Denton Church, Broken Glass & One Brass Key

I called at St Helen’s Church at Denton last week. It was one of those lovely autumnal mornings - a bright blue sky, but cold. A peculiar old girl; like the neighbouring Denton Hall, the church is clearly an eighteenth-century construction yet it is built in the gothic style, which looked back three hundred years, but was to make a powerful come back in the following century. The builder was either stuck in the past or ahead of his time, I cannot tell which.

Few churches in these parts are kept unlocked, so I was delighted to find the front door open, yet even more disappointed to find the next, inner door, firmly fastened. I was permitted entry to the porch, but no further. I took my photographs and then my leave.

Later, I called at my old favourite, the Bramhope Puritan Chapel, farther along the valley. To enter this plain and unassuming preaching house, one has to apply at the neighbouring hotel, the staff of which cheerfully loan a large brass key after preliminary ID checks have been recorded. Pushing it into the hole in the thick, heavy door, it opened with surprising ease. Once inside however, I saw evidence of an attempted break-in. A window pane had been smashed, leaving shards of glass on the books of the communion table. Presumably, someone had sought to reach for the window's handle by breaking the glass, but failed. I recorded my name in the visitors’ book, and left a written observation regarding the window, before emailing the parish clerk to report the damage, as well as informing the hotel.

It seemed ironic; one church I was not permitted to enter; to another church, I was bade entry for having requested the key, while person or persons unknown had attempted force their way in, but failed. Perhaps, like me, they were very fond of early modern church architecture, and their love for puritanism encouraged desperation. Or, more likely, they hoped to find a well-stuffed collection plate.

Although churches can often be cliquey and closed, coldly shunning newcomers and guarding their petty, existing privileges, the lesson here is one of salvation. Entry to heaven is not by burglary or breaking in, nor by climbing the wall or slipping through a gap, but by Jesus Christ, the door, the gate, the way. They, who turn up unannounced, will leave disappointed; they, who anticipate pushing themselves through the gate, will find it a harder task than they imagined. Only Jesus Christ, the Key of David, can usher fallen man back into Eden.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” Matthew 22:11-13, New King James Version