Thursday, February 23, 2006

A welcoming church

click photo to enlarge
How far should a society retreat in the face of lawbreakers? Following last year's terrorist attack in London, the British government is introducing laws which many, including myself, see as excessive. The charge commonly made is that the government, in seeking to foil terrorism, are restricting the freedoms that distinguish our democracy from more repressive regimes and conceding ground to those who operate outside civilised bounds.

And what has this to do with the church of St Mary Magdalene, at Eccleshall, Staffordshire, I hear you ask? Well, unlike many churches in England the congregation of this church welcomes visitors, and its doors are open during daylight hours. Those wishing to enter, either for religious reasons, or to look at the medieval (and later) architecture, can do so, and are welcome. This is not so everywhere! Many parishes now keep their churches locked, citing theft and fear of damage as the reason. Clearly these things, regrettably, do happen. And yet neighbouring parishes, who one might suppose face similar levels of lawbreaking, can have completely opposite views on whether their church should be open or not. The fact is that, in many churches, with sensible precautions, the centuries old tradition of open access can and does continue, even in the face of those who occasionally abuse the privilege. I for one am grateful to those who adopt this enlightened view. I hope you are too, and that when you visit a church, for whatever reason, you leave a donation as thanks for the access you have been given.

In my photograph of Eccleshall church I used the arch of the lych gate as a frame. To do so, I had to get down on my knees - an appropriate posture in a churchyard! A brief shaft of sunlight pierced the winter sky, and the illumination it threw on the church helped the shot. The arrangement of gate and building has to be right for this type of framing to be possible, and here, particularly with the angled view of the tower, it works well.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

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