A few days ago I visited a church near the village of Brentor in West Devon. It is an old church, roughly 12th century, and nicely built, but it was built on the top of a tor – a hill with a rocky top to it. It is very exposed and not easy to get to.
My first reaction that this was a stupid place to build a church – in a very inaccessible place on the top of a hill, well outside the village. The path up to it is dangerous in bad weather and even in good weather it restricts many elderly people from getting there.
It’s location means that they currently only have one service a week between Easter and September, and even then only when it is not raining. A couple of centuries later they built a ;chapel of ease’ another church in the village which could serve the needs of the community more adequately – even the locals seemed to agree that is was a stupid place to build a church.
That is, if you want to use it as a parish church. As we climbed up the hill we found that its exposed location led to a wonderful view. We had a great sense of being away from the noise of the roads and towns. When we went inside and looked at the visitors book, it was full of comments about how peaceful it was, and how people came back again and again to enjoy the presence of God. Perhaps, as a parish church it is in a bad location, but this church no longer exists for that. Do we not need places of silence and peace to think about God and pray, and to enjoy the fine views of his creation? Perhaps I don’t stop often enough to do this!