Who owns the church?

 

The churches of England do not, like those of France, belong to the state, neither do they belong to the Church Commissioners, the bishops, the parsons or the patrons. They belong to the people. They are part of our common heritage and the responsibility for their custody rests legally with the parochial church councils and morally with the parishioners, of whom the church councils are the elected representatives. In the cases of non-Anglican churches the position is similar. They belong to the religious societies for whose use they were built.

Our ancient parish churches were for many centuries the sole places of worship in the country and they therefore make a claim upon all of us, whatever our religious denomination may happen to be, because our forefathers built them, were christened and married in them and now rest beneath their shade.

Lincolnshire Old Churches Trust, 1976

If allowance is made for some of the old-fashioned assumptions about faith and gender in this 40-year-old quote, it remains a lucid explanation not just of who owns our churches, but why.

Lincolnshire Old Churches Trust

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.