Go back to normal view
Perhaps the nicest of all such recognitions was in All Saints, Hollingbourne, between Maidstone and Ashford, where the welcome to pilgrims was warm and explicit and there was cemented into the wall a lovely shell emblem: the pilgrim symbol of St James. That affirmation of my own journey meant a great deal to me; but the principle of holy welcome need not be confined to those churches which happen to be sited on ancient pilgrim routes. We don’t perhaps have that privilege in Westbourne, but we can still be a place of generous welcome and kind sojourn.
I long for our village church of St John the Baptist to be known and treasured as a resource by all who live nearby. It is a beautiful evocative building, dating from the 12th and 13th centuries, but it is also a contemporary presence within Westbourne and it is my conviction that it belongs to us all.
It is for that reason among others that I am so delighted when I pop into the church myself, in the course of the day, and find the odd person unexpectedly sitting, praying, or simply be-ing, in St John the Baptist Church: making the use of it, for which the church was first built those many centuries ago.
In the time that an historic church like ours was first raised up, there was unlikely to have been any sharp divide between those who were worshippers and that wider body of parishioners. Most people, I guess, found themselves drawn into the church with some regularity. There would have been a considerable sense of common ownership. And that was excellent.
Over the centuries perhaps, and not just in Westbourne, the habit of regular worship has decreased in the people of this land: and has maybe led some to ‘count themselves out’ - not only of Christian faith in its deeper demands, but also out of this startling building in our midst. ‘I’m not a church person’, they might say; and it is as if this beloved building at the centre of our community and here for everyone, can be imagined instead to be the sole province of those who don their Sunday best and trundle up the yew tree avenue at prescribed times and seasons. Yet, it need not be so.
This church is yours. Whether you attend divine worship, or not.
We try to keep St John the Baptist Church open during the larger part of the day throughout the year. For practical reasons, we cannot be so generous with our daughter church in Woodmancote, sadly. However, with both, the congregations want to say, ‘you are welcome’.
St John the Baptist Church is a place of quiet and contemplation. A place of solace and inspiration. A place in which to rest, and be restored. A place of beauty, depth and love. A prayed-in place, with a lasting echo of wide eternity.
Everyone is welcome: to step inside, and to step a-side. To sit and allows those echoes, and the rhythms of those handsome walls, to find a hearing and a resonance in your heart.
Do so alone, or with others. In times set aside for shared worship, or those carved out deliberately as offering solitude.
You will be accepted, and respected. Not asked to sign any written creeds; nor to jump out of your own comfy cultural shoes.
For this place is yours.
Softened by silence,
Moulded by musing,
Drawn into mystery
Not of my choosing;
Splinters of sunlight
Through deep pools of shade,
Playful and present,
Welcomed and weighed.
The Rector and Churchwardens endeavour to keep St John the Baptist Church open for the public to use from early morning to mid-afternoon. Morning Prayer is offered from 0830 to 0855 on weekdays. At all other times, visitors are encouraged to call in whenever they pass, and wish to do so … in the knowledge that this place is theirs … within the love of God.