Parish History

The Story of  Gosforth Parish Church

- an extract from a talk given by the Vicar, Revd. Philip Cunningham

How did a church get here? Why and when?

The truthful answer is we don’t know. What we do know for certain is that there has been a church on this site since at least 800. I have a suspicion that, if it could be proved, we might find that the origins of our parish church lie at least 200 years earlier in line with the string of churches, all built around the 650s  which march down the Tyne valley – I’m thinking of churches such as Warden, Corbridge, Bywell Ovingham., Heddon. The line, rather like Hadrian’s wall gets somewhat lost as it marches out to the coast but eventually we end up at Tynemouth priory. What I notice is that wherever there was an early bridge or a ford so there was a church. And Gosforth takes its name from the Gese Ford meaning “the ford over the Ouse”, referring to a crossing over the local River Ouse. It seems most likely to me that such a  ford existed  roughly where Salter’s Bridge now stands and indeed in the archives of the Dirham Mining Museum there is a print which  suggests that when the Gosforth collieries were in full production (i.e. as late as the mid C19th) while there was already a bridge across the Ouseburn where Station road still crosses today the banks of the Ouseburn were sufficiently accessible for people to walk down to the water and presumably across. Salters Bridge, Salters Lane and Salters Road, incidentally mark the rout of the salt trade from salt pans at Hartley up to Blanchland.  Many early settlements and churches started life near a ford. Its natural- everyone ahs to come there so it’s a good trading place. Furthermore we know from numerous later medieval examples that it was quite customary for a priest to live near such a  place. The priest’s job was to offer mass and prayers for travellers in exchange for small payment and sustenance. Additionally in our case we know that the church is built on high ground and that  the surrounding land was fertile enough to provide for farming –and hence an agricultural economy. Now some may not want to hear the next bit! What is now called South Gosforth – though really its Gosforth and everything on and to the north of the High Street is Bulman Village - is probably older than the other settlements in the area. We know the English army camped there in 1319 on its way to the siege of Berwick.. I suspect its quite probable that the church was built  on this side of the ford to be on high ground and so (a) away from flooding and (b) able to dominate the surrounding countryside  and so to be more easily aware of any trouble brewing. What is certain is that the Church was very much in a rural and farm setting until the 1930’s even though there were later three main mines in the immediate vicinity. Even when  a Saxon church was first here it  must have been a busy place with  not only farming and mining enterprises but also a thriving  trade in salt and  wool passing through. In addition there were a number of important mills one being on the boundary of the parish with Jesmond at Haddrick’s Mill – probably owing its name to the Parish Clerk of 1577 who was called Hatherwicke. What today is a pleasant almost country walk through Jesmond Dene would have been a busy industrial scene much of it relating to the quarrying of millstone grit which was used in the construction by John Dobson of St. Thomas’s Church and the Old Town Hall. Its interesting that this church has always been, as it is today, not so much the centre of a small and compact village community but a focus for a much wider trading and industrial area. This certainly became true of the parish boundaries as we know of them from the late medieval up until quite recent times. 

What is a parish?

So  lets’ think for a moment about the word Parish. This Church has always rightly been proud of being the Parish church for Gosforth. So what is  a parish? The word comes from the Latin “parochia”  and in origin was used in the later Roman Empire to define an administrative base or area. The “parochia” was the area governed by local officials who administered law, justice, tax and so on – rather like  our Local Councils and other Authorities today. The Christian Church realised that this unit of administration would prove really useful for the mission of the Church. For a considerable period a “parochia”  meant the area administered not by a local parish priest but by a Bishop, assisted by a “College” of clergy – priests, deacons – and lay people.  Until well into the Anglo-Saxon period the main life of the Church was in the cities. Then, very gradually, the Church started to minister to those living in the surrounding countryside. For a long time clergy would go out from the town/city centre on missionary journeys visiting the villages, celebrating Mass, preaching the Gospel, and baptising in the local stream. Only a few of the villages would have a church building. Quite often there would be a cross of stone or wood and people would gather around this. In early Northumbria such a ministry was based on the monastic community of Holy Island . From there monks would go out in pairs on mission. Gradually some of the villages built a proper building and even more gradually the larger of these local churches became staffed permanently by two or three clergy. The main base would still be the Bishop’s “minster” i.e. the worshipping and administrative centre from which clergy went out to minister.  It was not until the 1100’s that local churches had been built in sufficient number to warrant a change of administration –and notice that the first incumbent whose name we know was here in 1130. . Gradually our parochial system came into being. Each local parish was to be staffed by one or more clergy, sent there by the Bishop who now administered a group of parishes called a diocese.

