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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

18 April 2018: Rev'd John Owen, Vicar of Steep and Froxfield with Privett

Rev'd John Owen - Vicar of Steep and Froxfield with PrivettBuildings and memories

I received recently a message from a Canadian citizen. She asked if I could supply any details about her great grandfather who had lived in Froxfield in the late 1800s and died at the turn of the century, and was buried in the churchyard at St Peter’s, High Cross.

It so happened that I was in church, leading Collective Worship for the church school, when her email pinged into my inbox. Out of interest, after the children had left church, I checked the burial records and walked out into the churchyard.

It so happened that the map records were, on this occasion, easy to follow. I found the plot where her great grandfather was buried, in an unmarked grave. A member of his family later emigrated to British Columbia with her three sons, where they cultivated fruit orchards.

Talking to a member of a local history research group afterwards, she observed that there was a trend amongst some individuals from this area of East Hampshire to go to Canada in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. It was a time when increasing mechanism on farms meant fewer jobs for labourers and Canada promised a new and better life.

So often I’ve noticed that the church building occupies a special place in family narratives when emigration has occurred. It often helps to make sense of the passing of the years and the separation by geographical distance, which form part of many families’ experiences.

While we rightly talk in the church today of mission and evangelism, we’d all be the poorer if we overlooked the significance of church buildings, and the clustered memories and associations which belong to these sacred places.

The next Women's Brunch takes place this Saturday, 20 April, at Herne Farm Leisure Centre, 10:00 am to noon

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