God banner
Christianity frontpageChurches I Have Known

St Mark's, Talbot Village, Bournemouth
This rather stately neo-Gothic Victorian church is where I went through my somewhat unsatisfactory baptism. I returned for my sister's in 1976, and have been back a couple of times; abortively about 2003 when my usual church was closed and I was looking for a communion service (there wasn't one at St Mark's anyway), and again more successfully in 2010 when I attended the early Sunday communion along with nearly a hundred other people. I was boggling until I realised they were almost all parents who come to get their children into the immensely over-subscribed junior school. That's why they've built a gigantic extension to the church which is bigger than the original building! Website here ...
St Mark's Talbot Village
St Paul's, Kirby Road, Leicester
Just a single visit to this church, but obviously a significant one - where an atheist took communion for the first time. A great echoey Victorian barn of a church, and in common with a lot of Victorian churches in poor districts on the edge of cities it was quite advanced Anglo-Catholic for its day. Sadly, 'its day' has now passed - the old church building was declared redundant in 2002, and the church congregation now worships in an adapted community centre nearby. A shame - look how magnificent that east end apse is - but at least they're still going.
St Paul's Kirby Road
St Mary de Castro, Leicester
Long, dark, medieval, with lights and candles glinting in the dark ... a magically atmospheric and beautiful church. Worship was still '1662 with incense' and so ceremonious the Gospel reading was actually chanted. I first attended worship here on St Lucy's Day, 1991, and walked there crunching through the snow of a December evening. The servers and clergy outnumbered the congregation! The last occasion was on Easter Day 1992. The sun shafted through the clouds of incense, but the celebrant wasn't the Vicar but a stand-in priest who had such a nasal Old-Etonian twang that when he sang, far, far off at the great High Altar, it sounded like Mongolian throat-singing. I understand it hasn't really changed! They do a Mass for King Charles the Martyr which tells you everything. Website here ...
St Mary de Castro, Leicester
The Minster Church of St Mary & St Cuthberga, Wimborne
Wimborne Minster was my church for a couple of years while I was working in the little Dorset town, gradually getting into the habit of churchgoing, and for several years afterwards whenever I was staying with Mum and Dad. It's grand, but somehow friendly, and I'd always been taken by it since going there on a primary school trip. The congregation is fairly middle-class with a sprinkling of gentry, and the worship 'floral and choral' - the Minster kept a robed choir right the way through since the Middle Ages, with a short interruption during the Commonwealth! Somewhere beneath it are the remains of the Anglo-Saxon abbess St Cuthberga and the pre-Conquest king Ethelred. Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve is always stunningly beautiful - the Choir sing the Sanctus and Agnus in Latin to a 14th-century tune which (I think) originated at the Minster. Website here ...
Wimborne Minster
St John's, Chatham
Worryingly, this is another church which has now closed ... Years ago St John's absorbed St Mary's, the ancient parish church of Chatham, and now has itself been amalgated with the local United Reformed congregation to form 'Emmaus'. The old church was really declining, sadly, having been a thriving and fairly High church at one time. Unfortunately development in Chatham isolated it from the town centre by a ring-road, and the closure of the Dockyard and the economic problems of the town really did it no favours. Emmaus seems to be working well, but the old church was left redundant. In 2006 it actually housed a hydroponic vineyard as part of an art project to symbolise the slow regeneration of Chatham! I was Confirmed here and became a server, so I have a lot to thank St John's for. I think.
St John's, Chatham
St Francis's, Terriers, High Wycombe
Designed by Giles Gilbert Scott in 1930, St Francis's represents the final flowering of the Gothic Revival. The site falls away steeply on the east side, so the church culminates in an enormous, dramatic, windowless east end - the rest is a little more pedestrian! I only worshipped here a year - the congregation wasn't huge but got on well and were trying to discover what God wanted of them, which can't be bad. Website here ...
St Francis's, Terriers
St Mary & St George, Sands, High Wycombe
I moved house and so, accordingly, moved church - unknowingly to within yards of the most Anglo-Catholic church for 30 miles around, abounding in incense, candles, Benediction, an eastward-facing High Mass on a Sunday, and all sorts. Unfortunately it had had its problems over the years. Its current vicar when I arrived had been sent in by the Bishop to clean it up or close it down, and just succeeded in doing the former. Here I got thoroughly immured in Church life, as server, Church Council member, and even (shudder) Deanery Synod representative. And it fostered my 'vocation' - by the means of the churchwardens making me take services during the 18 months when we had no priest!
SS Mary and George's, High Wycombe
St Michael's, Colehill
This is actually my sister's church, so I can't say much about it really, but I tended to go there when I stayed over Sundays in Dorset. It's an odd beast, built of brick and timber and the only church I've ever been to which is actually too hot on occasion! A villagey sort of church. Website here ...
St Michael's, Colehill
St John the Evangelist, Iffley Road, Oxford
St John's is a true oddity - the only English parish church in the care of a theological college. While I was at St Stephen's House studying for the priesthood this was my regular place of worship. The staff and students man the services. It used to be the church of the Cowley Fathers, an Anglican order of monks who were based here in East Oxford. Inside rather austere and chilly - much as you'd expect of a church founded by monks. Its website now highlights its activities as an arts venue, but you can't apparently work out when the services are - and services there must be, because part of the agreement transferring the monastery to St Stephen's was thatthere would be a mass in St John's, open to the public, every day, forever!
St John's, Iffley Road, Oxford
St James's, Weybridge
St James' was where I served my curacy, a grand church with an 'English Catholic' tradition where the musical side of things is very strong indeed, having been built up over generations. Its soubriquet of 'the Cathedral of the Thames Valley' is possibly a little hubristic as the Thames Valley already has three of its own! Website here ...
St James's, Weybridge
St Jude's, Englefield Green
For 8 months I was 'on loan' to the church of St Jude, a village-type church not too far from Virginia Water, during its vicar's absence serving with the TA. They are a good lot there, and the experience was really worthwhile. For me, anyway. You'd have to ask them what they thought. At least the place is still standing. I know they've successfully completed a big and handsome-looking building project in 2014, but Google says their website 'may seriously harm your computer', which is a bit of a blow.
St Jude's, Englefield Green
St John's, Farncombe
In 2009, when my curacy was coming to an end, the Bishop decided I should go and have a look at St John's, Farncombe. They thought I was OK and I thought they were, so that was where I ended up. Very much a village, community church, though with a longstanding Catholic-side-of-centre orientation which naturally I have done nothing to water down (quite the opposite). We had a major refurbishment in 2012 and what Nikolaus Pevsner described, somewhat harshly we feel, as a 'dull lancet chapel' is now rather beautiful. The parish has a remarkable spiritual past, having been home to the priest who introduced spiritual direction into the Church of England and an ecumenical Sisterhood who worked for Church unity. Rather basic website here ...
St John's, Farncombe
Other churches have captured my fancy on my wanderings. Click the names for:

St Barnabas, Iford, Bournemouth
All Saints, Burton Dassett
St Ninian's, Whitby
Churches I have known
Catholic Spirituality
Saint Catherine
What Do I Do Next?
Buy Things
Go Home