|Churches 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 Paul's, Kirby Road, Leicester|
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 Mary de Castro, Leicester|
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 ...
|The Minster Church of St Mary & St Cuthberga, 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 ...
|St John's, Chatham|
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 Francis's, Terriers, High Wycombe|
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 Mary & St George, Sands, High Wycombe|
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!
|St Michael's, Colehill|
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 John the Evangelist, Iffley Road, Oxford|
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 James's, Weybridge|
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 Jude's, Englefield Green|
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 John's, Farncombe|
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 ...