Glory to God in the high­est and good­will to all

The Rt Rev Dr Ed­ward Condry, Bishop of Rams­bury

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

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.

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