Scredington Church: Useful in Death

I called at Scredington’s Church of St Andrew this month. I almost did not bother to go inside when I saw it: it just appeared to be another bland, nineteenth-century parish church with the bog-standard fixtures and fittings. I like a nice Victorian chapel, but parish churches must be older or unusual to illicit any interest in me. The other side of the church, unseen from the road, is somewhat older, and a number of pieces of masonry from before its major renovation could be observed by corners and on window ledges.

Looking at the church’s north west corner, I laughed. I appreciate that this will not be considered funny to anyone else, but the current church users were employing a late mediaeval chest tomb as a kitchen work top or servery. The kettles were behind it, the tables and chairs in front of it. I imagined a queue of people slowly filing towards it after morning service in order to obtain a cup of tea and a biscuit, before taking a seat and catching up with their neighbours' business.

The tomb’s brass inscription I found too awkward to read, but Historic England kindly assisted, dating it 1464 and identifying its occupant as one William Paulett, who doubtless fancied himself as an important figure within the village. Well now he is quite possibly as useful in death than ever he was in life. But for his tomb, the good folk of Scredington Church would want for a surface upon which their teas might be poured. I suspect that the old papist would be offended at his tomb’s latter day use, but I think it quite wonderful.

Would that we be as useful in death as in life. Our money, our legacy and our belongings can all be employed after our home-callings to assist those we leave behind. And I refer here to Christian work, not just great nephews and third cousins whom one barely knew. Conversations, examples and admonitions can all serve God's glory even after we are called home. Charles Spurgeon, for example, had more people enjoy his sermons after he died than while he lived. Although some people prove themselves as useless in death as ever they were in life, we might remember Master Paulett’s chest tomb and the good use to which it is now put.

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. Hebrews 11:4