St Olaf's Church, Wasdale
St Olaf's Church in Wasdale Head, Cumbria, is one of England's smallest churches. The earliest record of the church is from 1550, though it probably predates this, as the beams are said to come from a Viking longship.
The church was dedicated to St Olaf in 1977, before which it had no name. The parson of that time, the Reverend Raymond Bowers, had friends in Norway, and it was he who suggested the name. One of the current churchwardens, Bill Bailey, has written a guide to the church and the Wasdale valley: The Vikings: Wasdale Head and Their Church. The book sought to clarify the age of the church; and to mark the 2nd millennium the Bishop of Penrith, the Right Reverend Richard Garrard, made a unilateral declaration—on the Sunday nearest the Feast of St Olaf, 30 July 2000—that the church building was at least 1,000 years old, dating from before AD 1000. At the same time, the bishop dedicated a "millennium stone" on the Wasdale Head Green, using the stone as an altar for the service.
The church has long been associated with British climbers. The south window has a small pane within it with an etching of Napes Needle on Great Gable. A well-attended silence is kept every year on Remembrance Sunday at 11 am.
The church is part of the Benefice of St. Mary, Gosforth; St. Michael & All Angels, Nether Wasdale; and St Olaf, Wasdale Head. The Parish Priest for the Benefice of Gosforth is John Riley, assisted by his ordained wife, Lesley. Retired Priest Gavin Walker acts as Chaplain for Wasdale and Hannah Norris is Lay Pastoral Minister. Mr Bill Bailey and Hannah Norris are also members of the Parochial Church Council at Wasdale Head. The deputy churchwarden is Andrew Lopez, part of a local farming family in Wasdale.
The church is open to visitors in the daytime. As well as a Visitors Book at the back of the church, a Prayer Book is kept near the front where Prayer Requests may be written. The Book is read by ministera once weekly during the summer months (monthly during the winter), and people and situations are then prayed for. These are usually also included at the next Service. Services are held at major festivals such as Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, and most Sundays throughout British Summer Time. Notice of any other Services are displayed on the Hymn Board in the church, as well as on the weekly Notice Sheet and the monthly Church Magazine is available in any of the Churches in the Benefice.
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