St Mary's Church, Over Stilton: Extended, Not Modern

St Mary’s Church at Over Stilton in North Yorkshire’s Hambleton District 'has been extended many times, but never modernised’, according to its website. It is over 500 yards from Over Stilton village; the original settlement was probably destroyed by Scots raiders centuries back. That wonderful phrase refers to the fact that the church, remote as it is, has no mains water, electricity or gas. 'With no electricity', it continues, 'on darker days services are still held by candle light.'

To step inside St Mary’s is to step back in time. Even though one must park in a narrow layby and cross two fields to reach it, it is one of the best churches I have seen. Many of its original features are still in place; it has the air and dignity of a dowager countess.

That phrase (‘has been extended many times, but never modernised’) struck me. Although only referring to the physical fabric, I wondered if it might have a wider application to the global church. From its beginnings in Judea and then Antioch and Rome, it has spread the world over, much extended. Although many have attempted to modernise (ie dilute or bastardise) its theology, they have generally failed, for the modernist, compromised churches invariably shut down within three generations. The true Church of God, though despised in many parts of the world, remains faithful to apostolic teaching, even though she be greatly extended.