Broad Street Wrington Website:
Trevor Wedlake's Writings
Ancient & Modern

First published in the Village Journal October, 1977

It' s a thin ageing line that wends its way out of church, thoughtfully, after Evensong most Sundays; a frail though valiant rearguard. Are their numbers so small, their years so long because the service is conducted in language too low in entertainment value?

The historian would never sell his wares if they were not couched in interesting language. Even scientists must wrap their subjects in subtle, entertaining phrases to hold the attention of the lay public. And journalists on HTV improve the presentation of the news by introducing an element of entertainment to it.

Perhaps it follows that if the church would lead the people in worship it must first be entertaining; and perhaps it is here that the modern church is failing. It was not always so. In churches and chapels in the slow, well-regulated Somerset villages of Edwardian England it was not so.

In those warm, twilight years, the last dying embers of a world that was soon to pass for ever, the village churches and chapels were the focal points of Sunday evening entertainment as well as worship. In those days a young man was almost as likely to meet a pretty girl in church as at the harvest-home
dance, and so to church or chapel they went, young and old alike.

To vary the style of the Sunday evening young people would attend churches not just of differing denominations but in different villages. They would walk say from Wrington to Redhill, Felton to Winford, Chew Magna to Chew Stoke.
It would be a source of disappointment if a special occasion like Harvest Thanksgiving fell on the same day in two parishes of their choice.

This for very many ordinary villagers was how Sunday evening was in that horse-drawn time before 1914.

It was on one such Sunday that the group of young men who set off for chapel included one who decades later was to tell me all about it. The chapel was in the village of - well let's just say it was less than fifty miles from here.

They settled themselves in the back seat and after the first hymn the preacher from the pulpit said "Let us Pray”. The congregation did not kneel down but crouched forward in their pews, slip-fielder fashion, and made ready to interject with their “Amens” and “Alleluias”.

"Lord have mercy”, the preacher began, “Lord have mercy on the humbugging jiggering farmers for putting up the humbugging jiggering milk, the humbugging jiggering rotters”. (A modern version might read “Lord have mercy on the diabolical Common Market for putting Irish beef into intervention cold stores”).

Following another hymn or two the preacher began his address. “The world's as round as a hoss's head", he boomed, whereupon to my everlasting regret he was heckled by his wife. “Sit down John” she called, “your meaning's good but your explanation's bad”.

My story teller could not recall whether the meeting broke up amicably or in disarray but after so lively and earnest a foregoing it is felt the end must have been tame.

Well, that old preacher all that long time ago may have lacked scholarship but his vivid, picturesque language filled his church. It was language which was genuine and immediate and it has preserved his memory.

Would language like his fill more pews in the 1970's? That is language which is direct and relevant and entertaining. “Language”, said Ben Jonson, “Most shows a man; speak that I may see thee”.