Troutbeck: Jesus’ Church

Have you noticed how many parish churches are named after a saint? Gisburn’s is named after the Virgin Mary, Downham after St Leonard. This is relic of ancient paganism, a dim recollection of when temples were dedicated to particular gods. The patron god/saint would afford his or her special protection to the place that bore their name. A more charitable explanation is that the naming helped worshippers recall the fine example set by the saint in question, that they might better emulate the virtue thereof. At Mitton Church, near Whalley, we have All Hallows' church, dedicated to ‘all saints’: that’s one way of securing the maximum blessing and protection available. Curiously, certain Methodist churches adopted the practice- Barnoldswick Methodist is dedicated to St Andrew.

At the Reformation, saint-worship was discontinued, though the authorities retained, sometimes reluctantly, the old names. So in 1563, when a new church was erected at Troutbeck in Westmorland (now Cumbria), the deeds issued by William Downham, the Bishop of Chester, state

The said chapel, oratory or place appointed for prayer called for the honour thereof by the name of “Jesus”

The church continues to be known as Jesus Church, as the noticeboard without proudly proclaims. I was visiting the place on the pretext of family history- my 5x grandparent was baptised here in 1754. The font was more recent and the building, though pretty, was essentially eighteenth century. Yet I was struck by its name. I cannot vouch for the quality of ministry there, nor its evangelical fervour, but this is Jesus’ Church. 


Someone once mistakenly called our own chapel Marsden Top. I laughed but made a mental note that it should never be known as my church; St Alan’s is ain’t. It isn’t my church. It isn’t the trustees’ or the deacons’ church. It’s not even the members’ church- it’s Jesus’ Church.

The churches of Christ greet you (Rom 16:16).