For someone who is about as unreligious as they come, and not one for the spiritual or mystical, I spend a lot of time in churches. And I’m not just using the porch as a convenient seat and shelter from the rain or sun.
I love the buildings for their quietness, their beauty and their settings. They are often the only place in a village that you can go in and walk around, and be frankly nosy. You can find out who were the big nobs in the place, and sometimes still are. History is everywhere. A list of the priests/vicars often goes back to the 11th or 12th century. The early ones were nearly all members of noble families, the latest are often women.
Words on the gravestones lead to all manner of reflections – about life and its transience, and about the individual stories so tersely summed up.
The war memorial may be close by, and you feel the pity of war in the list of the men who were killed – some of them hardly more than boys, and too often several who share a surname.
On my alithoughts blog, I’m going to do an occasional series about churches I’ve visited, usually just looking at one aspect that has caught my imagination and beginning with All Saints churchat Minstead in the New Forest. Arthur Conan Doyle’s grave is in the churchyard, and the church itself is one of the strangest, yet most accessible, I’ve seen.