St Andrew's Church, Crosby Garrett

Crosby Garret Church in Cumbria has two external characteristics worthy of comment. The first is the tiny bell tower, the proportion of which is faintly ridiculous in relation to the rest of the structure. The second is the steepness of the hill on which it sits.

We know that churches were often built on hills. This was sometimes to replace the pagan shrine it sought to replace, or because its steeple provided a tall landmark from which one’s location might be gauged, or perhaps because it was one guarantee of not being washed away in a storm. St Andrew's has little to worry about in this regard. Indeed, a somewhat apologetic sign on the noticeboard offers hope to anyone ‘daunted’ by the prospect of climbing its hill by directing them to a raised car park by its side. Few Anglican parish churches attract great numbers, but any found worshipping here on a Sunday must be commended for their perseverance. They have either walked or driven up a steep incline for the sheer pleasure of worshipping Almighty God. Good for them.

A part of me thinks that attending church or chapel should be inconvenient. I know a number of our regulars have a half-hour, 23-mile drive, and those who arrive on dead on time must likely park 100 yards down the lane and walk the rest. Others are pressured by family not to attend too often, while those aforementioned drivers must fill their cars with pricey fuel in order to get here. And, having arrived, they are treated to hard, nineteenth-century pews which suffer no slouching. As pastor, it is of course my ‘job’ to attend, but occasionally, I have had to cut short holidays and re-arrange plans in order to avoid missing public worship. Abroad, the situation is far tougher. Imprisonment, social isolation and even death await believers who would go to church each week. It is almost, almost as though God wants attendance at corporate worship to have a cost attached. Worship should seldom be easy, and never cheap. Those who value it lightly, who would not fill the car, climb the hill or re-arrange the leisure schedule, are apt to skip and miss. Those who pay for it, are blessed all the more by participating.