Much of this is reflected in the story of Gosforth Parish Church. We started as a very small Saxon building which by 1130 or so had its own parish priest who looked after a very wide parish area. I don’t think that Gosforth Parish ever became a Minster itself but it may well have had a small staff of clergy serving the wider and sparsely populated area for remember that on numerous occasions in the Middle ages this area was devastated either by plague or by warfare. The “minster” story did come into play in  very recent times as bit by bit we built other churches  (All Saints, St. Mary’s, St. Hugh’s). Initially these churches were staffed from the local “big” church first Gosforth parish and then  by the early 1900’s All Saints.

Starting from Saxon Foundations

So now lets think about the building itself. If you have never visited Escomb Church in Co. Durham, just outside Bishop Auckland, do so because it is the best example we have left of a complete and almost unchanged early Saxon church. Part of the remains of  Bede's Church  at Jarrow  also helps us imagine what the first church on this site would have looked like. Its foundations are still beneath us but fro the rest imagination is all we have. Starting from the west end; there would have been a tower- almost certainly of the exact ground plan as our present tower. This would have been well-fortified because it provided a place of refuge in troubled times. As with many Churches of Anglo Saxon foundation it is aligned  slightly north of true east. It seems to us to be a tiny and narrow church. Overall it was just 35 feet long but was later extended to 75 feet with an apsidal chancel. The ground plan took in the first two bays of the existing nave and then ended with a simple rounded apse – very much in the style of the existing apse you can see in front of you today. The building would have been much taller than it was wide with narrow windows letting in  only a  relatively little light. Bede’s description of such a church however suggests that inside much of the walls would have been hung with splendid tapestries on religious themes and that certainly on festivals many candles would have blazed. If we remember that the average Saxon villager lived in a very tiny one room wattle, daub and thatch cottage it is not difficult to imagine the effect that coming into church to hear Mass would have had on them. As today the Church would have been oriented east west – in fact slightly at an angle to due east so that the east window would, for much of the year been lit by the  rising sun, the spiritual significance of which is obvious,  and also have been facing Jerusalem, the city of Zion which for the whole of the Middle Ages was regarded as the centre of the Universe. There would have been two doors: one in the tower and one in the little chancel. Most came in through the tower entrance and it is quite likely that there was also a  window higher in the tower to allow entry only by ladder when invasion threatened.  The chancel door was sued only by the priest. The nave – so named from the Latin navis/ship because here is the  Ship of God in which we sail to heaven – belonged to the people who, under the responsible eye of the church wardens had the responsibility of its upkeep.

The Church Wardens

As in most things Gosforth Parish Church is unusual in its system of Wardens. The office of churchwarden is a very ancient office going back to the fourteenth century, and  perhaps even earlier.  The primary function of the office at that time seems to have been that of taking care of the Church building and its contents, including the responsibility of providing for the repairs of the nave, and of furnishing the silver, books, bread and wine  for worship. To help pay for this the wardens had the legal right to raise money by brewing their own beer and selling it – in church – during the Whitsun Wakes weeks.   The Churchwardens had custody or guardianship of the fabric and furniture of the church, and even today, they are the legal guardians of the church’s moveable goods, such as moveable furniture, plates and ornaments. They are required to keep an accurate, up-to-date inventory of these items. Another function which began towards the end of the fifteenth century, was to report to the bishop on the physical, financial and spiritual state of the parish. In this task they were accompanied by witnesses who joined in synod with the bishop – and from this comes  the office of sidesperson. The churchwardens also have a responsibility for the maintenance of order and decency in the church and churchyard, particularly during the time of divine service. We are unusual in that instead of the standard 2 we have 4 Wardens. Historically this is because of the size of the original parish together with the fact that the Wardens had civic and civil legal  responsibilities until the early C20th. It was quite customary, especially in the north of England, for a Church Warden to be appointed for each of the main villages or townships making up the one ecclesiastical parish.  

