If you head over Wallingford Bridge into the realms of Crowmarsh and turn right (on foot) down ‘Watery Lane’, you will soon arrive at the lovely church of St Mary’s, Newnham Murren. This has been ‘closed’ since the 1970s and in the very capable hands of the Churches Conservation Trust. It is not only one of the best maintained churches in the area, but also regularly used for Church Services, Wedding Blessings, tea parties, and by music groups and local photographers. The church is open daily 9 - 5, and its visitors book is more written in than any other church I know. Which is all to say – please do not assume that a ‘closed’ church is a ‘dead’ church; and this would be good to understand during our ongoing deliberations over St James. Suffice it to say that the Church is not falling down, and our recent quinquennial architect’s report tells us that we can keep replacing tiles for the time being (though this doesn’t get any cheaper, hence the need for fundraising – thank you Hugh, who is auctioning some of his pictures on our behalf). But we do need to be asking serious questions about whether we need two churches open for weekly worship in a Village our size.
Venice, I discovered recently, is made up of five different districts but remains a single entity because of the many bridges and waterways linking them together. London Diocese ran a mission some years ago simply entitled ‘London Bridges’, emphasising the importance of ancient links across the river. I sense that Brightwell-cum-Sotwell will need to recognise its sense of proportion and connectedness no less in the years ahead. Brightwell joined with Sotwell back in 1948 – my job is to try to keep the church in the village joined too. That’s partly my rationale for holding one or two more ‘joint services’, though I must try to get the balance right between holding them in both St James’ and St Agatha’s. At our joint service in St James’ in July we had Steve’s banjo, guitar & drum folk group with us – finger-pickin’ good!
The one part of Venice that saddened me a little was the Jewish ghetto (indeed it is an Italian word). It was rather quieter than other parts of town and there were fewer bridges. However, when the Jewish owner of an art shop learned he was talking with Christians, he said to us: ‘I’m not a religious man, but I believe in what the Torah says; ‘Love your God, and love your neighbour’. For me, these make the spars of the cross, which can be seen as a bridge in its own right. Let us keep both the vertical & cross bars going in this place – the links with one another, and the links with the ‘Wells of Salvation’ (Isaiah), the source of our maker.
Blessings one and all.
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