Last Saturday saw the annual Historic Churches Ride and Stride.
This year Mary and I visited the Eastern side of the Benefice. Beginning at Stonham Aspal, right on our doorstep, then passing through Broughton Hall farm we made our way along the cart track toward Crowfield; now quiet again after the hustle and bustle of their glorious bank holiday flower festival. From Crowfield we walked to Gosbeck; beautifully decorated ready for harvest thanksgiving. The following evening, we returned (by car this time) to join in the celebration.
Our ancient buildings are an integral part of the communities in which they stand: living structures. In glass, brick, wood and stone they testify to the lived faith and experience of generations of villagers; tensions and conflict, peace and reconciliation, sorrow and joy. Like us, they need constant care and attention if they are to continue to serve generations still to come. As if to demonstrate this, at our next stop, Hemingstone, the tower is currently undergoing refurbishment. Display boards give insight into current work, most of which is taking place out of sight, inside the top of the tower.
On to Coddenham where we enjoyed a relaxing lunch break at the community shop. Fortified by the shop’s catering, we set out to return via Coddenham Green; ending our walk, as it had begun, in Stonham Aspal; now readied to welcome families to their morning service.
Around us the fields are now largely bare of all but stubble, footpaths and margins clear once more. In the warm afternoon sun, everywhere had a golden, autumnal glow. At each turn of the path the view changed. Here, a tractor draws equipment across a field, progress marked by a cloud of dust. There, two people are marking out the route for a sponsored horse ride. We met walkers and dogs and a detectorist searching for hidden signs of our past. We enjoyed the open space.
The paths we walked have been the connecting fibres of our communities for generations. Like our church buildings, and farmed landscape, they depend on us for our care of them, as much as we depend on them for the freedom we enjoy. God gives the raw materials, human labour fashions it for our service. Thank you to all whose work maintains the land, the paths and the buildings we enjoyed as we walked.
Rev Philip Payne The Notice Sheet for 19 September can be found here