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Stow Deanery

July 5, 2012

For various reasons, which I won’t go into here, I have decided to use the Stow Deanery as a case study, visiting every church and recording what I find. This Deanery no longer exists and has become the much larger North Cotswold Deanery. This must make sense to someone.

There is a good mix of churches, large (ish) to very small. All of them get visitors and I encountered quite a few of these today. By staring out early I managed to get 18 churches visited. This still leaves 11 more which I will do another day. So here they are!

St Mary Magdelene, Adelstrop – famous from the Edward Thomas poem. A lovely little church in a peaceful setting. The sun was shining and this was a good way to start the day. It is a simple, welcoming church. The door was left open, inviting the visitor inside. There is a bit of history on display and a prayer request book set up on a simpel table with a cloth and a cross on it. A nice touch. The signage is a bit basic but this is a place of peace well worth visiting. 20 people had signed the visitors book in the last month. Overall, I would rate it OK

St. Paul’s, Broadwell – a well cared for church with a simple welcome notice on display. There is a side altar for prayer. There is a statue of St Francis tucked into a small niche with his famous prayer on a card and a candle – it reminded me of many French churches. Overall a delightful, simple country church. I would rate this as Ok from a visitors point of view. 14 people had signed the visitors book in the last month.

St. Lawrence, Bourton on the Water. I spent sometime having a chat with the Rector – Rachel Rosborough, who made me very welcome and outlined her desire to see the Church take a ministry to visitors more seriously. We then wandered over to have a look inside. Again, the external signage is basic and doesn’t really entice the visitor to come in. Most churches are better on the inside than the outside but this isn’t one of them! Having said that, there are some good things going on. There are some leaflets available but no history (this was being copied when I got to the Rectory). There is also a prayer board for prayer requests to be left – these are also prayed for which is important. There is also, in the chancel, a nice statue of St Lawrence with a brief description of his life and death. This could be made more of. 98 people had signed the visitors book in the last month. I would rate this church as OK. The Rector has been giving some thought to all this and it will be interesting to see what happens here. The village had loads of people in it so there is a lot of potential.

St. Jame’s, Clapton on the hill – a tiny, absolutely delightful little church. It has a wonderful atmosphere. The signage is a bit basic and there are no leaflets etc inside for any enquirers but, you can leave a prayer request and the Bible was left open. Again, I would rate this as OK.

St. Peter’s, Little Rissington. A very out of the way church that is not easy to find! Only 7 people had signed the visitors book in the last month. This is one place that could really do with some decent signs as, when you do eventually find it, it is a smashing little church in a very well cared for churchyard. Inside I found a history and some prayer leaflets. There is also a folder containing a churchyard survey which is useful for the geneologists. Again, I give it an OK.

St John the Baptist, Great Rissington. Once again, the external signs are a bit lacking. Inside I found no leaflets but there is a paddle board with a history on it. There is also a children’s table with some colouring available to keep smaller children occupied. 11 people had signed the visitors book in the last month – lower than you might expect for such a lovely church. One feature that is of great interest is some pictures and information about locals who died in WW1, including some information about the Souls brothers – 5 of whom were killed. This does help to bring history alive as it relates it to ordinary people. There is a box for prayer requests but there was no paper on which to write them! There is a small side chapel which would be ideal as a prayer corner but it is not labeled as such. I woudl rate this church as OK +

St. Mary’s, Lower Slaughter – this must be a candidate for the prettiest village in England. The church is very well cared for (as is the churchyard). The signage is very good, with a clear welcome being given to the visitor. One nice touch is a notice saying ‘welcome’ in lots of languages. There are lights left on in the church and over the small bookstall. There is a guidebook and local cards for sale but nothing on the faith. 96 signature over the last month. I would rate this as good.

St. Peter’s, Upper Slaughter.Again the signs are very basic and there was nothing on the faith available inside. Some lights were on and there are books for sale – local interest and notelets, cards etc. Also secondhand books. Two good things are drinks for sale and shoe laces! – obviously for walkers. I have never seen that anywhere else. There is a chapel for private prayer but it was a bit gloomy and untidy. There is an open Bible but no other guidance. Rating – pretty good.

