Even in the quietest of lifetimes and places news is sometimes made.
On Saturday 15th June, 2013, a Memorial Service was held at St Giles for a former teacher at a long Primary School her husband has been found guilty of her murder although Althea’s body has yet to be found. The Service was requested and organised by former colleagues and friends from school and Brownies, she moved away from our area several years ago but the numbers of people attending the service on a rainy morning bore testimony to someone who had earned love and respect during her work in the Community. This was in fact, a second Memorial Service, permission was given by Althea’s family for this one which enabled friends from school and elsewhere who had not been able to attend the first, to remember and celebrate their friend’s life on home ground.
Events like this reveal the Ministry of a Church Building made of brick and glass and memories, on Saturday the place, the time became entries in personal diaries and journals together with notes of what was said, what was done, who was there, and the umbrellas forgotten and left behind; this was a gathering of hundreds.
A handful gathered on the Sunday evening when recollection was made of another event which made headlines in 1913. One the 18th June that year the third church on the same spot in Rowley was burned to the ground. The village was sparsely populated in those days, the fastest method of transport for most was foot and bike but the newspaper accounts tell us that a crowd of 30,000 were quickly drawn to observe the events. The Fire engine and crew on arrival were frustrated by the lack of adequate water supply, the fire raged, the stained glass windows melted, and it took heroic measures to secure the bell tower, ancient bells were saved, together with a Brass Altar Cross, door handle and one lectern. Ancient historical documents dating from the medieval church (c1199) were destroyed.
Until 1923, when enough funds were eventually raised, (World War 1 intervened), worship, marriages, baptisms, funerals were held in the neighbouring Labour Club (Pub), Church School and sometimes in the open air within the blackened walls where the grass sprang up.
Where was God?
Well, God was knocking on heart doors, and they were despite the great losses sustained by Rowley families in the Great War, and social deprivation opened to let Him in… just a few months after the dedication of the present building 192 people from a small village were confirmed by the Bishop.
The cause of the 1913 fire has never been officially named; Women’s Suffrage supporters, disgruntled men who had lost jobs, many possibilities have been put forward, but Mystery Prevails. As for the 192 confirmed, that can only have been the fire of the Holy Spirit.
What I love about my church building is that it is a place of shelter for all who need it and not just the overtly religious. Here people in love come to be married, children are baptised and we do the last thing we can for those we love in funeral services, it is a place where memories are made, tears shed, and where laughter celebrates time shared. It is the place where God is sought and found, where He is worshipped and where He blesses.
What about your church building?