St James the Least
My dear Nephew Darren
Since I happened to be in your area last week, I tried to call in at your church, and was sorry to find it was locked and bolted, with surveillance cameras watching me.
We tend to be a little more relaxed about matters of security. The key to the medieval lock was lost some time during Queen Victoria’s reign and never replaced. How someone managed to misplace a foot long piece of cast iron, weighing about 10 pounds is a mystery. If it had fallen out of someone’s pocket, it would certainly have broken their foot. Ever since, no one has bothered with locking the door – which makes me wish our burglars last year had thought of trying it, before wasting so much energy smashing a stained-glass window when they visited in the early hours one morning. On the other hand, were the key still in use, I should probably be arrested these days for carrying an offensive weapon.
As with most rural churches, keys which open just about everything in the village are hidden in various parts of the church. The vestry key is under my seat cushion, the organ key under a vase on the altar, the church hall key on top of the hymn book cupboard, and Miss Simpson‘s spare front door key inside the font. I have never been certain whether the latter is there for safety, or as a general invitation. I am sure someone could usefully produce a book suggesting the many places that keys are likely to be found secreted in churches for the use of vergers, flower arrangers, cleaners – and thieves wanting to save themselves time and effort.
I suspect that the burdened look that many urban clergy wear is not because they are weighed down with parish troubles, but because they are obliged to carry with them a superfluity of keys needed to negotiate every door in church, hall, school, and vicarage. And why is there always one for which no one has any idea what it opens?
The only occasion I have ever thought it would be useful to be able to lock a church is when you have a party of visitors inside. So often, on hearing the words “let us pray” or the start of an appeal for funds, they bolt for the door!
Your loving uncle,