Penistone Parish Church

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A Tour of Penistone Church
Penistone Parish Church (C of E) is a fine medieval building and landmark for the town dedicated to Saint John (the Baptist, not the 'Revelator') and some comers-in call it 'St. John's'. The Church is built of local stone although its original date of construction is somewhat lost in history. There are foundations of an earlier church from around 900 AD but most of the present building was erected in the 1300s and expanded over the years. A square Norman tower on the West side was added around 1500. It has a melodic and joyful carillon of eight bells and it is unusual in having clocks on two sides. There is an old Saxon cross built into an interior wall. Please see the church history page for more details.

1 Inside the church View from the pulpitChurch in 2003Red Phone Box
2 Church exterior
3 Going up the tower
4 Views from the top

The Proper Name
Let's get the name right. In recent times, the proper name of 'Penistone Parish Church' has being avoided in favour of plain 'St. John's' in various announcements and writings, to make it equivalent to St. Andrew's and St. Mary's', etc. No doubt they will have an apparently equal stature on a list of names. But there are a lot of St John's Churches around. There's one in Upper Denby for example. It also devalues the special status of Penistone Church with its thousand years of history. Nothing against The Baptist, you understand. He was one of my favourite biblical characters.

Only one church in Penistone could simply be called 'Penistone Church', by virtue of its prominence, antiquity and location. In any case, older Penistonians think that 'St. John's' refers to the nearby community centre, as that was its old name as a school. Of course, the town council and local radio will feel compelled to use the currently approved title but most local people call it by its normal and proper name.

Guide Booklet
New guide bookletA marvellous new booklet has been produced which is well illustrated and contains a lot of history about local churches of Penistone C of E team ministry. It has details of: Penistone Parish Church, Thurlstone St Saviour's, Carlecotes St. Anne's, Midhopestones St. James' and Oxspring St. Aidan's.

Local graphics designer Adele Tolladay (see gablelake) has worked her usual special magic to make it a pleasant object for the bookshelf. I urge everyone to purchase a copy. It costs around £3 and can be obtained from Penistone church, which is usually open Saturday mornings and Market Days for tea and biscuits.

New and Improved Facilities
The church was refurbished in 2007 as part of the 'Open Doors' project. Community activities in the church expanded to encourage more interest, usually with coffee and buns or lunch each Saturday. These were the plans:

It is easy to take for granted that Penistone Church will always be there for weddings, funerals and christenings. But other churches have been turned into dwellings, carpet warehouses or even used for more primitive religions, so we must always be aware of that possibility. For their part church-goers have a big struggle to make visitors welcome, actively encourage people to worship there and - I would emphasise - to respect the sanctity of our fine medieval church. It should always remember its true intent and be there for moments when people just want some quiet contemplation.

I hope that the church people might try to imagine what motivated those ancient people when they built our fine church stone by stone. I hope that they will also feel the unseen eyes of thousands of people through the ages who reverentially passed through the doors in their Sunday best, wedding clothes or funeral clothes. After that I hope that they might imagine that the church does not actually belong to them. They are just temporary custodians, keeping it safe and intact for future generations. It belongs to the people of Penistone.

That Religious Feeling
As a sort of non-sectarian Christian-ish person I don't usually go to church except for special occasions. Even so, I understand that special and humbling feeling which is found in well looked after churches around the world where congregations are very devout. It is called 'holy' and leads you to be quiet and respectful. It can be found in any Polish church and I would say particularly the cathedrals of Poznan and Częstochowa. Also any Greek Orthodox church. Lincoln cathedral and Huddersfield parish church still have the magic. I feel reverence and sanctity in them and I have enjoyed my own moments of quiet contemplation in them all. None of them had a toilet or a kitchen in the active part of the church.

That holy feeling is hard to describe but comes from the dignity of a place and the respect that its worshippers feel for it. A holy place should always have this sanctity and respect. Ask any Pole about Częstochowa and they would be proud to explain its special value to them. The Poles and the Greeks know how to do 'holy'.

As a tourist, I once visited a small chapel in a Romanian monastery. The then communist government pushed it as a tourist destination and it had a continuous stream of visitors. I was horrified to see how the lack of reverence affected those who used it as a place of prayer and contemplation. And yet it still had a special atmosphere in spite of official attempts to ruin its purpose. A devout old Romanian lady was in tears as loud and brash Americans bellowed inane remarks and took flash photos. They were indifferent to her distress but I quietly crept out, ashamed to be a tourist there. The old lady knew what was in danger of being lost.

Sanctity is 'Dead'
I have been told by local church people that 'sanctity is an old-fashioned concept' and that we must move with the times. I have been told that table tennis has been allowed in the church, to encourage young people into the church and, in 2013, there was a Beer Festival held in the church. Not very dignified for a place of worship. A recent visit to Penistone Church was not a good experience. It was an art exhibition. I don't do art but fancied a look around the church. What greeted me was a ghetto-blaster blaring out a mindless cacophony and at the other end was the usual huddle of old people trying to ignore it all, whilst sipping tea. Very off-putting and I walked straight out.

Church Procession 2007
On a 2007 gift day, PGS Samba Band stirred Penistone up with a vigorous drum performance in their procession to Penistone Church. The first picture is from that procession with Penistone Mayor of the day Cllr Unsworth in the cross-bearer's wake. You might call it 'a cross on the crossing'. In fact the vicar looks a bit cross with me as well.

Cross crossingPGS Samba BandInterior

Other Penistone Area Churches

Churches Together
Churches Together in England is the national body set up in 1990, and has partner bodies in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Churches Together in England is a visible sign of the Churches' commitment as they seek a deepening of their communion with Christ and with one another, and proclaim the Gospel together by common witness and service. Its strength comes from people from different traditions finding new ways to work and worship together.

These local churches and chapels are members of the Penistone group.

See also these pages:

Visitor information can be found in Penistone Church on all Thursday Market Days, 10am - 12.30pm and in Penistone Library.

Penistone Church of England -
Penistone Church on Wikipedia.
Church Heritage -
Grants for Yorkshire churches:

Back Top Home H. G. Wells (1866-1946) - 'Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo.'