I comment on this story very cautiously, but it’s something that has quite unsettled me, and I’d like to share it with you readers if I may. Last week, as usual, the Walsall Advertiser dropped onto the doormat and I read it with my usual interest. The paper – the stronger of the two remaining freesheets delivered in Walsall – led with an emotive story about Brownhills’ parish church, St James. It seems that ornaments and other effects left on memorials have been removed due to them being in contravention of Dioscesean regulations (.PDF file, Adobe reader required). The story can be perused online here.
Now, the Walsall Advertiser isn’t generally noted as a reactionary publication, and I’m inclined to take the facts it presents at face value. What concerns me here are not the regulations, but the apparently insensitive manner in which they’ve suddenly and summarily been applied. I’ve no doubt that signs stating the rules have been visible for a long time, but if the ‘problem’ was growing over a period of two years, as Reverend Bishop states, then perhaps the ideal time to deal with the contraventions would have been when they first started to occur. Memorials are intensely private things, and people will leave keepsakes and ornaments if they feel it’s acceptable to do so. I feel that perhaps a quiet word earlier could have prevented the obvious hurt and distress that resulted from what appears to be a rather callous, sudden enforcement of the policy concerned. I also fail to understand why it would not have been possible to post a notice some weeks prior to the clearance taking place, stating the intention to enforce, thus giving mourners the chance to remove tokens and discuss the situation with the Reverend.
I also find it hard to understand the reasoning driving those who would voluntarily undertake such a clearance and apparently dump the items removed in a corner, like so much rubbish. I note from the accompanying pictures that among the discarded miscellany, there appear to be a number of crucifixes. It seems an oddly disrespectful manner in which to treat the symbol of one’s religion; surely a more ordered and considerate accommodation could have been reached.
I’m not a religious man, and have no friends or relations in that particular cemetery. Whilst I consider myself an atheist, I love churches and their architecture, and understand the need for a tidy, respectful place of remembrance. I fully appreciate that sometimes, regulations can be pushed too far and corrective action needs to be taken; but I cannot escape the basic irony of a situation that results from an institution which provides such comfort in parishioners’ darkest hours, choosing to enforce it’s rules in such an apparently insensitive manner. Surely, such a beacon of humanity should be more considerate than this?
If you think I’m wrong, or have anything to add, please feel free to contribute.