St Michaels on Wyre Church

I called at St Michael’s Church at St Michael’s on Wyre last month. She really is lamb dressed as mutton, for her porch is dated 1611 and the tower, which I took to be fifteenth-century, was erected in 1549. Interestingly, these two dates are highly significant in the history of the English church, for they are the years in which the Authorised Version of the Bible and the first Book of Common Prayer were published, respectively. If news reaches me that St Michael’s Parochial Council is planning a major building project, I will keep my eyes peeled for a major publication which will dominate the coming centuries.

I in an old church am like a pig in muck, and it was only an appointment in Morecambe and the dull lighting which hastened my departure. Two features in particular caught my attention: a pillar and a painting.

The pillar was supporting the north aisle and it was quite obviously crooked. Sometimes one thinks one sees crooked masonry and has to take a second look. There was no need on this occasion, for the odd angle was very apparent. Some architect’s or mason’s mismeasurement or carelessness meant the load-bearing pillar is less effective in its purpose and potentially unsightly (though I personally think it rather quaint and would oppose attempts at rectification). May our churches- by which I mean communities of believers rather than buildings- be straight and narrow, not broad and crooked; may they be uncompromising and faithful, not bending and wobbly.

The second feature was an archaic painting on the sanctuary’s north wall. Half an inch of plaster had been removed, and the remains of a medieval painting have been uncovered. I could see little of it in the autumnal gloom, but the information sheet suggested it depicted the coronation of Mary, a Catholic fantasy that makes my Reformed blood boil. If one were to scrape away further sections of that whitewashed plaster, additional sections of idolatrous (albeit historically interesting) pictures would be uncovered. Although the real believer has truly changed and grace is at work, the ‘old man’ is never quite destroyed. This side of the resurrection, our redeemed hearts still have an inclination towards idolatry and spiritual perversion. Although our minds are being renewed and our spirits reborn, never underestimate our nature’s uncanny way of reverting to its former ways, as a sow returns to wallowing in the mud and the dog to its vomit.