Not being a native to these lands, I try to get out and about as much as possible. Within England, there is a strange fascination with ‘day trips’. Understandably this is not a uniquely English convention, it is more the destinations of these excursions that I find most curious. When visiting the States recently, destinations for day outs included: theme parks, arcades and shopping malls. Even though I was staying with incredible religious people, the only time they interacted with a church was in the form of Sunday service. They saw churches as sacred buildings to be entered into only if one was pure of heart and intent. The idea of taking a day trip to a church, as the form of some kind of recreation, was almost abhorrent to their morals.
Perhaps its because the average American church was not built to inspire awe in its followers. Early American Christians could simply be humbled by the savage land that they found themselves in, for them the Church was a safe haven from the brutality of their day to day existence. As a result, these religious structures were built with economy and stability in mind, rather than bombast. Unlike the churches and cathedrals that you’ll find in England and Wales (I’ve yet to venture further North to Scotland, although I’ve heard wonderful things!). Indeed, even the most humble of English village churches have a certain grand Gothic appeal to them.
Last weekend, I decided to book myself a little break in Wales. I’d not explored the area that much, and I’d heard great things from some of my Welsh co-workers (rather unsurprisingly!). I hopped in my Chevy after work on Friday and set off for a long drive. Armed with a list of tourist destinations, pubs and interesting churches (thanks to my assistant Huw!) I left the city behind me and headed across the border and into the heart of Wales. I could tell you about the delicious pies I ate, or the charming locals that I met there – but this is not a blog about food or communities (more’s the pity). There is but one place that I know will stay with me for a long time to come. Hidden away, atop of the vale of Alyn lies a Church so stunning that I almost felt the kind of religious fervor that it was probably built to inspire.
All Saints Church, situated in Gresford, will be the one place that I will recommend to anyone travelling to North Wales. Forget the throwaway seaside towns, and the austere country homes; this is a place where you do not need a pocketful of change or pamphlet to find your way around. The locals are more than happy to tell you about the church’s history and, if you’re lucky, you’ll bump into the charming minister there who will bless you on your way out. My time in Wales was pleasant, but my visit to All Saint Church was magical and, just for a moment, this atheist was nearly converted in to a true believer.