The dedication of churches to a particular saint is something that we are inclined to take for granted and we use shorthand versions for ease all the time. Barts this and Nicks that, even Pip and Jim, and so on. Bartholomew the Apostle, as today’s commemoration is designated, is a particular case in point, as Bartholomew has four syllables and that is easily reduced.
Occasionally we find a church with no dedication and it is referred to by its place name. Ballintoy Church on the north coast of Ireland is an example. It is painted white and stands out very obviously against the surrounding fields and onwards to the sea. We have a placemat with scenes of Northern Ireland on them and I was showing this one of, “the white church” to my granddaughter a few weeks ago. She, like Edward our oldest grandchild, always refers to St Mary’s Church as, “St Mary’s Church” not just as, “The Church” - and usually with regard to its most important attribute: a clock that chimes the hour. Anyway, back to Ballintoy, which is a lovely hamlet by the sea. I said to Robyn, “I’ll go and look up what the dedication of the white church is.” To my surprise I found it has no dedication. So it is just, “Ballintoy”. There seem to be a few other churches in that area that similarly lack dedications.
The fact that we have scant knowledge of a person or dedication does not, of course make that person or that church any less important. We have little information about Bartholomew the Apostle, for example. He is usually linked in the New Testament with Phillip and may be identified with Nathaniel in St John’s Gospel. He was certainly one of our Lord’s disciples and a witness of the Resurrection. All Saints’ Church in Swanage is running a series of sermons on the apostles at the moment. Its dedication is not shortened, but sometimes in casual speech the emphasis is on the ‘All’ and sometimes on the ‘Saints’ - have you noticed that?