It was the retirement service for the local vicar today, spending twelve years in the parishes, she has been someone who understood the words community and service, someone who had become much loved for her gentle loving kindness, particularly her care for those isolated in lockdown.
A rare attender at church services these days, I drove to the service.
It was being held in Langport church, a building now closed for regular services and in the care of a body called the Churches Conservation Trust. Last year, I saw it advertised as holiday accommodation, it was a delight to see it restored, for a short time, to is proper use.
There is no parking at Langport church, and even if there were it has become difficult to access since the road from the Muchelney side of the town was closed after the idiotic driving of a Heavy Goods Vehicle brought the large lorry into contact with the Hanging Chapel that stands aside the road. (Are drivers and their employers ever made amenable for the costs they inflict on communities?)
Parking at Huish Episcopi church, I joined the flow of people walking the few hundred yards to Langport church. From the church tower in Langport came the sound of the peal of bells. At the church door, a queue of people had formed, each person stopping to wish the vicar well. Inside, the church was filled, only by walking to the front of a side aisle did I find a seat.
Sitting in the church, there was a moment of timelessness.
Today was the anniversary of the civil war battle which brought a clash of a 10,000 strong Parliamentary army with a force of 7,000 men on the crown side. What tragedies had been played out that day? How many people had come into this building to pray for deliverance from the violence?
How many other moments had these walls witnessed?
The congregation sang with enthusiasm and joined loudly in the responses to the prayers. Yes, there were plenty of octagenarians, but there were also dozens of primary school aged children and their families.
A girl of six or seven years of age sat nearby sang a Christmas carol to herself. Her church attendance was obviously as frequent as my own.
The Gospel reading for today was the parable of the Good Samaritan, a fitting reading for a farewell to a vicar who had sought to live by the spirit of Jesus’ teaching.
There were to be speeches and lunch to follow. Being a stranger in their midst, I picked up my jacket and nodded in apology to those around.
Walking back towards Huish, I thought I understood how my family had spent so long in this timeless place. As if in a moment of perfect synchronicity, a farm jeep pulled up alongside me and one of my uncles greeted me