Garsdale Street Windows

The Primitive Methodist Chapel at Garsdale Street, Cumbria, has hard, wooden pews, which appear even less comfortable than the one at Salem Chapel. Ours sometimes allow individuals a good half hour’s sleep while I preach. At Garsdale Street, the views are better than ours, too. Whereas we can behold hills and fields, they sat beneath the dramatic fells and dales. To prevent these magnificent landscapes from detracting from the preacher, perhaps, the lower panes had been frosted or patterned. The bored auditor may have looked up at the outside sky, or the ceiling, his neighbour’s toupee or his own eyelids, but the gorgeous views were not then his to admire. Similarly at Martin Top, the best views are at our rear, to the back of the congregation. Only the preacher may just about view them, and he of all people ought to be able to avoid the distraction.


The splendour of the natural world ought to point us to the great Creator God whose handiwork it is. Yet created things can also obscure our understanding of God. ‘Natural theology’, which persuaded eighteenth-century theologians to abandon scripture and just deduce God’s character from nature drifted into the drab Unitarianism and ultra-liberalism we see today. Even advocates of Natural Law, the ethical system employed by the Roman Church, exchanged Aquinas’ primary precept of ‘worshipping God’ to 'appreciating nature’s beauty'. Idols of stone, wood, silver and gold are instances of our worshipping the created rather than the Creator. If, during a proclamation of the gospel, one is preoccupied or distracted by this or that, we imperil our spiritual wellbeing. I suspect that the Georgian architect of 1817 who had our backs to that lovely landscape, and those glaziers of Garsdale Street, knew exactly what they were doing.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Saviour,
And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

-Helen Lemmel, 1922