Bats in the Belfry

I have never forgotten the Sunday morning, just a few weeks after I arrived, when I climbed into the pulpit and began my sermon with the story of the three vicars who had bats in the belfry. If you were there, you probably remember how it goes. If you weren’t, sadly I don’t have space here to tell you how it ends. In any case, it hasn’t seemed quite so funny since it turned out that I also have bats, not just in the belfry but in other places too – and they’re not housetrained, either.

Bats love old church buildings just as much as many humans do. The buildings tell the stories of those who have prayed in them down the centuries, and the stories of the communities that they serve. But they need looking after, which is why they are inspected by architects every five years.

The bells at St Laurence Church, Hougham had been declared unsafe many years ago and not rung for at least forty years. It was while looking through an architect’s report a while ago that we realised that nobody had inspected the bells in years. Might we walk in one morning and find bits of bell strewn across the floor? Brian Butcher, from Hythe, who knows about these things, kindly agreed to take a look.

The result? Last month the bells rang for a wedding for the first time in decades. Thanks to Brian and his team the bells, which date from around 1500 up to 1724, have been made safe and restored to working order. We’re looking forward to 25th June, when Bishop Trevor Wilmott, Bishop of Dover, will be at the 10.00 am service to rededicate them.

What the bats will make of it is another matter…