As anyone who has looked at my website (www.alexburghart.org.uk) or social media feeds know, I take great delight in the history surrounding us in the Brentwood and Ongar constituency, and will always take time to visit village churches and graveyards while out and about on my Friday visits.
These bricks and mortar history books, with their plaques and windows dedicated to the great and the good of the area, and the gravestones giving small details of the local population over the last 150 years are a beautiful part of our local landscape.
However, those maintaining the country’s heritage – our local vicars and ministers and lay clergy – are beginning to struggle to tend to the needs of their congregations while also trying to apply for funds to replace rooves, sort out wiring and organise decoration AND adhere to health and safety, safeguarding and all kinds of other regulations.
This was the take away message from some of our local vicars at a meeting I had with them in Ongar last week in the beautiful simplicity of St James’ in Marden Ash. (St James’ was destroyed by a V2 in January 1945 and rebuilt in the 1950s by the great English architect Laurence King) As congregations get older, there are fewer lay people to carry out the day to day jobs of church life which used to be taken for granted. There’s no quick fix, but I will certainly be talking to Ministers at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to make sure the Government makes it as easy as possible to volunteer without being in constant fear of breaking rules.
Our local clergy do amazing work, and are a fount of knowledge about the local community, schools, support for those in need and our social history. In an age where we are becoming more secular and with what feels like less time to give up to help others, please bear our local religious communities in mind for your support and help. They offer hope when things are hard, and will always have a cup of tea on offer for anyone willing to volunteer their time and expertise.