poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘funeral

a place to wait, out of the rain

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My husband and I love to go for drives in the countryside, and we often turn these trips into ‘expeditions for collection’.  For example, in 1992, we began a project to see all the covered bridges in the province; of the more than 60 covered bridges in New Brunswick, we have ‘collected’ about three-quarters.   Recently, we began a quest to see as many waterfalls as possible (the state of my arthritic knees puts the emphasis on the ‘as possible’).

This spring, we set out with a very reasonable goal, to see the three lychgates at Anglican churches in the Diocese of Fredericton (all of the Parishes in New Brunswick are located in the one Diocese).  This idea came from a short article in the New Brunswick Anglican in 1997 by Frank Morehouse (‘Only three lych gates remain in the diocese).  The three lychgates are at St. Anne’s Chapel in Fredericton, St. James Church in Ludlow, and St. Paul’s Church in Hampton.

Lychgates are an architectural remnant of past practice, dating back to the 13th century.  They were used as a part of the funeral service, a place for the priest to meet the body of the deceased on its way to burial, and a shelter for the pall bearers to stand out of the rain.  The word lychgate comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lych meaning corpse.

A typical lychgate is made of wood, and consists of a roof supported by a framework of two or more posts, and a gate hung from the framework.  Lychgates usually stand at the entrance to the church property or the graveyard.  They can be architecturally ornate. 

Today the lychgate is a picturesque feature of the churchyard, but they also create habitat for wild life.  Spiders tuck their webs in the rafters of the structure where they are safe from wind and rain.  The shingled roof of a lychgate is often a place where lichens and mosses can grow without competition from other plants.

Our collection of lychgates at Anglican churches in New Brunswick is complete.  We found the lychgate in Fredericton on a rainy day in April… 

lychgate at St. Anne's Chapel in Fredericton, on a rainy day

… the Ludlow lychgate on a hillside in early July…

lychgate at St. James Church, Ludlow
…and the lychgate in Hampton beside the church and a very old graveyard in August.

lychgate at St. Paul's Church, Hampton... green lichen on the lychgate roof and orange lichen on the stone wall


a place to wait, out of the rain


as if the rain matters

all of us drenched in tears

best for this to be

a grey day

heaven opened

for two way passage


the Sentences encourage me

to lift my eyes

and in the rafters of the lychgate      a spider

spinning its web


as if it were a tale that is told

about a roof that protected me

the sun shall not burn thee by day,

 neither the moon by night

neither the rain


(quotations in the poem are from The Book of Common Prayer, ‘The Order for the Burial of the Dead’,  Canada, 1962)

© Jane Tims 2011

Written by jane tims

August 27, 2011 at 10:07 am

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