Why rural churchgoers like to freeze in church …

The Revd Dr Gary Bowness continues his tongue-in-cheek letters from ‘Uncle Eustace’.

The Rectory
St James the Least
February 2023

My Dear Nephew Darren

Winter certainly exposes the difference between those of you who live in cities and us rural folk. While you bask in your centrally heated flat, with every modern convenience that could be imagined and complain about the half an inch of slush that makes your life so inconvenient, we country folk wear overcoats in our houses, open all doors and windows to let the heat in and battle through snow drifts, measured in feet, to get the morning paper.

Colonel Wainwright has acquired a new toy: a snow blower of sufficient power that I believe it could clear the Antarctic. He kindly volunteered to clear the paths around the church. Working outwards from the church door, the path to the church soon became snow free. Unfortunately, he only realised when his job was complete that the blown snow then formed a five-foot drift under the lychgate. We now have to climb over the churchyard wall and negotiate buried gravestones before we can reach his pristine paths.

Miss Margison, ever meaning to be helpful, decided to unfreeze the pipes in the church hall. A blow torch was not the ideal solution, although the resulting burst did make some rather attractive ice sculptures round the kitchen equipment. The village badminton team that uses the hall has now temporarily changed sport, to ice hockey.

Inevitably, our congregation has soared these past few weeks. There is nothing like adversity for making people want to prove they have the moral fibre to overcome it. Much satisfaction seems to be obtained on discovering who has not dared venture out, which is taken as judgement on their strength of character. The Prentices upstaged most people by arriving on a sleigh. Mr Prentice was warmly wrapped in a travelling rug, while his wife pulled it. As her husband explained, he couldn’t possibly let the pony work in such conditions.

What I momentarily thought was applause during my sermon was merely people keeping their hands warm and the hymns were drowned out by the stamping of feet. Our organist complained that the cold made his fingers so numb that he couldn’t play properly – although I didn’t notice that things were much different from normal.

No, my dear nephew, you continue to fret about your church heating dropping to temperate, and a few flakes of wet snow obliging you to close your car park for health and safety reasons. We shall continue to triumph heroically over adversity and return home after Matins, feeling we have proved our Christian commitment by being utterly uncomfortable.

Your Loving Uncle,


Cockshutt, December 2017

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