Glory to God in the highest and goodwill to all
The Rt Rev Dr Edward Condry, Bishop of Ramsbury
Pinehurst II, Pinehurst Road, Farnborough Business Park, Farnborough, Hampshire GU14 7BF Telephone 01252 555072 www.countrylife.co.uk
St Martin’s Church in Fifield Bavant is one of the smallest churches in the country in regular use. it lies on a grassy slope above the valley of the river Ebble in south-west Wiltshire. Last time i went, i walked up the mown path with two spaniels from the farm, Edward and Winston, racing ahead.
Fifield Bavant is a community of 20 or so. i shall be there at 10pm on Christmas Eve for the Communion service. st Martin’s only seats 30 or so on simple wooden pews —and that’s with someone sharing the organist’s bench—yet, each year, there are 100 people there on Christmas night and often more. that’s five times the village’s population. half the Christmas congregation squeezes inside, and everyone else stands around the fire, which burns in the brazier outside the west end in gloves, hats and Christmas fancy dress. Families, friends and visitors, parents, children, cousins and grandchildren gather to sing the familiar carols and welcome the Christ Child.
afterwards, there will be mulled wine to warm the blood. i am so looking forward to Christmas Eve.
as Bishop of ramsbury, in the Diocese of salisbury, a title first used in i am responsible for 260 churches in Wiltshire, many of which are small, rural and holy, like st Martin’s. there has been a church in Fifield Bavant since at least the 13th century. there is evidence of settlement in the village back as far as the iron age. it has never been a large place, although the population is at its smallest now.