasn’t with you!


      2. Clare, do encourage your church folk to keep together in hope. Your area needs you to keep the light burning. Some others have joined with me here praying for your congregation. We will follow you all with interest.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Andrea. It does us good here to remember that we’re not the first to worship in this special place! History goes with us everywhere doesn’t it. As well as our church, there is a Roman villa half a mile away hidden under the fields and the village itself was a Saxon settlement.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. It would be interesting to examine the growth rings of our churchyard yew. They’ed certainly tell a story. I like the way lichens mature and mellow the old headstones. There’s history everywhere here.

      Liked by 1 person

Do please join the conversation by adding a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s