During the weekend of the 24th and 25th March I traveled to Braunton to join the congregation there for the final weekend of their full year of anniversary celebrations. This is a church with its roots deep in 1662 – they tell me they even know the name of the independent Church of England priest who was ejected. But this was not just a celebration of 350 years of Christian witness on the site still occupied by the church, it was also a 25th anniversary of the coming together of the congregations of United Reformed Church and the Methodist Church in the town and now, I was told, ‘you cannot see the join’.
On the Saturday evening we shared in a meal and then moved into the sanctuary for a performance of ‘Impossible God’ the Passion play. This consisted of a moving series of meditations on the death and resurrection of Jesus reflecting the hopes and dreams, joys and fears of those who witnessed events which were beyond their understanding.
With a few changes of cloak or shawl or sash Mark Topping held us all for nearly two hours pausing in the middle only to share in the anniversary cake baked and decorated by one of the members. This was a truly memorable evening.
On Sunday morning I was leading worship and had been told it was to be a celebration of Freedom to Worship. It was good to have in the congregation Rt Rev Alan Winstanley, Assistant Bishop ofExeterdemonstrating how far we have all come since those days of the great ejection. The readings for the day included John Chapter 12 verses 20 – 33 which includes the words “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains just a single grain, but if it dies, it bears much fruit” – this seemed like a passage which might have been specifically written for churches with histories like that of Braunton.