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Church matters.

Byline: By Francis Wood

Off to the hills

It is said that everyone has the makings of a book inside them. Surprising proof of this maxim comes from the pen of Canon Stanley Prins, former editor of the Newcastle Diocesan Link Newsletter, now in retirement at Bardon Mill.

So what is his chosen subject? A View from the Pulpit? Not likely. He tells of his schooldays in the Himalayas! It's hardly known outside the family, that the young Stanley was educated at a hill station on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.

While we Brits faced the rigours of World War II, the boys of the Victoria School, in North Bengal, were caught up in the decline of the Raj. They battled with Latin, Greek and English History in a classroom looking out over Mount Kanchenjunga.

All is told in Summoned by the Bell, about his boarding years at a remote hill school. He begins by recalling his journey to school on a two-foot gauge train fuming and puffing into the mountains. The line follows an old mountain road, through the forest and along rocky ledges, at times defying gravity, so that no one dared look down.

All arrive safely at the school and we read of the debating society, sports days, school songs, the roll of honour, cadet force, games in the dormitory and all that went to make up a rare education even in those days. We hear owzat echoing around the hills before the monsoon brings the cricket season to a close. And all against a backcloth of War in Europe and later the Pacific.

If Summoned by the Bell drifts into a kind of bumper school magazine at times, it still provides a valuable social history of life at one of the outposts of the old Empire.

(Summoned by the Bell - pounds 7 from the Author).

OPEN THE DOORS

Why are so many churches kept locked during the week? Has the Church gone on the defensive? Have thieves and vagabonds now won the battle between good and evil? The Bishop of Newcastle is pressing for more churches to be open and wants church councils to find ways and means of keeping them so.

They say the problem is security. Doors are locked because things get stolen. But usually there is little in a church to steal. Brass candlesticks? They can be locked away during the week and replaced with wooden pairs. A simple pressure pad under the doormat could ring a bell in the vicarage to alert the incumbent that a visitor has called. More affluent churches install closed circuit television or even magic-eye detection.

But keeping churches locked means that genuine people are deterred from using their local church as a house for prayer out of service time. If churches were kept open there is a chance that people would use them.

Travel in the French or Belgian countryside and you often see a wayside shrine. I hear that pilgrimages are growing more popular. Outings to Walsingham, Lastingham, Iona and Holy Island are in demand. But why should people have to travel to say their prayers? Every estate and parish should have its own holy place. And not locked up!

As a child, I learnt a simple rhyme: Every time I see a church, I pay a little visit. So when at last I meet my Lord, he won't enquire "who is it?" There's not much point in teaching that one today is there?

DIARY DATES

SUNDAY: St George's Cullercoats. Book Sale. 10.30-6.30pm

MONDAY: St Nicholas's Cathedral.

Organ Recital by Robert Patterson (Oxford) 1pm

WEDNESDAY: Durham Cathedral.

Organ Recital by Hartmut Rohmeyer (Lubeck) 7.30pm

FRIDAY: St Mary's Wooler.

Cologne New Philharmonic Orchestra. 7.30pm

NEXT SATURDAY: St Mark's Shiremoor.

Car Boot and Table Top Sale. 9am-noon

NPlease send items for CHURCH MATTERS to Francis Wood, 52 Albemarle Avenue, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 3NQ, or telephone (0191) 284 5338
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 2, 2003
Words:654
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