I seem to have given the impression that I’m spending my time tripping round the north-east, with the occasional lecture thrown in for good measure. Sadly, that is not the case… it’s just that not everything in the lectures is worth sticking on a blog.
One of the ‘delights’ of the last week has been reading some of the Tudor Acts of Parliament which led to the separation of the Church of England from Rome. Reading from the vantage point of the 21st century, it’s hard to see how the imposition of so much state control could have been thought ‘enlightened’. Alan Bartlett, our lecturer – a man who combines a penetrating intellect with an extraordinary degree of niceness laced with Irish charm – described parts of this as ‘stalinist’.
My memory of this particular lecture is tarnished by the realisation that I was losing the battle against the cold/flu I was trying to stave off. I spent most of the next 24 hours in bed. I hasten to add that as I have not degenerated to oinking or rolling around in the mud or snuffling for truffles, there may not have been much of the swine about it… Joking aside, though, my friends here have been wonderfully kind and supportive: Andy – whose career prior to coming here was in the army – even brought a lunch tray up when I was at my lowest ebb.
Having church buildings that are modern with a flexible seating area is a natural desire of many growing churches… but what if your church is a Grade 1 listed building? Such is the case with my placement church in Haughton-le-Skerne. The main building dates from 1125 but the particular feature of this church is the Tudor pews. Look carefully at the photo on the left and you will see that they are all gated! The novelty wears off quite quickly as the nuisance value becomes obvious, but as these were installed around 1640 they are, from a heritage perspective, untouchable.
David Bryan, the present vicar, was determined that this should not prevent the modernisation of the interior. It took 6 years of negotiations and battles with various organisations (such as English Heritage, the Tudor Society and the Victorian Society), who were all required to approve the renovation. The result is a remarkable blend of antiquity and modernity. There are now modern sound and projection systems, and some of the pews have been re-arranged to clear space in front of the arches for a much less formal style of worship. The church is now fit for worship in the 21st century rather than being a museum piece from the past.