The difference between being and doing

Freiston Church 1

An ancient and beautiful church fulfils its primary function merely by existing. It is, in itself, and irrespective of the numbers using it, an act of worship. … It is only in modern times that the belief has arisen that a church has to be filled regularly with worshippers to justify its existence.

These words, originally from the Friends of Friendless Churches and quoted by the late Henry Thorold, in his Lincolnshire Churches Revisited, are a striking reminder of the difference between being and doing, a distinction that is often forgotten in our utilitarian age.

In the landscape

Fishtoft

A vegetable village near Boston, and near the sea bank of the Wash. A tree-surrounded rectory, and a distant scatter of farmhouses. The smooth-stone church has plain west tower and some clear-glassed windows to the aisles: others are drearily glazed. Spacious, but scraped with dark pointing. But as a landscape feature, among elms and fields, it is proper mediaeval, marshland architecture.

Henry Thorold and Jack Yates, Lincolnshire: A Shell Guide (1965)

The elms photographed by John Piper in the 1960s to accompany this text have gone, victims of Dutch Elm disease and the church looks less dramatic today than it did.