Murton Cum Hilton Church: Oil & Pulpit

Murton Cum Hilton Parish Church of St John, Cumbria, is a standard-looking mid-nineteenth century rural church. Of two distinguishing features it may boast. The first is a fairly imposing three-decker pulpit, without a tester (overhead sounding board), which is unusual in a church of this age, it perhaps having come from somewhere older. In its top section, the preacher preached; in the middle section, the parson or clerk read his prayers, in the lower section, the parish clerk glowered.

The second feature is the large collection of oil lamps attached to poles at pew-ends, by which some warm light will have been provided for a winter’s service. The church has a perfectly good electricity supply, so I imagine these lamps are now used to add ambience when the occasion demands; the oil was certainly sloshing around when I rocked the pole. The pulpit is a place of God’s word, wherefrom it is preached to the people; in scripture, oil is often a symbol of the Holy Spirit. There is sometimes a theological division between those who emphasise the workings of the Holy Spirit and the preaching of the Bible. There is no division. We who immerse ourselves in the word immerse ourselves in its Author. On the other hand, they who put feelings, emotions and ideas entering their heads, usually communicated with quivering voices, in a more prominent position than the Bible, have neither the word nor the Spirit. It is one or both, never one or the other.

‘According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’ Haggai 2:5, NKJV