Lift high the cross

Published on: 24 May 2022

Faced with the closure of churches just before Holy Week and Easter in 2020, at St Mary’s Church in Yelverton, we came up with the idea of putting a cross in the churchyard, so that the villagers would at least be aware of the season.

Liz Bloomfield, churchwarden and organiser of the flower team, enlisted her husband Paul to fashion a cross from odd pieces of wood and this was fixed to the base of a dovecote and positioned near the main gate. On Good Friday it was decorated with a crown of thorns, and this was replaced on Easter Sunday by a wreath of flowers. More people started to comment on how lovely the flowers were and how they raised the spirits.

As the temperature climbed and the cut flowers became unsustainable, Liz provided two troughs hung from the cross-piece with bright red geraniums, and the comments continued.

The cross was noticed!

We realised how much this all meant to people in those difficult times, and the temporary cross and its flowers stayed. Liz decorated it with lights at Christmas, and then the troughs held pansies in the spring. By summer 2021 the cross was showing its age, and the PCC decided that this witness should continue and applied for permission to erect a more substantial cross in the churchyard. Our new oak cross, made and installed by Charlie, a local craftsman, is now in place. It, too, is ‘temporary’ in that it can be taken out of its socket, but hopefully it will remain as a witness to the role of our parish church in the community, not least in times of difficulty. You see it in its Lenten plainness, but Liz has already planned for new containers to hold bright summer flowers to lift the soul.

This underlines, too, the relationship between the parish church and the village. Although we are a small congregation, the wider community is supportive both of the building and the church’s place in community life. For 12 years we have had a thriving Friends of St Mary’s, and raised thousands of pounds for restoration projects. Most of the members are not churchgoers, or belong to other churches, but the Friends keeps them in ‘the loop’. The Parish Council does all it can to support us as an important community facility, and is helping us to improve the church paths for wheelchair access. We hope that more people will be able to access the church or tend graves and be able to sit and enjoy this tranquil space in the centre of the village.

This might all seem far distant from a simple cross of witness, but the cross is a sign that Jesus is there for all of us, and we – churchgoers or not – are there for each other. What better focal point could you have?

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