I spent September walking, as the Purple Pilgrim, visiting all the churches and villages in this Deanery and talking to anyone I came across on the way.
The worst damage to our church buildings during Covid 19 and to the reputation of our church communities was national closure of the churches during the first lockdown…the Archbishop of Canterbury has admitted that was a mistake…So I am very pleased to say that out of our 35 churches in Tone Deanery all but 2 are open and happy to welcome visitors. Our buildings are welcome sanctuaries when anyone needs some space to breath, they are shelters for those who face bad weather or the storms of life, they are peaceful places to explore, to wonder at and to be still and talk to God.
The conversations often were about the buildings and the increasing expense to ‘keep the roof on’, keep them well maintained whilst negotiating through the red tape of planning, different understandings of what the building should be used for, the maintenance of versus rewilding of the churchyards. Most church councils no longer have the vitality or expertise to deal with these things. One suggestion is for ‘friends of’ groups to be formed specifically for the buildings, bringing together members of each community, those with fundraising, grant applying, preservation, surveying skills, working together with representatives of the church to ensure the future security of our beautiful buildings.
While numbers of clergy will once again be cut back, there was much talk about how we can have a recognised person representing each church with whom the local community can liaise with and when the churches presence is sought in the community.
But the church is not just a building and is not just the focal point of the community it is also a place of prayer and worship, a place where family needs are met for Baptisms, weddings and funerals, where special requests are met for memorial events, thanksgiving and stillness in times of distress.
In November the church plays its’ part in this season of remembering…on the evening at 6pm of Tuesday 2 November at Milverton, we have a gentle, easy to follow service for All Souls Day; a day to remember our loved ones gone from this earthly life, those who we have lost recently and those we still remember years later…there will be a tree in St Michael’s Milverton to which you can add leaves with the names of your loved ones, throughout November, the church is open every day from 9am to 3pm.
11 November, Armistice Day, there will be the traditional Act of Remembrance with the laying of Wreaths at Milverton War Memorial; and then on Remembrance Sunday, 14 November, there is Communion at Ash Priors at 9.30am, at 10.50am a service of Remembrance outdoors at Halse, remembering the fallen of Halse and Ash Priors. At Milverton, 10.50am the service of remembrance begins outside and then continues in the church, and at Fitzhead there is a service of Remembrance in the church at 3pm.
I was not just walking and talking on the pilgrimage but was also raising funds for the Trussell Trust (who are the main charity involved with our Foodbank network). I have now completed the 153 mile target and have raised £320 for the charity. My thanks go to all the generous individuals who donated to this cause and also to Ash Priors village who collected donations for the charity at their Harvest Lunch.
Thank you all,