Posted in Personal life, Writing

A Place for Everyone

What if the new government were to pledge to provide for every community in the land a sturdy and spacious building in which the public might seek comfort at times of crisis?

What if these buildings were on a grand scale, with ample seating for visitors and plenty of space to wander about in?

What if each one was uniquely beautiful, built from local materials to blend in with their setting, and decorated with paintings, carvings, and fresh flowers to please the eye and lift the spirits?

display of orange flowers and dark red foliage

If that proposition sounds wildly extravagant in our straitened financial times, you can stop worrying about the impact it might have on your income tax bill or the National Debt, because we already have such buildings in every single parish.

Yes, you’ve guessed: I’m talking about parish churches. I reckon if we didn’t have parish churches already, we’d need to invent them.

The church of St Mary the Virgin, Hawkesbury, has been at the heart of our community for over 1000 years
  • Anyone may enter these beautiful, calming, safe spaces.
  • No gatekeeper will ask to see your membership card.
  • No-one will check your ID.

Increasingly churches are open all day, at least in the spring and summer months. If you want to visit when the doors are locked, you can usually gain access on request.

That’s just how the Church of England wants its churches to be: accessible to all, and not only during religious services.

I was surprised to learn recently that their insurers agree. They believe these beautiful old buildings, as an important and valuable part of our national heritage, should be seen and enjoyed by as many people as possible.

nave decorated for harvest festival
This weekend St Mary’s is decorated for Harvest Festival

When on holiday, I like to visit local parish churches as a tourist to enjoy their aesthetics and acquire a flavour of the communities they serve. They’re also often a great source of secondhand books!

Closer to home, knowing I can visit our parish church of St Mary whenever I like is a comforting thought.

In September, it helped me process the sad news of the death of the Queen. I was glad to toll the bells of St Mary’s in mourning for the Queen and in celebration of the new King’s Proclamation. I was glad to take part in the special Commemoration service, to light a candle and to sign the book of condolence there.

ringing the bells for the late Queen
Ringing muffled bells at St Mary’s to commemorate the late Queen

Most of all, I was glad to spend time in a place that has witnessed the arrival and departure of all the British monarchs since William the Conqueror, and of generations of their subjects.

Spending time in St Mary’s provides a sense of perspective, of reassurance and of hope. In a constantly changing and often bewildering world, as we approach what the media keep telling us is going to be a difficult winter, it’s good to know St Mary’s is there for us all.

book of condolence for HM The Queen

This post was originally written for the October 2022 edition of the Hawkesbury Parish News. 


IN OTHER NEWS…

I’m pleased to announce the publication of two novels set from November to December – perfect timing if you’re seeking a cosy autumnal mystery!

Murder at the Vicarage

First, I have yet to break to the vicar that my second Sophie Sayers Village Mystery, originally published as Trick or Murder?, is being relaunched under the title Murder at the Vicarage!

The audiobook was released on 15th September by audiobook specialist Saga Egmont, named by the London Book Fair 2022 as Audiobook Publisher of the Year, to all the audiobook platforms, although it will take a little while to appear on them all as they upload new books at their own pace. Here’s the cover to look out for:

cover of audiobook of Murder at the Vicarage

The paperback and ebook will be released by Boldwood Books, named by the Romantic Novelists’ Association last year as Independent Publisher of the Year, on 24th November. I’ll be able to share the cover of that one with you very soon.

Sinister Stranger at St Bride’s

Meanwhile Boldwood Books are poised to relaunch my second St Bride’s boarding school mystery on Tuesday 11th October, in ebook, paperback and audiobook. Again, the title is changing, but only slightly, from its original title of Stranger at St Bride’s to Sinister Stranger at St Bride’s. Here’s the stunning new cover, hand-drawn by Rachel Lawston.

cover of Sinister Stranger at St Bride's

More book news soon! Meanwhile, back to editing my current work-in-progress, Sophie Sayers’ eighth adventure…