Rector's June 2015 Letter

Building the Future out of the Past.

Writing this, I have just come back from a long walk through some surprisingly relevant history – and one of the most noticeable features of it were the things that were not there.

Our walk was along the path of Hadrian’s Wall, from Wallsend, just East of Newcastle to the coast at Bowness-on-Solway, the other side of Carlisle.  If you have an urge to walk right across England, that is the shortest way to do it, which is why, of course, the Emperor Hadrian chose that particular place to build his amazing wall.  Building started in 122 AD, when Christianity was a minority religion just beginning to spread despite fierce persecution.  It took a mere five years to build – with all its accompanying forts, Milecastles, turrets, defending ditches and military roads, plus the civilian ‘new towns’ which supported and supplied the military - and was intended to set the final boundary of the great Roman Empire.

Interestingly, the wall was mostly built and manned by Roman troops brought in from all around Europe – with one known exception from closer to home.  One inscription commemorates 'The Century of Durotriges from Lindinis [have made this].'  The Durotriges were a British tribe from Dorset, Devon and parts of southern Somerset and Wiltshire, and this particular contingent came from the city of Lindinis, now known as Ilchester in Somerset.

One of the amazing things about the wall is that it is still there at all.  Once the Romans withdrew from this very cold and uncomfortable outpost of empire to fight on other fronts, the wall and its forts soon became favoured as a source of building stone for everything from farm walls and buildings to churches and roads.  In fact the Vicar of Corbridge has a defensive tower of his own in the churchyard, built with stone from the old Roman fort – very handy in case of any serious disagreements with the PCC or the Bishop!

But the other amazing thing about it is what isn’t there; that that whole mighty presence of Rome could vanish so completely, never to return, not overthrown in some great uprising or battle but simply reabsorbed into the life of the people whose priorities were building a cattleshed or mending a field boundary, not building an empire.

It is a reminder that the quiet persistence of ordinary people, living ordinary lives, is the real stuff of history, even if it is never written down.  And it is also a salutary reminder that the beautiful church buildings we treasure today will only remain for the future if we love them and use them and make them part of our present and future lives, not just part of our past.

Village churches are not elaborate clubhouses for a few people whose hobby is singing hymns; they belong to the whole community as places where centuries of prayer have been offered, and solid reminders of God’s presence with us and love for us through all the ups and downs of life. Sometime this month, whether you normally go to church or not, find time to receive what your village church has to offer, whether in the peaceful silence of a midweek morning, a rainy afternoon on holiday, or the fellowship of a Sunday service.  We are the church, and without us, the buildings are only stones piled together.

Rev’d Karen Spray       church@revdkaren.org.uk    01392 877400

 


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