St Werburgh's Church, Warburton

A Muslim friend and I went to visit St Werburgh's Church, at Warburton in north Cheshire/Greater Manchester last month. A newer church was constructed in Victorian times, but this older erection was permitted to survive, though it is now officially redundant.

Pevsner called it ‘a lovable muddle’, while Simon Jenkins, who includes it among his 12 Cheshire entries in his England’s Thousand Best Churches, comments ‘The structure is hard to date’. This was reassuring for me, as I was greatly puzzled by its exterior. The west end is clearly medieval, the tower looks Tudor, while a 1645 datestone is observable on the south-west corner, and a timber-framed wall survives on its northern side with ‘cheap Tudor and 17th century’ windows (Jenkins). What a hotch-potch! Little wonder that the order-loving Victorians decided to start from a scratch on a new site. Here, Catholic priests and canons celebrated the Mass; reformers tore down images and whitewashed pictures; puritans preached free grace and sang their psalms; bewigged Georgians recited the prayer book and had their feathers ruffled by John Bennett, the local Methodist evangelist. Here is a history book built of stone and wood. If bricks could speak, the ones at St Werburgh's would have plenty to tell.

Whatever the times in which we live, whatever the riches or the poverty, the faithfulness or apostasy, may we stand before the Lord and give good account for our time spent in the body. The church of God might be a muddle, a hotch-potch, a conundrum and a weird mix of influences and people, but may she be found faithful when her bridegroom comes.

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. Rev 22:17, AV