Reverend Lydia Smith writes …
Last week I climbed the tower at St John’s Church Layer de la Haye. It was an interesting journey, to say the least. Up the narrow spiral stairs to the ringing chamber, where the bell ropes hung, ready for action. Then a few more steps, until we reached the bell loft: here the stairs ended and the ladders began – all 3 of them. Up close and personal with the bells and the original medieval frame, this was a great opportunity to see what generates the sound of ringing on Sunday mornings.
But that was not why I was there – instead it was to see the view from the top. From the tower at Layer Church you have a 360-degree view over the countryside. There’s Abberton reservoir nearby and beyond it the river Blackwater and the Dengie peninsular. There were fields laid out with the blue flowers of flax beginning to show, along with trees in full leaf, distant buildings, the snaking black tarmac of roads and the slowly turning white blades of wind turbines.
It’s much noted that when astronauts on the Apollo space missions first saw the earth from space, they found their understanding of the world and themselves changed for good. They found themselves drawn into a deeper appreciation of the planet and a desire to care for the world and its people. The phenomenon has even got a name: overview effect.
But you don’t have to go into space for a transforming perspective shift. You can gain it from the window of a plane as you head off on holiday, from the top of a tall building, or even just at ground level. Looking intently at such a view takes us out of ourselves, gives us a sense of the wider landscape of our world or our neighbourhood, and perhaps a better sense of our place in it. It can help us to love where we are better and to be thankful for it. One of the poets who contributed to the book of Psalms puts it like this:
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?
The writer reflects in wonder at whole of creation – earth and the other planets, plant and animal life and humans. And on the privileged position of people in this greater view of things – beings whom God has formed and loved.
The poem ends as it began, in praise and thanksgiving: O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
If you’d like to see the view I began with, Layer church tower is open on Sunday afternoons in August – see http://www.layerchurches.org.uk/upcoming.htm for details.