A Letter from The Bishop of Huntingdon
Some people go on pub-crawls. Jean and I go on church-crawls instead. We love to discover the wonderful old churches that are such a feature of our landscape and at the heart of our communities. Jean is particularly interested in the church at Denver. Have you noticed the brass plaques there, to St. Vincent Beechey, rector there up to his death in 1905. The lectern and the new churchyard were given in his memory. His father, also St Vincent Beechey, was Curate and later Vicar of Hilgay, and the oldest clergyman in the Church of England when he died in 1899 aged 93. He was a real Norfolk character who fell in love with a beautiful young widow whose father lived at Woodhall. “We had a true village wedding,” he wrote, “all the village scattering flowers in our path, and the rector gave the wedding breakfast — all the widows had a dinner — and so began one of the happiest wedded lives that I believe man ever had.” Why do I tell you all of this? The lady’s father was Jean’s great-great-grandfather: it’s a small world!
My own interest has been captured by West Dereham, with its early round tower, and I am going to give a talk there on September 8th after the Harvest Festival, when I hope to try and bring that history alive by explaining how the building was used over the years as society and services changed. I’ve been digging around in the archives up at Norwich and ... but I don’t want to spoil your appetite, so I’ll not say more now.
Family. Our churches are at the very heart of our lives as families and communities, holding our history, holding our values and holding our hopes. These are the places we go to when we are giving thanks for a birth, celebrating a marriage, commending a loved one into a life greater than death. They are where we mark the seasons, and gather in times of crisis or jubilee. If we took them away there would be a hole in our collective heart. So three cheers for our local churches in every corner of our countryside; and three cheers for you who love them and care for them too.
With my very best wishes,
(Bishop David has kindly agreed to write our opening letter as Judith is on leave in August)