Mark Fox continues his review of Island churches by visiting St Andrew’s, Chale.

St. Andrew’s Church is one of the most beautiful churches on the Island. It sits like a beacon facing out to sea one way and into the heart of the rural part of the Island in the other direction. It is well tended inside and outside.

It is an old church. Christian worship has been witnessed for nearly 900 years and the original place of worship was dedicated in 1114.  It is always possible to sense in a place of worship whether there is an active sense of living prayer. There is no question that St. Andrew’s has a clear sense of that. You know you are in the company of the generations that have gone before.

St. Andrew’s is deeply rooted in the community and has had strong connections to various prominent families throughout its existence. Built by Hugo de Vernon, Lord of the Manor of Chale, these attachments can be seen in various windows and extensions that have occurred from time-to-time.

There are moving memorials to local people and in particular to the Royal Marines. War Memorials are living and vivid reminders of those who sacrificed everything to enable new generations to live. It is always a humbling moment to read the names of those who were killed.

Every window in the church is coloured in some way. This is quite rare but adds to a great sense of colour and liveliness inside the church, especially if you visit on a sunny day.

Inside there has been some re-ordering of the pews. To some this will be a distressing change; to others a much needed alteration to accommodate modern needs. It’s always important to bear in mind though that a variety of seating arrangements will have been used throughout the life of a church of any age and change reflects life and vitality – which is always encouraging.

Things you might notice include the perpendicular tower with its quartrefoil panels at the base of the western buttresses dating from the 15th century; in the south porch stands a 15th Century stoup for Holy Water, and the pulpit added in 1861 given by local school teacher Millicent Johnson.

In the tower there are six bells. The oldest dates from 1314, another from 1628. The others are ‘modern’ having been installed in 1896.

On the north wall is a panel listing the Rectors of the church since 1269. It is a useful reminder that every person is merely passing through, and that we are custodians not proprietors of places such as these.

On St. Andrew’s Day, November 30, the parish will start year-long celebrations of the church’s 900th anniversary. This is an achievement any community can be rightly proud of. Even if you do not go into the church from one year to the next it can still be important to have the church active in the heart of your community.

Many people still look to the local church as a place to be christened, married and buried; to turn to in times of joy and sorrow. This year of celebration is a good time to visit if you have not been before, or to return to if you have.