From the Associate Priest - September 2020

Dear Friends,

Semley ChurchLast Sunday, Brian and I drove to East Knoyle for the Sunday Service and as we were leaving Gutch Common, there was a break in the trees lining the lane. Just through this gap I had a clear view of Semley Church, and it appeared to be quite a distance away and well over to my right.  Immediately the tree line became dense again, and the view disappeared but, just moments later, as we emerged from the Hollow and drove down the hill to Semley the perspective changed, suddenly Semley Church seemed to be directly in front of us, just measurable yards away.

Both views of the church, whilst giving quite different ideas of distance and relative position, were clear and well defined.  Any stranger would have no difficulty in identifying just what they were viewing from either vantage point.  The church building with its high tower stood clear and sharp on the skyline.  For decades, Semley church has stood tall, a well defined landmark and one which is constantly used as a reference point for directing people to other buildings and houses.  For centuries, our churches have served as clear and well defined landmarks, often built on the highest point in the village and their towers and steeples standing higher than any other building in the village, visible for miles.  Lost travellers on moonlit nights welcomed the sight of the church tower as a sign that they were not really lost, just a little way off the correct path, not far from home, and in centuries past, they signalled a place of safety to the runaway, the hunted, seeking sanctuary.

As well as being a landmark, church towers usually house the bells - bells which call the faithful to worship, which sound out at times of national importance, which mark the  joy of a wedding or the distress of a loved one’s passing. All of these purposes for one building and particularly for one part of that building.

For some months, our churches have had to remain empty - COVID-19 meant that we were not allowed to use them for Prayer or for worship.  Even now, as we are open again, we have to observe social distancing, follow the guidelines of sanitising everything; we cannot sing or shout Alleluia!  The rules curtail so much of what is normal - even our usual Harvest Thanksgiving will be rather different this year.  But even with all of these restrictions, it is good to be back, to enter that quiet space hallowed by centuries of prayer and love. To drink in the peace and serenity which permeates each one of our beautiful churches.

For many, these buildings may simply serve useful purposes such as that of landmark or guidepost, but primarily they serve as an enduring witness to God’s loving presence amongst us.  They serve as a permanent and substantial reminder that no matter how difficult the times in which we live, no matter how uncertain life can sometimes seem, God is here. He is our loving creator who calls us to himself in the person of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

June Lane