Tuesday, 25 September 2007

St John the Baptist, Bere Regis.

Pre reformation memorial.
'I saw the heavenly city, Jerusalem'.
Roof beams and decoration. The 12 Apostles are pictured in carvings at the end of each buttress.
Approaching the Church from the village.
A quintessential English village scene.
Tools to encourage parishoners to use gift aid are kept on display.
Altar (facing the right way) with lovely cloth.
Processional Cross.

In the village of Bere Regis, of which Shitterton, where I stayed, is a part, lies the Parish Church of St John the Baptist. When you travel around Dorset in particular, you are apt to see many churches of great beauty, of which you may wonder 'how on earth do they keep all these places going?' You would be quite right to do so, for indeed many of them exist on Evensong twice a year to keep them open. There is nothing particularly wrong with this, for many of these churches are literally in the middle of nowhere with no 'catchment zone' save the cows and the grouse and they are lucky to have people to tend to them throughout the year, often putting flowers in and cleaning for no one but the Holy Ghost, who sees all.

In spite of this, it is of course good to find a thriving Church at the heart of a local community, such as St John the Baptist. It has a beautiful roof, fine fittings and a general sense of wellbeing, but my favourite part must be the window which I have pictured above and which very much benefits from being seen in its original size (just click on it). It shows the heavenly city, Jerusalem, described thus in the Revelation of John,
Revelation 21
1And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
2And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
4And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
5And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
6And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
7He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
8But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
9And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife.
10And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
11Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;
12And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:
13On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.
14And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.
16And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.
17And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.
18And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.
19And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;
20The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.
21And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.
22And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
23And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
24And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.
25And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.
26And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.
27And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.
I have never seen this vision in a stained glass window before, so was very pleased to see how well it transposed itself. Of course, you cannot build the city in the way it describes, as you will know if you have ever read Baudolino by Umberto Eco and we have to remember that the Revelation was written in retaliation to a Zealot publication around at the time which tried to bring Jews back to the earlier faith, but it is still a beautiful vision, no less full of Truth for that.