Methodist churches and chapels rarely have a graveyard attached – Space for us is to be found in the municipal cemetery or grounds of the crematorium. It is around parish churches of the Church of England that many graves of the faithful are to be found and visited with respect.
Visits to graveyards give clues to the past of the family and to the lives of neighbours and acquaintances – a gentle setting for reminiscence, with the added benefit of time in the fresh air.
The health and spiritual benefits of spending time in the great outdoors for all of us, including people with dementia, are appreciated, but we are being taught they may vary according to your cultural background: Studies on nature’s mental health benefits show ‘massive’ western bias | Indigenous peoples | The Guardian
Unhappily the availability of accessible green spaces has been receiving less priority of late – immediate profit ignoring the long-term benefits Parks near new homes shrink 40% as developers say they cannot afford them | Parks and green spaces | The Guardian
This leaves emphasis on the potential of established areas with natural growth and wildlife: so other dimensions of churchyards (and other cemeteries) are being realised: God’s own gardens: why churchyards are some of our wildest nature sites | Wildlife | The Guardian
There are indeed a number of initiatives which aim to celebrate the wildlife of churchyards and to encourage people to spend time in them and get to know the plants and creatures which make their homes there: Wilder Churches | Somerset Wildlife Trust
There is poetry and romance in this.
Some are eager to do away with older church buildings, construing them as ‘graven’ subjects attracting a corrupt version of worship at odds with the essence of spiritual faith. These buildings and the land around them do make a statement and provide physical and time space for us to be nearer the earth and the Creator – times past and times to come. There is the potential for healing in the here-and-now amongst the plants and bushes, trees, birds, insects and others of the natural world.