Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Monksthorpe Baptist Chapel

click photo to enlarge
Rites of passage mark our journey through life. The first day at school, moving away from home, the award of qualifications, starting our first paid work, marriage, retirement - the trajectory of our life is punctuated by significant events of this kind. Members of religions additionally experience ceremonies that mark their acceptance and growth within the faith. For Christians one of the most significant events is baptism. This act usually involves water that represents the washing away of sin, and recalls the Bible story of John the Baptist and Christ in the River Jordan. Often a small, symbolic amount of water is splashed on the recipient by the priest. However, some sects, notably Baptists, practise complete immersion in water. I recall once seeing a group of people being baptised in the sea at Fleetwood, Lancashire: a cold and wet experience! Some early Baptist churches had much more convenient, purpose-built outdoor baptisteries (fonts) where people could be immersed as they were received into the faith. In England only two of these remain, and I stumbled upon one of them recently at Monksthorpe Baptist Chapel, Lincolnshire.

This single room chapel, shown on the left above, is out in the countryside, down a grassy track and an avenue of trees near a farm. The remote location was necessary because of the periodic persecution that "non-conformist" religions experienced at the time. It was built in 1701 and once again holds services after falling out of use for a period during the 1970s. The whole site comprises the church, a block containing stables and a caretaker's house (on the right), the outdoor baptistery (in the foreground, last used in 1962), and a graveyard. It is now in the care of the National Trust, and the stable/house block is currently undergoing restoration.

I visit a lot of old churches during my travels, and every now and then I come upon a building that seems to transport me back into the past. Monksthorpe, despite being relatively recent as English churches go, has that effect. Even though it has been restored and altered over the centuries (the thatched roof is gone) none of the newer work has altered its essential simplicity or character. After seeing the chapel I was motivated to return again the following day to once again imbibe its atmosphere. The photograph above was taken on my first visit by bicycle - you can see our bikes leaning against the building - and I tried to take a shot that encompassed all the main elements of the site, including that (almost) unique brick baptistery.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 13mm (26mm/44mm equiv.)
F No: f11
Shutter Speed: 1/125 seconds
ISO: 200
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On