Next Friday I am giving a Halloween lecture in St John the Baptist’s church in Bristol. It is a fantastic venue. In the 12th century there were five churches built into Bristol’s city walls, acting both as part of the city’s defences, and as places for travellers to offer prayers before a journey. St John’s is the only one that remains. The present church dates from the 14th century and the interior still feels medieval. Walter Frampton (died 1388), who was mayor of the city three times, founded the church, and his splendid monument stands in the chancel. His effigy lies on a tombchest decorated with heraldic shields, with a long-tailed dog at his feet.
So, a lecture about supernatural beliefs, Halloween and religion delivered by an AAA (apathetic atheist/agnostic-depending on how you define your god that you want me to reject) in a church, followed by a wine reception in the crypt below. Have I gone too far?
The church is decommissioned but still sanctified. Falling church attendances mean that many churches up an down the country face similar futures. Of course, the irony is that Halloween was once a pagan festival to rid the village of malevolent spirits. Possibly a religion if you wish to call it that. Certainly it was a ceremonial ritual to address the belief in supernatural entities. Down the track from where I live in the countryside, is a 5,000 year-old burial mound of another defunct religion- this time maintained by the National Trust. It would seem that all religions are doomed but leave behind legacies.
I happen to like many religious monuments and buildings. They are a testament to the strength of conviction and inspiration that religious beliefs can generate. I may be a non-believer but I will be donating my speaker’s fee to the fund to support the upkeep of St John’s.