 Wardens and people entered our little Saxon Church  through the tower door. The priest came in through the chancel which was his domain. He was solely responsible for the upkeep of the chancel but had the right not only to tithe from all parishioners but also to levy an additional rate on each house called Chancel tax. Within the Saxon church – which lasted I would suggest right down until it was replaced in the late C18th – the layout of the church would have been broadly as it is now save that there would have been no seats at all except a sedilia for priests and servers. Around the wall would have been a simple stone ledge for the weakest to go to the wall.

This ancient little church served until about 1799 when it was demolished. I have a suspicion that nowadays there would have been cries of vandalism and perhaps rightly so, on the other hand such evidence as there is suggests (a) that the church was by then in very poor condition and (b) that the population of Gosforth far outstripped the capacity of the church – this was to remain a problem for  years to come and in some ways is still an issue for us today. Few of us live in houses which are exactly as they were built. We add a bit here, we adapt a bit there. Such has always been the case with Churches and we need to be aware that it is only a very modern  phenomenon that has  wanted to try to freeze a church’s development at some purely arbitrary date. But lest come back to the wider parish as we develop the story.

Growing Gosforth

Throughout the period from 1600 the whole area had been growing in terms of population.

In 1855 we read: "GOSFORTH parish comprises the townships of East Brunton, West Brunton, Coxlodge, Fawdon, North Gosforth, South Gosforth, and East and West Kenton. It is bounded on the north-west by Dinnington parish, on the west by Newburn parish, on the south by the parishes of All Saints, St Andrew, and St. John, and on the east and north-east by Long Benton parish. It is about two miles from north to south, about three miles from east to west, and comprises an area of 6,355 statute acres. The number of inhabitants in 1801, was 1,385; in 1811, 1,988; in 1821, 3,295; in 1831, 3,546; in 1841, 3,020; and in 1851, 2,319 souls. There are several excellent coal mines in this parish, in which great numbers of the inhabitants are employed."  A slightly later account adds extra detail:

The townships are South G. and North G.; and they lie 3 and 4 miles N of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and have a station on the Newcastle and Blyth railway. Acres, 436 and 1, 066. Pop., 248 and 197. Houses, 50 and 40. The parish contains also the townships of East Brunton, West Brunton, Coxlodge, Fawdon, and Kenton; the last of which has a post office under Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Acres, 6, 355. Real property, £26, 585; of which £9, 981 are in mines and £270 in quarries. Pop. in 1851, 2, 337; in 1861, 2, 943. Houses, 643. The manor belonged to the Surtees and the Lisles; and passed to the Brandlings. Gosforth House is a structure of last century; stands amid grounds pleasantly adorned with wood and water, and broadly engirdled with plantation; and was the scene of some of George Stephenson's displays of ingenuity, when he lived at Killingworth. Coal is extensively worked. The living of Gosforth is a vicarage, and that of North Gosforth, constituted in 1865, is a p. curacy, in the diocese of Durham. Value of the former, £300; of the latter, £150. Patron of the former, the Bishop of D.; of the latter, T. E. Smith, Esq. Gosforth church was not long ago rebuilt. There two charity schools."

Notice the farming, mining and quarrying and that £300 was no inconsiderable sum. The Brandling family financed the sinking of Gosforth colliery which began in 1825 on land on the south bank of the Ouse Burn. It closed four years later when it ran into mining engineering diffi­culties. Thanks to the Brandlings we have some rather nice late Regency plate.

In 1880 the High Gosforth Park Company was formed, and bought the house with 807 acres of land to lay out Newcastle Racecourse – still then in the parish-  and make various alterations and improvements to the park itself.

