From the Revd Jean Mayland
Sir, — A retired priest in Newcastle diocese, I have misgivings about the report on church buildings which is to be presented to the General Synod (News, 16 October).
The previous Bishop of Newcastle had a strong policy urging small country parishes to have their churches open during the day. Most followed his advice, and one could drive anywhere in the diocese and know that country churches were open, and one could go in and sit and admire and meditate. One church is open 24 hours a day every day of the year. There are six regular services a year.
Before my health became too bad, I frequently celebrated holy communion in these churches on Sundays. Often the congregation was only four or five, but the churches were beautifully kept, and the worship was very sincere. At times such as Christmas, Easter, Harvest, and Remembrance, the small core of people rejoiced to welcome more people from the village to worship with them. Because they worshipped regularly, they were able to welcome people into a living whole.
Under this plan, churches would be closed most of the year. Where would these small faithful congregations worship? How dead and cold (in more senses than one) would these churches be on the four occasions!
I am opposed to this report. Maybe one day our situation may be worse, and we will reluctantly have to follow this plan. At the moment, however, I would say: keep the churches open, and give thanks for the faithful spirituality of these small country congregations.
5 Hackwood Glade, Hexham
Newcastle NE46 1AL