Ros and I were talking to our local Church of England priest, the Reverend Barbara Gallagher (we're very up to date here in Creeting St Peter), after the Harvest Festival service over tea and chocolate cake, when she noted that there was a possibility that our benefice (St Mary the Virgin, Earl Stonham, St Mary's, Creeting St Mary and us) might need to be extended to include some, or all, of the churches at Coddenham, Stonham Aspal, and Gosbeck.
Now, whilst that would mean that available priests would be better distributed amongst the churches, that may mean that each church sees less services which, in turn, means that continuity may be lost, and attendance dwindles.
In villages like mine, the church remains at the centre of the community even if not in the way it once was. Once upon a time, most villagers would have attended services but no longer. If thirty people turn up on a Sunday morning, that would be pretty good. However, necessity has led the Parochial Church Council to organise a series of events that combine fundraising for the church with an opportunity to socialise with our neighbours.
Even so, keeping the fabric of the church itself in even half-decent condition is a never-ending battle, especially as parts of it date back to the eleventh century, and given that the parish only contains 260 souls, some of whom wouldn't consider themselves to be Church of England, the burden falls on a relatively small number of parishioners.
Naturally, that also means that maintaining the clergy becomes difficult, and with the Church of England reliant on investment income, collections and parish fundraising, all of which are down, I suspect, all the trends are gloomy ones.
That's a pity, because when churches close, a little piece of a village dies. And when you're as fond of your village as I am, that's a cause of no little regret...