St Mary's, Clitheroe

I paid a visit to Clitheroe last month. I had arranged to pay a couple of visits to chapel folk who live there, and, going by bus, I had some spare time to wander about before I was expected. Clitheroe is the district’s main town. In many respects, it is quintessentially English. It has a well-regarded grammar school, a quaint railway station through which a steam train was chugging, an ancient ruined castle peering down on the town and a safe Conservative MP. A busy market and some interesting shops make it a thoroughly pleasant place to visit. I called at the parish church, St Mary Magdalene. I had previously written it off as a nineteenth-century re-build until I inspected its tower, the lower two thirds of which seemed fifteenth-century, an analysis confirmed by the information within.

Again, this all confirmed Clitheroe as an ancient English town, with its well-appointed church, medieval masonry and pleasant vicar. Yet something I found even more pleasing. It was not the alabaster tomb effigies, nor the symmetrical galleries that this church, unlike most of its fellows, saw fit to retain.

No, outside in the grounds there was a wooden post with a magazine box attached. Passers-by were invited to help themselves to a Good News for Everyone publication. This warmed my cockles, for too few parish churches offer spiritual food outside of their formal services. Our population has never been lonelier, and our churches never so silent. Thank God, people who pass by St Mary’s will be able to read of One who made them, loves them and may save them, if only upon Him they call.