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WELCOME to Saint Margaret’s Church—
In 1865 this church was built to replace the mediaeval church which had burnt down. The ruins of the old church are still to be seen on Coast Road, near Hopton Primary School. We are a Christian Church of the Anglican denomination.
The leaded cathedral glass windows of the porch have had to be removed to be repaired after they were vandalized.
The Notice Board in the porch serves to advertise services and to inform congregation members and visitors of important matters and forthcoming events.
You enter the church through large double, iron bound wooden doors. Churches have traditionally been always left open so that people could freely enter to rest, pray or seek sanctuary there. Unfortunately we have had to keep these doors locked as we have had thefts and damage which have cost us a lot of money to make good. We are hoping that soon we will be able to have the church open more regularly, especially during summer. On Monday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings the building is open as it is on Sundays for worship.
Near the stewards’ table and the bookshelf you will find an account of the building of this church with details about the architect, the architecture and the finishings. Do take time to read this, if you can.
The benches where the congregation sit for services are called pews and the colourful tapestry kneelers are called hassocks. Do be careful as some of the hassocks are heavier than others. They were all made by members of the congregation and each has its own story to tell. During the prayers the people kneel down on their knees and the hassocks allow them to be a little bit more comfortable. People can also pray while standing and sitting. Praying is like talking to God. Some prayers are formal and are said together using Prayer Books or Service Sheets, some are sung and come from Hymn Books and Song and Chorus Books. Other prayers are personal and spontaneous and are prayed straight from the heart—sometimes silently, sometimes aloud. Jesus taught us his own special prayer which begins with the words ‘Our Father…”. Being quiet and still and listening with ears and heart is praying too.
The pathway between the pews is called the aisle. Our aisle leads us from the baptismal font at the back, where people are christened and made members of the Church, right up to the Altar or Holy Table under the magnificent East Window, where the communal sacramental meal called Holy Communion is prepared and distributed to the faithful by the Ministers.
The part of the Church where the pews are placed is called the nave. That name comes from the same source as the word navy. One can imagine that the building is like a large old fashioned fishing boat or galley with the rowers all sitting on their benches in ranks and pulling on the oars together – in a way that is still true as each of the congregation members helps by their offerings of time, talents and treasure to move the church forward in its work here in the village and even further away, even to places like Zimbabwe in Africa.
Moving out of the nave at the crossing – the shape of the building is like a cross, we find the pipe organ on the one side and the side chapel on the other. Our side chapel is like another little church inside St Margaret’s and is dedicated to Mother Julian of Norwich, who was a wonderful mediaeval lady who by her writings is still able to teach us a lot about God’s great love for each one of us. We use the Julian chapel on Wednesday mornings for our weekday Morning Prayer Service and for our healing Eucharists.
At the crossing we find two special places – the lectern where the Bible is read from, and the pulpit where sermons are preached from to explain the Holy Scriptures. The pulpit is designed to be like the front part of a fishing boat – to remind us of the time when Jesus had so many people pressing in around him that he had to climb into a fishing boat and draw away from the shore and preach to them from there. Preaching is like telling and teaching.
Behind the lectern and the pulpit the pews go the other way and face each other across the aisle – this is known as the choir. It is a hand-down from the olden days when monks or nuns joined together to sing the Offices at different times during each day. Today it is where we often find the specially trained singers who lead the congregation in their worship. Our early morning Sunday communion Service takes place with the congregation gathered in the choir.
Steps after the choir lead us into the Sanctuary – there is a rail, known as the communion rail, that has gates in it which can be shut, closing it off at times. That is because the sanctuary is the special part of the church set aside for the celebration of Holy Communion. In olden days if you were running away from someone dangerous and believed that your life was in danger you could come into a church and ‘seek sanctuary’. While you were there no one would harm you as they then understood you to be under God’s special protection. This protection was so very special and holy that it applied to you even when you had committed a terrible crime. Unfortunately today that understanding does not always apply.
In the sanctuary, besides the altar is the Bishop’s chair – this is to remind us that our Bishop is our chief pastor and that each of us ministers under his authority. The chair – which is much more of a teaching chair than it is a throne - also reminds us that the Bishop is also the chief teacher of the faith.
The lovely stained glass windows in the sanctuary – the Easter Day Resurrection scene in the East Window and those of the Saints in the choir are very important art treasures, having been designed and made by Edward Burne- Jones and William Morris, who were amongst the artist of the famous and historic pre-Raphaelite school.
The stained glass windows in the Julian chapel are modern abstract designs and emphasise the colours and seasons of the Church’s Year. The memorial window in the nave is a meditation on a psalm which has been given local rural emphasis, reflecting the fact that we are basically a rural community, surrounded by fields which are seasonally harvested – this extend to the harvest of the sea too.
There are three fragments of stained glass in the church – one on either side of the sanctuary which remained after enemy bombs destroyed the original memorial windows and one in a rosette window in the nave, depicting a scene from Jesus’ visit to Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ house in Bethany in Bible times.
Memorials are scattered throughout the church – some as plaques and some as furniture and fittings. Many abound in the churchyard outside where each speaks of someone special and dearly loved who has been a part of our life in Hopton-on-Sea and who has died. The war memorial with its tall cross tells how we are grateful to those soldiers, sailors and aircrew who laid down their lives to protect our freedom during the great wars.
The oak trees too are living memorials, planted as tributes to mark Royal Jubilees, while the little, struggling yew which was cloned from a two-thousand year old tree was planted to mark the arrival of the new millennium in the year 2000. Sadly this precious sapling was vandalised in a senseless attack upon it and some of the surrounding memorials and has been removed.
The Vicar is to retire from pastoral ministry in July this year and in preparation for the future the Parish is exploring various possibilities as the Benefice will be dissolved and its constituent Parishes will each follow a new path. Pray for us, please.
We are here for God – We are here for you – We are here for each other.
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Old Lowestoft Road
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