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More Cotswolds…

July 9, 2012

Today, I visited some more churches, mainly around Cirencester. There are some real gems here.

St. Peter and St. Paul, Northleach – what a wonderful church, and a very good welcome. Nice clear signs welcoming the visitor, even two dog bowls in the porch which is a nice touch.

The sign is lovely. There are leaflets about the church (free) in several languages. This church gets a lot of visitors – 184 people had signed the visitors book in the last month. There is a leaflet aimed at children, which is quite a rare thing to see unfortunately. There is also a leaflet entitled ‘To help you to pray’, nicely printed on good paper with a range of prayers. Just the sort of thing a visitor might pick up and use, also free book marks. Good to see a church not asking for payment for things ! There are books and cards for sale. There is a display of church people – always good to remind visitors that this is a place of worship for a group of people, not just a historic building. The Sunday School had made a flowery cross which was displayed as well. There are notices on the important things in the church a place for prayer requests and a votive stand to use. There was also a man practising the organ which sounded very good indeed. I would rate this church as very good indeed.

St. Andrew’s, Chedworth – a lovely church in an idyllic spot. The church is open but there are no external signs – quite a common thing in the Cotswolds and a bit self defeating I should think. Inside there is a history sheet and some copies of ‘Ultimate Questions’ at £1. 7 people had signed the visitors book in the last month – perhaps others don’t think it is in use because of no sign? I would rate this as just about OK.

St. Peter’s, Rendcomb – a strange church. Because of the school next door it feels more like a school chapel. Again, no signs outside but a notice in the porch says where the key can be found if locked which is good. No leaflets or history of any kind. 31 visitors in the book this year. I would have to rate this as poor from the point of view of the visitor.

All Saints, North Cerney – a really bizarre gem of a church! Firstly, you can’t get in the normal, South door, but have to enter in a small door at the base of the tower. You then go down some narrow steps and find yourself inside the vestry/flower cupboard! Open the door and you find yourself in the nave. Inside, there is a history leaflet and some cards for sale. Oh, and a paddle board you can walk around with. This church is really worth exploring as there are bits and pieces added here, there and everywhere. In the Chapel of Our Lady some of the furnishings are labeled with stickers which say things such as ‘Altar’, ‘Cross’ – perhaps for a school visit? It is all rather strange but also rather lovely as well.  Try and find the entrance to the gallery at the West end – it is up some stairs outside! A wonderful church which is well worth an enjoyable visit. Quite poor from the point of view of this study though.

St. John the Evangelist, Elkstone. They have made quite a bit of effort towards the visitor here. The signage is OK and there is a good welcome in the porch, as well as some gospels to take and a good poster which points out local facilities such as pubs etc. As well, there is a Christian heritage poster displayed. There is also a basket with some carrier bags for walkers to put over their boots to stop mud being trodden into the church. I assume from all this that this church is on a well used path. Inside there are cards for sale + notelets _ a cook book, and some Jubilee New Testaments to give away. The church features box pews and there is a good Prayer Tree on which we are encouraged to tie coloured ribbons. You can also leave a prayer slip in a basket. Very well done. I would rate this as good – this is the sort of thing almost any church could do. It doesn’t take much effort but does encourage a visitor to think about what this building is actually for. 14 people has signed the visitors book in the last month. The floor was clean so I assume they had all been using the bags.

St. John the Baptist, Cirencester – a wholly different ball game this one. A magnificent, huge church slap bang in the middle of the town with its main entrance right on the Market Place. I sat outside for a while to each my lunch and watch what goes on. There is a steady stream on visitors in and out of the building. Inside, there are guides on duty who were friendly and helpful. There are leaflets available in different languages – a glance at the visitors book shows people from all over the world visiting here. There is a quiet chapel to sit and pray in with a votive stand and some prayer slips. This chapel was in constant use during my visit. There are some nice little touches here as well. There is an old cross head on a windowsill – an easy thing to just leave there but here is it used as an explanation of the cross of Christ. The creche area is left set up to use and their are children’s book available to keep a youngster amused. The bookstall had a good children’s booklet for sale at only 25p. I asked one of the people on duty how many visitors they had (76 had signed the book in the last week). She told me that they do count sometimes and in April they had had 5795. This is a very well visited church indeed and a good example of what a larger church can do towards visitors. I would rate this as very good.

Old cross head with explanation

Then onto to almost the exact opposite – St Michael, Duntisbourne Rous. Tucked away in small valley with a stream running at the bottom. St Michael’s looks as though it has been grown rather than built. Outside, there is an ancient preaching cross and there is a crypt under the chancel which you can go down some slippery steps to. It is damp and dark. Inside it is like stepping back in time. There is a history booklet, a gentle plea for funds, a few cards for sale and a prayer board with some prayer slips. All very simple. Some 30 people had signed the visitors book in the last month. Oh, the signs outside are basic but adequate. Also inside is an antique harmonium which is presumably used for the church’s music. I should love to come to a service here. It has a great atmosphere and is in a great setting. I would rate it as OK but I loved it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St. Mary’s, Tetbury – one of those churches which makes you say ‘Wow!’ when you go inside. The elegant columns seem improbably slender to support it all. There are good signs outside with a very clear welcome message. Inside there are welcomers who are friendly and obviously enjoy what they do – ‘ We are here if you need us’. There is a small shop with various tourist trinkets as well as cards and a few books. There is a welcome leaflet in several languages, a prayer board and a votive stand – both a bit tucked away. There is also a local history display which is interesting. There are some laminated sheets with a ‘Spiritual Walk around the church’, which looked good and well thought out. I would rate this as very good.

I nearly forgot, outside in the churchyard is a plaque which records which species of flowers grow there. It is placed in a prominent place. I liked that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly today, St Mary’s, Beverston. A nice little church tucked behind Beverston Castle. No signs outside (again!) but a welcome in the porch. Inside there is a history leaflet and some nice cards for sale. There is also displayed a photo and a letter from Canon W.H. Vanstone who helped out here form 1993-98. He died in 1999 and was responsible for one of my favourite quotes about the church -‘The church is like a swimming pool: all the noise comes from the shallow end.’ He was a wise man who wrote several books on the spiritual life. I would have to rate St Mary’s as quite poor but, again, it wouldn’t take much to make it good for the visitor.

So that is today’s offering. Just what is it with Costwold churches and signs? It is a common theme and many churches are simply letting themselves down by their lack of signage.

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2 Comments
  1. Chris Podesta permalink

    I’m loving the pictures…and a question. When do you do your recording ?
    Thank you for sharing the pilgrimage.
    chris

    • Chris – good to hear from you and welcome to world of WordPress! I have a system. I am using a simple card to record information about each church as I go around. I originally started by using a digital voice recorder but this took a lot longer than just noting things down. It is also more discreet if there are people around!! I also take a lot of picture as an aide-mémoire.
      Hope you like the new posts – just put on.
      Nigel

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