 Grainger, Clayton and Dobson

So improvement and development was in the air and the three “greats” of Newcastle: Grainger, Clayton and Dobson  did much not only for central Newcastle and  Northumberland generally but, in Dobson’s case for our church building as we see it today. Actually John Dodds got in first and was hired in 1799 by the Vicar – and squire – the Revd. Henry Brandling, along with a local doctor, Job Bulman, to build a new  Church roughly on Saxon foundations but larger to serve a growing population. It was this Brandling who gave us the silver and whose family vault still dominates this end of the Churchyard. He paid Dodds the vast sum of £561 – out of his won money (remember this was nearly twice what he had in annual stipend). Once again we cannot really be certain what Dodds built. We need to remember that the great Evangelical revival  sparked by John and Charles Wesley was  up and running. Wesley in his first visit to Newcastle states that he had never seen a more dreadful place with  so many heathen, animal –like children in such industrial poverty. Its  hard not to think that , discreetly  out of sight of the great houses, down in South Gosforth there was real squalor and poverty. Thankfully the early Methodist revival pricked the conscience of a slumbering Church of England. Its likely therefore that Dodd’s building would have been a severe “preaching box style” – probably roughly the length of the present nave but only as wide as the main columns ending where the chancel step is now  with a squared apse, At the west end would have run a gallery with entrance via  a narrow twisting stair. This would have provided additional seating – for by now pews were in fashion (though note most pews were rented by those who could afford it, the poor still sat at the back or in the more hidden parts of the gallery). In the west  end gallery would have been the Gallery band – a mix of viols, fiddles, with possibly some basic woodwind and doubtless that wonderful musical absurdity the serpent. History does not apparently relate any stories of unseemly rows between parson and band – usually over the inebriated state of the players – but it would have been unusual for Gosforth to have avoided such squabbles if they were on offer. The east end of Dodd’s church would have been dominated by a three decker pulpit in front of which would have been a small communion table used quarterly fro the administration of communion. The bottom desk of the three decker pulpit was for the parish clerk who responded to the Vicar, in the second desk, as they  read matins and Evensong. Most of the ordinary layfolk were illiterate so the service was lined. It was  unlikely that any of the by now increasingly popular Methodist hymns would have been allowed n the Church by Law established. Instead  with the aid of the West gallery Band  the whole service could have been sung to the metrical psalms of Tate and Brady. At the end of service the parson would ascend to the third tier to give his sermon. Most such desks were equipped with an hour glass and it was a point of honour to preach for the full hour – have a pity on the poor congregation whose Vicar over ran his hour for it then became a point of honour to have another glass and so preach for a full second hour. If I’m right – and Pevsner appears to agree - Dodd’s church would have looked  much the same as any early C19th Methodist chapel – but the worship would have been much more tedious.

And so to John Dobson.

 John Dobson (1787 – 1865) was and perhaps is  the most noted architect in the North of England. Churches and houses by him dot the North East - Nunnykirk Hall, Meldon Park, Mitford Hall, Lilburn Tower, St John the Baptist Church in Otterburn, Northumberland, and Beaufront Castle among them. During his career he designed more than 50 churches and 100 private houses. He designed  Newcastle Central Station – even being allowed to cut through a Norman keep – (imagine the outcry today)  and he worked with Richard Grainger to developing the centre of Newcastle much as we still see it today – at least in the Grainger town area. Dobson was born in  North Shields, the son of a  market gardener and educated in Newcastle. At the age of 15, he was placed as a pupil with David Stephenson, the leading architect-builder in Newcastle, designer of All Saints Church and the Theatre Royal that stood in Mosley Street. In 1810, Dobson went  to London to study art. By 1811 he was back in Newcastle and assisting to design Belsay Hall.

Dobson’s preferred architectural style was  Georgian, incorporating much of the Greco-Roman classical style. We can see that in this church.

Twenty years after Dodd’s work the church was again too small. So John Dobson was called in.  The Brandling family  was again involved as were the Bulmans – whose family name is now    remembered in the newest pub in Gosforth! Gosforth Church still has some  splendid Communion Silver given by the Brandling family.  This time another £676 were to be spent - £200 of which came from Coxlodge Colliery. Dobson put in a new north and south aisle and enlarged the  gallery to run round all three sides. The circular windows  (oeils de boeuf) in the nave were originally  placed there to give light to the galleries. At that time most of the window glass would have been plain Georgiana and the church have felt altogether lighter.  It was the extension of 1820 that brought many of the earliest graves – especially in the south aisle – always the most favoured side of the church in which to be buried – inside the church – hence their  inclusion into the walls. Dobson it was who built a new entrance half way down the south side – you can still see the original doorway from the outside of the church. In 1833  the porch was added to the tower on the south side and a yet  another new entrance was made – the one by which you came in today. Between them Dodds and Dobson completely removed any above ground traces of the medieval building – again another outcry today !

 Dobson was here because of the Brandlings.

They were a wealthy family of merchants and land and coal owners whose family had risen to power in Northumbria during the Middle Ages. Sir John Brandling served as Sheriff of Newcastle  in 1505 and as Mayor in from 1509 to 1520. Subsequent Brandlings trod much the same career path gradually gaining more and more land – and ever greater interest in the lucrative business of coal mining. It was the Brandlings who constructed most of the wagon ways linking the pits around Newcastle and enabling coal to be taken down to the docks on the river.

