February 26, 2023
MUSIC, LAUGHTER AND FOOD FOR THE BODY AND SOUL
By Alec Charles
St Mary’s Church in Bradoc is renowned as one of the most beautiful medieval churches in Cornwall. Dating back to the sixth century, its graveyard, swathed each spring in a sea of bluebells, circumscribes the original structures of the old Norman building, extended in the early fifteenth century into the church we know today.
People have worshipped at the site for more than 1,400 years. In more recent times, however, St Mary’s has developed a reputation for the efforts it has made to reach out into, and offer support to, the local community. Much of this is thanks to the energies of Robert Pearce, a dedicated supporter of the parish.
Last November, the church launched a new initiative intended to offer weekly access to a warm and friendly space to local people through the bleak months of the winter – people impacted, as so many of us have been, by the cost-of-living crisis and the massively inflated prices of heating our own homes.
Supported by the Diocese of Truro’s Energy Mission Fund, the parish now plans to turn these popular ‘Warm Wednesdays’ gatherings into a year-long scheme, one that will carry on running every year.
“For anybody and everybody…”
“It’s for anybody and everybody,” says Rob. “You can join us on a Wednesday, have a bit of fun, meet some people and increase your friendships. It doesn’t matter who you are, you can come along, get some food and chat to people.”
With about 25 regular participants, the gatherings have attracted a range of local people. “Some are retired,” says Rob. “And in the school holidays mums bring their young ones with them. People who come often then also bring along their friends and neighbours the next time they join us.
“People aren’t there for religion – it’s to have fun and meet people – it’s rather like pubs used to be. It helps people overcome the loneliness that can come from living in a rural parish.
“We meet in the north transept – if you’re in another part of the church, you can hear the peals of laughter!”
The parish team provide soup or stew with a roll, plus cake, tea and coffee. People chat and reminisce, play cards and even play the piano.
“Thanks to grants from the diocese and from a local landfill company, we have a grand piano,” Rob explains. “Children can learn on it, and people who come on Wednesdays get to play it in our beautiful medieval church. Some people even come back on other days to practise on it!”
This is just one of many ways in which St Mary’s works with local people and local schools to support its parishioners, old and young.
“We’re working to connect with our community, with the children, with their families, their parents and their grandparents,” enthuses Rob.
They’ve certainly achieved some very notable successes. In the last seven years, the size of their worshipping community had grown nearly tenfold.
Rob is particularly proud of how such activities as their handbell-ringing sessions have encouraged young people to pursue musical interests. “One boy who played music with us went on to study music, and is now a music teacher,” Rob says.
He believes that it’s this kind of positive impact on the lives of local people which make all these efforts worthwhile.