St Lawrence Church Bidborough

St Lawrence Church, Bidborough

Know God, Show His Love, Grow His Church

Southborough Team

800th Anniversary

Vicar's View - April / May 2018

Bidborough Church

Jessie, Violet, Charles, Elsie, Lily, Myrtle, Stanley, Stanley, Blanche, Jane, Doris, Thomas, Alma, John, Charles and Grace. Friends of mine? Actually, the names of the first sixteen children whose baptisms are recorded in the wonderful clasp-fronted register kept in the safe in the vestry at St Lawrence's Church. These children, sons and daughters of gardeners, smiths, carpenters, gamekeepers, labourers and a railway ticket collector, were all baptised here at the very end of the nineteenth century. Interestingly, whilst neither Stephen nor Elizabeth grace the top 100 names given to babies in 2017, Lily, Violet, Ivy, Ruby and Stanley are all well back in vogue, over a century later.

This lovely old white book, with its copper-plate entries by the Reverends Ellis, Sweetnam, Bainbridge, Taylor-Wilson, Bartle, Skinner, and Hodge, records every baptism for very nearly a century - the last page was filled up in 1993. A world of gamekeepers, carters and coachmen may seem alien to Bidborough-dwellers of today, and yet this baptism register covers barely 10% of the time that St Lawrence's had stood here on the hilltop, declaring the presence of God in this place, and, through His people - the church - serving the needs of those who live here. For centuries those would have been the basic needs too. Wealthy local families linked to the church - Smythe, Deacon and others - donated money that bought bread for the poor, and provided education for Bidborough's children.

The world has changed. Bidborough has changed. The place and role of the church in society has changed. And yet, as spring arrives and the daffodils dare to open after the long cold grey weeks of this late winter, I start to get phone calls and emails from families requesting baptisms (or christenings, as they are more widely known outside the church) for their young children. Those happy services give us at St Lawrence's the opportunity to welcome a child and his or her family and to pray for them, as parents and godparents commit to bringing up their child within the love of God and in His ways. The current baptism register is not as grand as the old one, nor are the entries written in such a flowing hand, but as each new name is added, a connection between that family and this place is recorded. Some of those will turn out to be long-standing - I have baptised children whose great grandfather was baptised here in the century before last.

As part of the anniversary of 800 years since St Lawrence's first became a Parish Church, we are going to celebrate baptism with a special service at 11.00 on May 20th - Pentecost Sunday. Were you, or your grandparents, parents, children or grandchildren, baptised at St Lawrence's? Then why not come along and give thanks again for the lives of those people and this place.

Turning the pages of the old baptism register, seeing the surnames repeat every 20-30 years down the generations, the Christian names go in and out of favour, and the livelihoods of Bidborough residents change for ever, has reminded me of the constancy and faithfulness of God. His church in this place has stood for over 800 years and will stand for hundreds more. His love for those of us who live here will go on for ever, and in this Easter season comes the invitation to journey through the Cross and to live in that love here, now, and for all eternity.

Stephen Hills

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May 2018

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Thursday 4:00-5:00pm in the small village hall.

Crisis Recovery

The Day Centre would be happy to receive donations of second-hand clean clothes and shoes for their guests (particularly men’s clothing). If you can help please get in touch with Alan Richards on 528916.


There is a Traidcraft stall in Church on the first Sunday of every month. Please support this worthwhile project.

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