Sunday 24 February 2008

Unity and Community in Marsh Gibbon

I was really delighted to lead parish communion at Marsh Gibbon this morning. People and attitudes there reflected the meticulous and caring ministry of the Rector, David Hiscock. The epistle was Romans 5, which sometimes ties people in knots, but the reader had obviously bothered to work through it beforehand in a version he understood, and something really powerful came through. The Gospel reader had obviously prepared, too. Sometimes “reading the lesson” is the job people assume any idiot can do without any preparation. It just isn’t, and it was great enrichment to our worship to have lessons read intelligently and feelingly, so that we were all drawn in.

St Mary’s is a fairly straightforward 13th century Church, although I think of tower pinnacles as more West Country than Bucks. What caught my eye were wonderful banners laid up in the Church from the Marsh Gibbon Friendly Society. This was started in 1788 by some bell ringers, and provided sickness and death benefits, along with an annual Oak Apple Day service and feast in the village. It still has over 200 members, and brings all sorts of people together.

The Friendly Society is a great story about ordinary people doing something together to improve life for everybody, 200 years before all the jargon about social capital and capacity build. More worrying is the fact that this village which had 25 farms in 1945, and 11 in 2000. Today it has 4 working farms — a striking sign, whatever Lord Tesco may claim to the contrary, of the way he and his chums have been devastating rural England over the past 8 years. Hmm.

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