Parish Chest

At St Leonard’s Church at Padiham is an ancient chest. Most parishes had or have them, for once they were required by law. Within, the registers of baptisms, marriages and burials were kept, as well as various deeds and other crucial documents. When records were centralised, parish chests proved less vital. Often there are three hasps upon them so that they could only be opened by two church wardens and the vicar at the same time to prevent unauthorised entry, with each one holding a key. The documents within could prove one’s legitimacy and therefore one’s right to inherit.

I rather like Paul’s expression in Colossians 3:3:

For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

My glory, my legitimacy and my pride are all dead or dying, but my life in Christ is hid with Him, locked and secured until that day it shall be publicly bestowed. Should my place in heaven be questioned or queried, I shall call upon Him to bear witness that His blood was shed for me, and that my life is more secure in Him than any gold in the deepest vault.

This example at Padiham is rather nice; though I dare not date it with any confidence or authority, I suspect it is seventeenth century, if not Elizabethan. I have seen examples elsewhere that sat in parish churches while the wars of the roses raged. Christ’s hiding my life and future in Himself is far more secure than anything once fastened in this oaken box.  

Behold him there, the risen Lamb,
my perfect, spotless righteousness,
the great unchangeable I AM,
the King of glory and of grace.
At one with him, I cannot die;
my soul is purchased by his blood.
My life is hid with Christ on high,
with Christ my Saviour and my God,
with Christ my Saviour and my God.

-Charitie Bancroft