A couple of weeks ago I walked to church on a bright, sunny, Sunday morning, along a road with perhaps one of the most beautiful views in
. As I did so, I found myself thinking back over the different churches which have played such an important part in my life since childhood. Britain
In one of my earliest posts I wrote about the way in which living among hills has been a constant thread in my life. Alongside that thread runs another, made up of a variety of usually old, often beautiful, and sometimes spectacularly-set buildings, which have found their way into my heart.
|Tockholes URC chapel|
The thread begins for me with a small, plain, Congregational chapel in the little village in which I spent most of my childhood. The building itself is not particularly old, but its past is historic. It stands on the site of one of the first Nonconformist chapels, founded in 1662 when the Act of Uniformity of that year led to the expulsion from the Church of England of over 2000 clergy, who refused to comply with the compulsory use of the Book of Common Prayer in public worship. My memories of childhood are inextricably linked with this austere little building and my mother’s parents are both buried in its churchyard.
|St Michael's Church, Trefeglwys|
|Saint Idloes Church, Llanidloes|
Twelve years later came another pearl, when I was ordained deacon and became a part-time, unpaid curate at the parish church in our local market town of Llanidloes, while still carrying on with my work as a librarian. If I had to choose which of the many churches I have known and loved is the most important to me, it would have to be Saint Idloes. It was the church where my vocation to ministry was nurtured and found expression. It was also the church where I had the joy of conducting the marriage of DD and her husband. It stands almost on the banks of the River Severn and is both beautiful and historic, and I love every stone of it.
|Saint Llonio's Church, Llandinam|
After thirteen happy years here I travelled downstream to another lovely village, when I went into full-time ministry and was appointed Vicar of three small country parishes, including the one where I had been confirmed. DH and I moved into the Vicarage, from where we could look across at the spur of land on which the parish church stands, high above the
Severn in its cradle of hills. I have worshipped in many churches, but this is the only one where I have had to stop halfway up the steep path to catch my breath, only to have it taken away again when I turned round to look at the view. My third church was a tiny, simple building in a small hamlet, where the old rectory was probably bigger than the church itself, but where the equally tiny congregation was loyal and enthusiastic.
|Saint Gwrhai's Church, Penstrowed.|
|St Michael and All Angels, Fringford|
My subsequent move to a group of parishes in Oxford Diocese brought a complete change of scenery and a new historic link, not with a monastery or a Celtic saint or two, but with a writer whose work recently found great popularity, when it was dramatised for TV. For three years DH and I lived in Fringford, immortalised as Candleford Green by the locally-born author Flora Thompson, whose memories of her childhood in late 19th century rural Oxfordshire were captured so beautifully in her trilogy Lark Rise to Candleford.
Since my retirement four years ago, we have been back in Mid-Wales, where I can again worship in the local churches which have played such an important role in my life. When in
Scotland I worship at the parish church in Tongue, where the view from the church gate encompasses both mountains and water, or sometimes at the little church overlooking the sea at Melness, one of the most northerly, still-used, church buildings in mainland . In Britain I often attend the local RC church in the village on the hill above our cottage, a church which, like many in the area, had to be rebuilt after being totally destroyed in World War Two. History again, but of a very different kind. France
|St Andrew's Church, Tongue|
|The church at Juvigny-le-Tertre|
So many churches, so many pearls on the thread of my life.