St Bartholomew’s or St Bart’s as it’s known to everyone in the village, is what one could call a working church; at the back is a functional fitted kitchen surrounded by plastic chairs and tables and on the far side is a small children’s play area filled with discarded and donated toys. At one time this glorious old church steeped in history would have been a bedrock for the whole community; however, its crumbling walls now need a cash injection of £45,000 just for essential repairs if it is to survive.
Many a sunny afternoon you can see villagers, on nodding acquaintance with each other sat on one of the benches sharing a smile and a memory or two. Courting couples over the years have sought stolen kisses under the yew trees which also provide a haven for a variety of wildlife. The coffee mornings that offer welcome company for several of the lonely old folk where they go to hear another voice other than their own. The choir and organ practises that fill the air with familiar hymns reminding us of our own childhoods.
Others like me enjoy the solitude of the church when it’s empty and when a quiet moment can soothe a troubled heart.
All the young local girls who dream of a fairy-tale wedding imagine saying their vows under the rainbow hues of the beautiful stained glass windows. The nativity plays performed by the local school children and the harvest festival services. For our family the most precious memory is that of the traditional carol services when the church is adorned in garlands of holly & mistletoe in the glow of myrrh altar candles and family is the best gift of all on that Holy of all Nights.
So if you had to put a price on this sense of community and if you did would it be £45,000 or would it be beyond priceless?
Well you didn’t expect me to finish without leaving you with a smile, so I hope you enjoy this clip of a Vicar of Dibley episode written by the brilliant Richard Curtis featuring Dawn French, a comedy hero of mine and the service held for animals