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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Wednesday, March 26, 2008
    Heavenly Henry and the children's corner

    A drive through delightful River Dee country today and the unexpected pleasure of standing in the pulpit of the astonishing Georgian St. Deiniol's Church, Worthenbury, thus placing myself in the lineage of 'Heavenly Henry', aka Philip Henry, puritan minister of Worthenbury during the Civil War and father of Matthew Henry, Bible commentator and diarist.

    You can do things like this in buildings like that: breathe in history (albeit stretching historical realities a bit, as Heavenly Henry didn't actually preach in the present St. Deiniol's, but the one it replaced). Which is why it's so good that they get listed status and are protected for future generations to learn in, and enjoy, with the help of initiatives like the Open Church Network ("Opening the doors to the historic churches of Wrexham"). However you should also be able to do new things - like transform one massive boxed pew into a children's corner and another (an elite one, with a fireplace, no less) into a prayer space - with confidence that these humble efforts aren't destroying the place's heritage, but progressing it.

    Adrian's priestly task involves persuading the heritage people that buildings like St. Deiniol's have a present and a future as well as an astonishing past, to ensure that the present-day and future worshipping communities of places like Worthenbury are allowed space to breathe and grow. That's a bit of a struggle at times when people enthralled with a place's history forget that it has a vital present too. It's played out in issues like: can we allow the education displays to say anything about what the church does now? and: where, before this visually obstructed congregation, is the best place for a couple to publicly conduct their marriage vows?

    These are quite different tasks to any I'm asked to perform in my thoroughly un-Heritage parish, and it's been an education learning about these things today.