The houses in the village are quiet widely dispersed; in fact the map gives it as two – Higher and Lower Chillington. The population is about ninety: a good mix of age ranges from infant upwards, and they comprise a wide mix of traditional village families and farmers, semi & skilled workers and professionals. The current Church was built in the C13th beside the old pilgrim route to the coast and on to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain: it was named for St James the patron saint of travellers. Sheep House opposite the Church dates from about the same period and was used as a Hospice and café to cater for the needs of the pilgrims. There may well have been an older Church on the same spot.
The Church is quite small and the regular congregation – going back to about 1900, has usually only ever been two or three people, subsequently it has faced closure for many years and about four years ago the building was in very poor condition. At about that time the Church Council decided that things had to change or the village would indeed lose its ancient holy place. Money was raised and over the last few years more than twenty thousand pounds has been raised and spent on repairs to the fabric; concrete pointing chiselled out and replaced with traditional mortar; internal walls stripped, dried out and lime-washed; broken floor supports renewed; monuments repaired and re-fixed to walls; Dove window replaced (by a kind donation of a local family); sheep-gate refurbished; new hedge planted (by a local farming family).
The issue of congregation size has also been addressed; rather than hold a regular service with hardly anyone there, the council decided that it was time to make the church serve the needs of the community rather than try to make the community fit the ways of the church. We now hold about ten services a year at times of special celebration – for the church and for the village (!!) and there is a social event afterwards. This has been very successful and is reflected not just in the size of the congregation (between 25 and 70) but in the attitude of the people who are served by the Church.
The Council now regularly reviews what services the Church has and what needs the village has that the Church can help with, as well as its secondary duties of raising funds to support ministry and maintain the building (the next major project will be repairs to the retaining wall around the boundary).