Creations Call to Worship - my Churchyard
We are a small dales village with a large churchyard. Some of the graves are very old, some are from just last year. It is a mix of weathered stone and shiny marble. A testament ot changes in fashion the passing of time. The village war memorial is also inside the graveyard. The main path is being increasingly being by weeds and moss, and seems to narrow through the summer. Most of the graveyard is pretty wild, and nature has taken over. Creation is saying 'Here I am! Look at me!' In few places a path is mown through the tall weeds to graves which are regularly attended.
The graveyard looks neglected, and some would say it is. It provides a mix of habitats and I'm sure an eco survey would produce a long list of plants and animals. The school next door come into the graveyard on bug hunts. It enriches their curriculum. There is a tension between those who want the graveyard to be regulalry mown and the practicality of keeping it so. This was made more difficult during the pandemic. Money is tight, and repairs to the church take precedence, but there are complaints, and the PCC would clear the whole graveyard if they could, and probably will at some point. Any recent mowing has been by volunteers witht he right tools for the job.
The war memorial and headstones provide a visible link to the past, chronicalling the history of the village and it's inhabitants. They honour the lives of villagers who have died, worshiping their role in creation. As long as the memorial and headstones stand they will not be entirely forgotten. The war memorial acts as a focus for worship on Remembrance Sunday. The congregation includes chapel goers and others who would not usually attend church.
At the top of the path, by the front door, is a bench. This is often used by walkers and tea-drinkers. It provides a place to sit and look at the hills, or just contemplate. It is a place to breathe in the surroundings and creation itself.
We need to try to meet the needs of the villagers, the walkers, the mourners, the Peak Park, the Parish Council, the school and the congregation. Whilst we can serve creation by meeting the needs of those that use and value the graveyard, there is a balance to be found. If we can keep some wild places, we can continue to honour and worship creation in this way. I'm not sure we are quite ready for Eco- church, but when we are, I hope to be able to help drive this forward. Meanwhile, I will advocate for wildness, if contained, and out of sight.
I enjoyed reading that Amanda. I was reflecting on my church and I'm thinking of making a sensory area, I'd love a water fountain ( quite expensive tho) some herbs, plants and a path wide enough for a wheel chair. This is an idea I think would suit all kinds of people, elderly, children and people with dementia. A new seating area would also be nice in a little area from the gravestones.
I like this sense of balance - and the idea of mowing a smallish path through tall weeds does appeal. But with many competing interests, there's a risk of reaching a 'lowest common denominator' but the alternative might be to see how many of different groups' "top priorities" can be achieved without destroying any other "top priorities". This is an idea of mine and I think it is hard!
Hi Amanda, Thanks for sharing about the churchyard, very informative. I've had the opportunity to walk around that churchyard a few times as I live locally and it typifies for me what a churchyard should be - it's a lovely place of peace and calm allowing for refection - be it for loved ones or for God's creation all around us. I carried out a wildflower count last year during the summer and found quite a few which I can share with you, plus also experiences similar to yours about encouraging nature in a churchyard, which are ideal habitats (havens) for wildlife, and only add to the feeling of being close to God's creation. Nature needs our help more than ever today I think. I've been on a similar journey with our church & PCC about how to manage the churchyard, and we are introducing a no mow policy across more of the churchyard this year - but it is a journey, as part of our Eco church work which I'm happy to share if of interest.