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I really enjoy visiting Churches and older (more rural) graveyards. They have at their core the history of
and the English people. Fresh and alive; the graveyard has an energy that presents itself as wildlife. Visiting Saint Mary, Heacham, I saw a woodpecker flying from monument to monument and the graveyard metaphorically sprang to life. The site is beautiful and surprisingly large. There's a conservation area to the England East End of the Church with a large manicured area on the other sides. The manicured area gives the impression of a large park and on a bright day the graveyard was beautiful with memorials and plants. The wildlife area shimmered with ox eye daisies and wild grasses that are held into a sort of managed wilderness. I liked the way that a few mowed paths made it easy to see the memorials whilst preserving an air of managed decay. Excellent for the visitor and the woodpecker.
The memorials in the graveyard are a varied group from the 18th Century onwards and into the 20th Century a small area is given over to the burial of children which is a sensitive use of resources for bereaved parents. Needless to say, I don’t take photographs of new graves and (as a general rule) don’t post photographs of memorials under 50 years old. The graveyard has a number of war dead and I can only imagine that there is an old base nearby or perhaps a hospital for wounded combatants. The deceased are always so young and taken away too soon.
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The Church of Saint Mary is magnificent as a traditional Anglican structure and doesn’t disappoint as an internal graveyard. The floor is full of ‘in Church burials’ and there is a good collection of monuments to the Rolfe family so connected with Pocahontas. As a child I had always imagined that this native American Princess was a sort of made up character that was developed by the Disney Corporation. It was a real surprise to find that Pocahontas really did exist. Connected with Heacham; Pocahontas has a memorial here in the Church although she died at a deplorably young age.
I want to say something about the Church itself which was a real shocker in some ways. It is always sad when beautiful Churches are taken over by Christians who don’t know how to manage a resource for the entire community. Saint Mary’s is currently a building that has been used as a children’s art class. The interior is a tribute to modernist Anglicanism. I was dismayed to find homemade modern banners hanging around the Church and ‘non-liturgical tat’ that proclaimed a contemporary and Evangelical message as well as images of the Rolfe’s and Pocahontas. I anticipate that this Anglican parish could be a real problem for thoughtful local Anglicans who wish to continue a prayerful existence amongst the ‘child friendly environment’. The building was kept clean although it had been taken down a track that I’ve seen in many Churches where one part of the community has become dominant.
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I mention Evangelicals because the Church has a notice board advertising lectures against “Homosexual Marriage”. This Church is arguably not proclaiming the historical Established Anglican mission across the entire community and one wonders what it’s like to be a Lesbian or Gay member of the congregation or even clergy in this sort of milieu? This is a Church that has apparently become a community centre for militant Evangelicals rather than being part of the wider historic ministry of the Anglican Diocese of Norwich. Having said negative things about the Church Authorities, it seems that the parish is at the very least keeping the Church open and maintained and in an age when so many buildings are being closed and lost this is to be commended. I do, however, wish that they would clear away the modernism that demeans the Church and its history.