A Candlemas Pilgrimage

 Turning left off the Hautbois Road  A path leads past Golden Gates Pond.  Ahead, the tower of  Great Hautbois Church is a silhouette glimpsed through winter trees. Beneath the tower  - Snowdrops,  Candlemas Bells.  We've come to St. Mary's Church to ponder  the Feast of the Presentation.  Did Mary travel to Jerusalem's temple to offer her own her flesh and blood, her baby Jesus to  his Heavenly Father?  Or was it to bring God to his Temple? Whatever was going on she is at the heart of the mystery. Simeon had it right.  The boy child is the light that enlightens the Gentiles but the 2 turtle doves were just a down-payment. More would be given.   Candlemas - one last look back to Christmas before turning our faces towards Passiontide and Good Friday.  And a sword certainly pieced Mary's soul when she stood by the cross.  In real time, fast military jets manoeuvre overhead and a war torn world comes into sharp focus.   "Where is God!"  We cry!   On his cross! A

Looking Back to 19th C

  The 1851 Religious Census -  measured bums on seats.  i) The Parish of Horstead -  with a gracious Rectory, extensive walled gardens and a late medieval tithe barn was a good living .  Forming part of the endowment that established King's College Cambridge, it provided a comfortable post for former fellows.  It was a rule in the university, not repealed until 1877,  that fellows were required to be Church of England clergy and unmarried. For colleges to have a number of g ood livings to which fellows could retire and continue their studies in relative comfort was the norm.   Since the 16th C Horstead had been combined with the neighbouring parish of Coltishall  Often served by a curate, the tithes from the parish went into the college's coffers.   On the 30th May 1851, from a total village population of 595, church attendance had been 50 in the morning and 70 in the afternoon.  In addition there had been 60 Sunday Scholars in the morning and a further 60 in the afternoon. Wi

Rural Church Futures (i) - Getting our Bearings

A Wobbly  Three-Legged Stool Leg 1 - The Recent Past Through Rose Coloured Spectacles  In living memory,  each of the churches in our rural group of parishes had competent organists,  robed choirs and their own vicar!  At Harvest Festival there were displays of produce, flowers everywhere. The flowers and decorations at Easter and Christmas were lavish and the pews were full! Leg 2 -  The Medieval Church (as imagined since the Victorian restorations*)  The churches were full and thriving! Leg 3  -  The Present Reality 150 years on from the Victorian restorations,  usual Sunday attendance is less than 2% of the population. The weight of Church structures - both buildings and organisational structures - are becoming too heavy for the remnant to carry. Wobbly? I'd say! Time to take bearings!  *  So widespread were the restoration/remodelling of church buildings in 19th C - placing organ and choir stalls in the chancel with the altar in a sanctuary beyond - that most churchgoers consi

Farewell to Green Pilgrimage ?

  Farewell to Green Pilgrimage?  I jolly well hope not! But to face facts, there 'aint no hope for any more EU money and grants from Interreg Europe.  See - Interreg Europe borrowed (stole, maybe?) the brand from Alliance of Religions and Conservation (website now unavailable).  The European Green Pilgrimage Network    has its roots in ARC's Green Pilgrimage Network.    As I write the ARC's website is newly down and it remains to be seen if the European Green Pilgrimage Network will survive Brexit and the loss of EU money.   The need to tread lightly on God's earth   has never been more important   "Green pilgrimage is about respecting the local environment and treading more lightly upon the earth.  You might expect that pilgrimage destinations – considered our most holy and sacred places – would be the most  cared for places on earth. But sometimes the opposite is true."

Festival Church or Pilgrim Place ?

In a Post-Covid world, the C of E can can no longer ignore the writing on the wall for many country churches.  Locally, the direction of travel is set out in a Diocese of Norwich Deployment Review A process will be agreed to enable some churches to be designated as Festival Churches, no longer required for regular public worship, but remaining the responsibility of the PCC. A proposal will be formulated and costed for a significant expansion of the Diocesan Churches Trust, with a view to Synodical approval for this to be fully funded. Longer term strategies will also be needed. The old culture where the village church, pub, post office/village stores and school were the hubs of rural communities has passed away.  The post-war drift from the land and 20th/21st Century mobility  eroded it bit by bit; and, although one may wonder if working from home might reverse the trend, falling church statistics from the halcyon days of the 1950's to the present can no longer be ignored. Declari

Waymarks out of Covid - Easter

 Easter! Ascension! Pentecost! A succession of waymarks from where we plot our routes out of Covid towards the  unfolding future. In June when ( or should that be if?) we are finally free, we will be 15 months older. And some of us were old when we went into lockdown for the first time! Here our church congregations tend to be elderly, so much so that this 78 year old is part of the youth group! What I am saying is, “the future of the Church in our rural villages uncertain.” You could be accused of wishful thinking if you imagined it might have any future at all! Easter is a reminder of the impossible possibility of good news beyond our wildest dreams. In the early dawn of our (Christian)  resurrection faith, the doing this with bread and wine in upper room and around the kitchen table, revealed the risen Lord at the breaking of the bread. In the Easters of 2020 and 2021 some of us have  had parallel experiences - by the wonders of 21st C technology, around Archbishop Justine’s table

#Lockdown Pilgrimage - Mothering Sunday

No chance of going anywhere today! I  am socially isolating in advance of a small op' scheduled for tomorrow! So here I go - pilgrimaging on the internet! Sauntering ( Sainte terre ing )! I had planned to go to Hautbois Church, drawn there by a host of wild daffodils and a church dedicated to Jesus' mum. I was there at a similar time last year  - see Annunciation Pilgrimage .  But I wanted, more than anything, to pick up where I left off last Sunday, with that Roman brick in the wall of my mother church, St. John's; and to reflect on earlier generations of Mother Church. I am imagining the generations like so many Russian dolls one inside the other! We owe the life we live to them!  Norfolk has no Roman or Post Roman church buildings, no great Constantinian brick built churches as in Trier and only the hint of their existence in the place names of villages.  Norfolk has two Eccles , a name derived from the British word eclesia meaning church . Suffolk has one Roman church s