 Charles Brandling was High Sheriff of Northumberland in 1781 and also  Member of Parliament for Newcastle. built a new mansion at Gosforth House and this house became the family seat . His son Charles John Brandling  9the one who paid Dobson for this church) was also  was MP  for Newcastle. He it was who paid George Stephenson for the invention of the Geordie lamp – the miner’s safety lamp In the end over speculation – does it ring any modern bells? – caused him to sell off most of the mining interest and to move away from Gosforth which, thanks not only to mining but also to farming and by now a growing interest in commerce and the professions  continued to expand. 

 Out in the churchyard you can find the Main Dike Stone. There is another one just on the other side of the church yard. This Main Dike was an extraordinary piece of engineering. Started in 1825 and taking nearly 4 years to complete.  It had to sink over 1200 feet and then be tunnelled horizontally through solid rock for over 700 yards. Such effort was made because the coal from the Gosforth pit was the finest Tyne coal. I suspect  - though cannot be certain – that the memorial plaque to Henry Marshall,  Plumber – is in fact recording not  someone who busied himself with domestic heating but a mine agent working to maintain the  necessary lead work and pumping to enable such work to be carried out.  By this time, by the way, the pit was owned by  a Brandling who was also Vicar of this Church.: the Revd Robert Henry Brandling who also built the wagon way from here to the Tyne. .

 The story of a church is the story of people. Many died in the business of Gosforth mining. Lets recall some. We hear of  Richard Brewis who , aged 23,  fell over 200  feet from scaffolding,; John Dees buried in our churchyard , killed in a gas explosion; John Ord, still working at 74 (remember there was no welfare state) and crushed by coal tubs. 

 So gradually the church as we know it was built. But still the church proved too small – in some ways we are discovering that to be an ongoing problem today.   In 1882 it was decided to build our daughter church of All Saints on the other side of  Gosforth High Street. At the same time, the architect R.J. Johnson carried out restoration and built the north porch – ostensibly to match the south porch but not quite making it! The Church was then re-roofed, the galleries removed, a new font (our existing one – but then sited at the base of the Tower) was installed  and  the north porch added.. In 1913 a further £3000 was spent. This time the nave was doubled in length  and the chancel increased in size and moved eastwards to where it is now with a rounded apse. At the same time what had been space for the then organ was rebuilt and became the Lady chapel. The reredos of the High Altar is a particularly fine piece of woodwork by Hedley who also did much work in the Cathedral in Newcastle.  The work was carried out by Hicks and Charlewood . The only additional building since then has been the clergy vestry on the north side of the church in 1959.

 Church Glass

Along with the extension of the Church came our glass.

In early 19th century Britain, there was a revival of the art and craft of stained glass window manufacture. Stained glass windows became so  popular that many thousands of people, contributed to the commission and purchase of stained glass windows for their parish church. Newcastle became one the centres for  factories of stained glass.

One of the most famous of Newcastle window artists was William Wailes and we have a number of his pieces.

Wailes was born and grew up in Newcastle on Tyne, England’s centre of domestic glass and bottle manufacturing. His first business was as a grocer and tea merchant. However, his artistic talent and practical skills led him to set up a small kiln in the backyard of his premises in which he  fired small decorative enamels to sell in his shop. He studied stained glass design in Germany  and in  1838 set up his own stained glass studio on the Quayside not far from the Pitcher and Piano  to design and manufacture windows, working for a brief period with Augustus Pugin. Wailes exhibited glass at the Great exhibition of 1851. he bought Saltwell Park over in Gateshead and built Saltwell Towers later leaving the whole estate to the  public in return for a substantial sum and permission to live in the house until his death. In 1881 – though his works continued to produce glass until 1910. Wailes’ glass is quite distinctive – as we can see in both the examples at the west of the nave. There are certain distinctive colour combinations that occur repeatedly in the clothing of figures in Wailes’ windows- mauve lined with bright red, yellow lined with bright blue, red lined with acid green. Wailes was  a Gothic Revival artist, filing his windows with ornate foliate patterns on the style of medieval  manuscripts. The beautiful south aisle west window depicting the young  Christ  talking to the elders in the Temple was originally placed in the east chancel window but was put in its present position later when the chancel was extended.

