Teaching the Gospel
The central mission of the Church is to teach the Good News of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Gospels. Across the centuries, teaching the message of salvation has been the main role of Ugborough church and it has taken many forms.
Sermons and the Pulpit.
Across the centuries, the main way of teaching the Gospel has been through sermons. For much of the Middle Ages, sermons in parish churches were uncommon as parish priests were expected to focus on the sacraments and pastoral care of parishioners. By the later Middle Ages, sermons were starting to be introduced, especially in towns and also in parishes with learned clergymen, which may have been the case in Ugborough. Sermons were more often delivered in Advent and Lent rather than on Sundays.
From the Reformation onwards, sermons became popular and held at least once a week, on Sundays. In the 17th and 18th centuries, sermons might last an hour; with the reintroduction of the communion service as the main form of worship, they have become shorter in length.
Pulpits have been used to deliver sermons since around the 15th century. It allows a preacher to be seen and heard by the whole congregation. In Ugborough, the current pulpit is thought by some experts to be 15th century, but by others to be a Victorian copy of a medieval pulpit. It has been altered: it may once have been brightly painted; now it is whitewashed. It has also been moved: medieval pulpits were on the south side of the nave, but the current position in on the north side, very close to the screen.
Wall paintings showing the life of Jesus Christ, of his mother Mary, the lives of saints and stories from the Bible, covered the walls of parish churches in the Middle Ages. They were an important way of teaching parishioners – most of whom could not read and write – the stories of their faith. At Ugborough, before the Reformation, there may have been several colourful paintings adorning the walls, but if there were any, they are now gone. Protestants considered it to be wrong to make images of God and the saints, so at the Reformation, walls were whitewashed to cover up such pictures.
Instead, from the reign of Elizabeth I, it became common for churches to put up boards or to paint walls with texts from the Bible and also the royal coat of arms. The only remaining wall painting at Ugborough is in the north aisle of the church, beneath the roof bosses. This contains some verses from the Bible [Ecclesiastes 5.1, Jeremiah 7.2-3], which appears to have been painted in the 18th century.
In the Middle Ages, few people could read the Bible as most ordinary were not literate and in any case, the Bible was in Latin.
With the Reformation, reading the English Bible became central to Protestantism, whether it was individual reading or public reading aloud in church. In September 1538, Thomas Cromwell issued Injunctions requiring every parish church to acquire a Great Bible and to place it where it might be read. There is no record of a Bible of this date in Ugborough church but one must have been acquired in the reign of Elizabeth, if not before.
Bibles were purchased across the centuries. A new Bible was purchased in 1665 for £2 15s. In 1822, the church's Bible was in need of repair. There are still two Victorian Bibles dating to the 1850s in the vestry. These are lecture Bibles, for reading aloud during services.
Stained Glass Windows
Windows were another important way of teaching the stories of the Bible and the lives of saints. There is no surviving medieval glass at Ugborough. The current windows were mostly installed in 1861-65. They depict scenes from the Old and above all, the New Testaments, especially the life of Christ, symbols of his Passion and the Evangelists. Most of the windows were paid for by individual parishioners or families in remembrance of their deceased relatives and friends. The glass was produced by Powell & Son who owned the Whitefriar’s Glass Company, London.
The Sunday School.
In the 19th and 20th centuries there was an active Sunday school. In 1851, around 80 children attended regularly; in 1903 the Sunday School roll was 99 and there were 4 male and 6 female volunteer teachers. In the 1950s and 1960s, children’s services were being held monthly. The annual ‘treat’ or summer outing was very popular. In the 1920s and 1930s, the outing was to Bigbury.
Today, there is an all-age service on the first Sunday of each month and a children’s corner, for children to play in.