St. Andrew’s, Naunton. Basic signs but a good welcome notice in the porch. Inside – no history, apart from paddle boards, prayer requests can be left. 10 visitors in the last month had signed the book. The church was absolutely full of flowers and arrangers, getting ready for a wedding. Rating OK.

St. Michael and All Angels,  Guiting Power. This has a welcome sign and a welcome on the door. Inside, some history leaflets and some very tatty ‘Everyday with Jesus’ which a sign invites us to take. Personally I would put them in the recycling and get some new ones! There is a prayer book and a library of ancient books that I am not sure anyone would want to borrow! This is a wonderfully eccentric church in lots of ways. It is cruciform and it must be very strange leading a service here as you wouldn’t know which way to face! Definitely worth a visit. Rating OK, but only just about.

Then next door to St. Mary’s, Temple Guiting. This has a good welcome notice in the porch but it is not the easiest church to find as it is tucked away and it is easy to whizz past the entrance. There are cards for sale but nothing on the faith. This is a church well worth seeing. It has a lovely Georgian Decalogue board and a glass font cover which is a delight. The bright interior is very welcoming. There is a kettle and drinks available for visitors also and a very good history display. I was impressed with this church. Only 7 visitors had signed the visitors book in the last month but one had commented that this was a good place to sing – I tried it out and it is! Rating very good, and just shows how simple things can give a very good impression to a visitor who may then want to come along to worship.

St. Faith’s, Farmcote. What a lovely spot! You can see the Malvern Hills and the Vale of Evesham from here. St Faith’s is a tiny church right down a tiny lane. The sign is basic but much can be forgiven such a lovely place.There is a history and a few cards available. The pulpit, reading desk, altar and pews (all 12 of them) are great pieces of woodwork. 24 had signed the visitors book but it deserves many more. My rating OK but wonderful!Image

St. Jame’s, Cutsdean. Another hard to find church – it is in the farmyard of Cutsdean Farm. It could really do with a sign on the road. A small, simple church with a great atmosphere. The only sound was birdsong. A great place to refresh the soul. It is certainly worth seeking out. There are a few cards for sale and 12 people had signed the book. From a visitors point of view I would have to rate it as poor but it is still a great place.

St. Nicholas, Condicote – basic sign again and nothing much inside except a very faded history hung on the wall. Only 3 visitors had signed the book in the last month. It is all a bit sad as it doesn’t feel like a loved church and no effort has gone into welcoming people at all. I would rate this as very poor.

St. Jame’s, Longborough. Basic sign but a welcome in the porch. There is a history inside and a lovely display by local children in the South transept. In the North transept is the Sezincote chapel, approached by an incongrous cast iron staircase. There you can look at an old clock and there is some history. I would rate this as OK but could do better. Only 5 visitors in the book in the last month.

St. Edward’s, Stow in the Wold. A very clear welcome with large signs. Inside there are cards for sale and a good history booklet but nothing on Christianity. There are some clear descriptions of each stained glass window, explaining what they depict. This is a very good idea. Also a folder which gives details of each person listed on the WW1 war memorial. A nice, Jubilee, display had been set up which relates the Queen’s reign to local events There is even a suggestion box! A lot of effort has gone into ministering to visitors at this church but the best thing of all was the cheery welcome from 2 church people, who had come to lock up. Very impressive. I rate this as very good.

From the very good to the disappointing.

Holy Ascension and St Nicholas, Oddington. Both churches firmly locked up with no indication where a key could be obtained or when they might be open. This is very off putting to visitors  and has to be rated as very poor.

(Subsequent information – St Nicholas is open 9am – 5pm in the summer months, less in the winter as no electricity there. Holy Ascension is not open during the day but might be soon.  I hope to visit St Nicholas sometime – a notice about the opening hours would be nice though!)

A range of churches, some good and so not so. This erstwhile deanery seems to have been a good choice as a case study. I am looking forward to getting to the remaining churches to see what I can find.


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  1. Mrs. M. Lewis, Churchwarden permalink

    St.Nicholas church, Oddington is open daily from 9a.m. to 5p.m.(in winter, depends on daylight since there is no electricity).
    Holy Ascension is closed after reordering and will be re-open once the insurance company has
    completed its new assessment.

  2. I really like looking at and I think this website got some genuinely useful stuff on it!

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