Monday, 26 September 2011

Lady in the Churchyard

An American woman in her early sixties, in a white trim jacket, stepped up to us outside the church from nowhere. Had she been sitting musing in this 12th century porch?

“Which guide are you reading from?“ she asked with eager interest.
“Arthur Mee’s Kent”, I replied. ”From the series of guide books called “The Kings England”.

She was bursting to share her story as if she had been waiting all day just to meet us. She had come all the way from The States to see for herself the proud extension and dedication that an American ancestor had built in this parish Church, to mark their family going back to the vicar who had pastored there in the England of Queen Elizabeth 1st.  He too, like her, had crossed the Atlantic Ocean to seek his forefather, and had drawn meaning from the lovely Kent town from which his family had fled, to find work in the New World.

This Sunday afternoon, this lady was the gatekeeper of this porch, and extension. This Church door was her ancestral family seat.  History, family and heritage had dramatically come together for her, in this one place.   

Yet her mind was also on America.  She told us that her family had left Kent to flee unemployment, to start a new life in America.  Now she too was unemployed, as are millions of her countryfolk. 

The recession, she said, had changed or shaken a sense of America.  She told us that many now wondered if the Amish had been "right all along" in their self sufficiency, their rural way of life, their mutual independent medical support and in acquiring extensive lands.  Then her thoughts turned towards her apparently more secure ancestors, in the Old World. Here too, we told her, is "serious unemployment".

She shared part of this rivetting story in a strong voice, in the ancient Church. She would not hush for passers-by. She had come thousands of miles to share it. She would speak it. 

We were glad she did.   It was a part of England’s history too and better than the entry for this town, by Arthur Mee.

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