For our family holiday this year we returned to Wasdale Head in the English Lake District. It is such a wonderful place to stay, with the benefit of being much quieter than other parts of the Lake District (because of its inaccessibility and because there is nothing to do here other than go walking in the hills or swim in the lake)!
St. Olaf’s Church is one of, if not the smallest church buildings in England. In the picture above it is all but hidden amongst a circle of Yew trees, with Kirk Fell and Great Gable in the background (larger version on Flickr here). The church has been there for at least a thousand years, some of the original timbers apparently being those from a Viking Longship.
The four of us bundled into one of the pews for a Sunday evening celebration of Holy Communion. It was one of the highlights of our holiday, the visiting clergyman gave an excellent sermon and it was wonderful to share the bread and the wine with such a variety of people, locals and fellow hill-walkers alike. (Photo on Flickr here.)
This window, with the quote from Psalm 121 is dedicated to the members of the Fell and Rock Climbing club who lost their lives in the First World War. It looks out on to the church yard and the graves of numerous climbers who died in the surrounding hills and of those who simply wanted to be buried here in such beautiful surroundings. In the background you can just about make out the north facing slope of Lingmell. (Photo on Flickr here.)
The origin of our word ‘holiday’ comes of course from ‘holy day’, a day set apart for God. There really is something special, spiritual and holy about walking among and being in these hills and I cannot think of any better way of expressing it than in those words of the Psalmist quoted above. St. Olaf’s may be the smallest church, near the highest mountain and the deepest lake in England, but perhaps here more than most other places, it is not necessary to confine one’s worship to a building because praise, worship and thanksgiving come so naturally in these most beautiful surroundings, just as much today as they did to those original Viking settlers over a thousand years ago.