Reverend Steve Jones - Finding a Quiet Space
- Credit: Steve Jones
Reverend Steve Jones writes for the Journal.
Most local parish churches in your community are likely to be Grade I or Grade II listed buildings.
Some are around two hundred years old, whereas others are heading toward six or eight hundred years in the parish service.
Generations of local people have been baptised, married, and buried there. Such buildings are ensconced in local lore and legend.
These edifices of Perpendicular Gothic style tend to tower over their local communities.
While much Exmouth architecture has had a facelift during the last century, these buildings have not.
They look substantially the same as they did on the day they were finally completed.
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The annual cost of running and maintaining these large, draughty buildings is astronomical.
As well as the cost of heating sizable, enclosed spaces, buildings that have been exposed to the elements for hundreds of years are constantly revealing latent damage and decay.
Because such structures are heritage assets, their repair must be completed to a high standard, often using specialised crafts people to lovingly restore wood, stone, glass, and slate to their former glory.
Such attention to detail comes at an understandable cost. That expenditure falls not upon the central Church of England, but upon the members of each local parish.
Some people might suggest that such buildings are overly expensive assets if they are used just once a week.
However, parish, as well as other churches, are commonly used every week for a whole range of community events.
Churches across Exmouth, in non-COVID times, host parent and toddler groups, community cafes, dementia support meetings, Scout, Guide, and Brownie meetings, as well as a range of concerts and other community gatherings.
All churches, but particularly parish churches, offer another important service.
These cavernous, sometimes cold, often quite dimly lit, buildings offer a safe place for anyone to retreat from the world when they need to find privacy, silence, and peace.
There are times in all our lives when everything gets a bit much and we don’t know which way to turn or what to do. In those moments, your local church offers you sanctuary.
It is a place that you commonly find empty, apart, perhaps, from another thinker on a similar journey. There you can find quiet corners shielded in shadow, where you can sit and think, unnoticed, for a long time.
There you can speak to God, or whomever you want to call upon. In the Book of Jeremiah, God promises that whoever seeks Him in earnest will find Him.
Many have found the comforting sense of God’s presence in a dark and silent pew. Sitting there, you might get a strange sense of others who, through the ages, have come to pray, to plead, to cry, to give thanks, or find peace and clarity.
It is also often a place of private confession, in which people unburden their hearts into the silence or to a passing priest. It is also a place to light a candle for someone who is sick or whom you have lost.
In the pew many people counsel themselves, finding that they know the answers to their own questions when space, time, and silence abound. In a world of so much noise, church is also a place where you can wrap yourself in utter silence.
Few sounds penetrate the thick walls of a parish church. In these days in which we are still battling COVID 19, sadly most local churches have necessarily limited opening hours.
This step helps us to ensure that we can keep all our contact surfaces clean and safe for visitors. Please do check on your local church website for the days and times that they are available for you to visit.
Remember, the local church is your church, and sat in one, in a moment of silence, stillness, and hope, you might just find the answer that you have been looking for.