One of Wailes’ craftsmen who eventually set up his own workshop was

George Joseph Baguley (1824-1915). . We have several examples of his work which is again much influenced by the Gothic revival especially a particularly fine depiction, in the south aisle,  of  the glory of the Trinity based on the vision of St. John the Divine

Our beautiful east window depicting Our Lord on the Cross was Our Lady Mary and St. John was given in memory of two sisters, Adeline Grace and Amy Maud Joel. It is by Kempe and a very fine piece.  A little earlier, Kempe was also responsible for the very beautiful St. Hilda window in the west of the Tower. Owen Chadwick, the great Church historian,  writes  in his book ‘The Victorian Church’ that "the art attained its Victorian zenith in the Tractarian artist Charles Eamer Kempe". Kempe was brought up and remained a devout Anglo-Catholic and had hoped to be a priest but suffered from the most terrible stammer. Instead he decided to offer worship and encourage  the faith through his work as an artist – I would suggest that our East window does exactly that. Certainly I have found much inspiration there, spirituality which comes from the deep spirituality of Kempe who insured to the last that his work and the products of his workshop were of the highest standard.

 Much of the rest of  window glass dates from the period immediately before or just after the First World war and the great outpouring of grief after so much slaughter – much of it,  at least in hindsight not only unnecessary but itself contributing to the further disaster of World War II. Two windows one in the east of the lady Chapel, the other in the north aisle I find particularly difficult. In themselves they are doubtless good examples of late Edwardian work, though both , as far as I know come from Liverpool manufacturers where much of the work was done rather “off the peg” in the face of the huge demand for this type of memorial in the 1920 period.   The east  window in the Lady Chapel was given by the Hunter family in memory of their two sons both killed  in the Battle of Ypres in 1916. Tradition tells us that their mother herself posed as the central figure in the window dressed as St. George. The window in the north aisle, by Swaine -Bourne,  includes a photograph of the young man who gave his life in the war.. Again tradition tells us that his mother, formally a devout and regular worshipper, came to the dedication and never entered the church again. One very sad little note linked to the First World war. If you walk around our churchyard you will find quite a number of war graves most of them from just after WW1. This is because men who for what ever reason had nervous and mental breakdowns were invalided back from the front to St. Nicholas Hospital – named after our dedication. They died  in the hospital,  in some cases having spent 5 or more years  three and were buried here.

 The east window depicting St. Nicholas  in the north aisle commemorates the rebuilding of the church  by the Robson father and son building  There are also several fine modern  windows by  Evetts who worked in the north east in the latter part of the C20th. The Lady Chapel contains two fine pieces of his, there is another in the north aisle and a fine “Passion” window in the south chancel wall.

 The organ

The present organ chamber in the south east corner of the church was added to this beautiful Georgian church when in 1884 Harrison & Harrison installed a small two manual instrument, speaking directly into the chancel. However, organists had a vision of something grander, and eventually a second-hand J.J.Binns house organ, with four manuals and pedals, was installed. The size of organ and chamber were not really compatible, however, so it was with great difficulty that the Binns organ was squeezed in:

 In 1994 the Binns organ, which suffered severely from difficulties of access for maintenance and general effects of age, was replaced by a splendid two manual instrument built by Nicholson & Co., of Malvern, Worcestershire. The new organ is accommodated in the original chamber, but at right angles to the old layout, and its front case and internal layout now face down the south aisle so that it provides firm accompaniment for the congregation. The Great sits directly behind the façade, low in the case above the attached terraced console, so that the Swell above and behind it, speaks out clearly. There are shutters in the side as well the front of the Swell box, so that this division also speaks well into the chancel, over the solid oak screen which previously occupied the western opening. CCTV gives the organist a view of the choir in the chancel stalls.

 Our Parish Church celebrates our parish and records and contains its story so that others can be drawn into both community and faith.  : people, history, music, woodwork, glass, architecture, the churchyard  with its memorials , trees and  flowers. All of it speaks of the context of this place, this story, this people. As with any English Parish church it speaks of an incarnational faith: here is God in our midst. . Our church stands as a public, physical and very visible sign of Christian faith. That , after all, is what brought the English  parish system and the English  parish church into being. The Christian faith can be stated in three words: God loves you. How do we know that? Because of Jesus and because of the ongoing life of the church down the ages ministering in the love of the Holy Spirit.