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In Thanet – 13.7.12

July 16, 2012

Had a great day visiting churches in East Kent today. Just one little shower which is a big improvement on yesterday, when I rode all the way from Rye in rain. Never mind.

Holy Trinity, Broadstairs

Started today in Broadstairs, at Holy Trinity – the parish church of this delightful, old fashioned sea side resort. This church used to be kept locked but wiser counsels have prevailed and it now open much more. The signs outside are OK but could do with explaining when the church is open for visitors. Inside it was a hive of industry as Friday morning is cleaning time. They are a friendly bunch who obviously enjoy their time together. The church is well loved and everything is clean and shiny. There are lots of leaflets and booklets for visitors. They make good use of the Gospel Imprint leaflets and align themselves with Affirming Catholicism so these are a good fit.There are prayer cards and booklets to buy. I bought a ‘Let us Pray’ booklet which will be useful. There is a children’s corner with books and 34 people had signed the visitors book in the last month. There is a lot of attention given to prayer. They produce their own leaflet, ‘The Engine Room of Prayer’ which is good to see.It gives a simple form of daily prayer then topics for prayer for each day of the month. One page lists every business and facility in the town so, for instance, on the 9th you can pray for ‘Pizza Hut: Broadstairs kebab, R & J Moore: Ward & Partners: Tonela Group: Your Move: Straight Lines Hairdressers.’ This is an excellent idea which deserves to be widely copied. There is a votive stand, prayer board (well used) and a chapel for quiet prayer. All in all a delightful church which I would rate as very good – it would be excellent if the external signs made opening hours clear.

St. Mary’s, Minster in Thanet

Then onto St. Mary’s, Minster in Thanet. Here the external signs are very basic but the church is open. Inside a light comes on when you enter. There is a history and some local history cards for ale as well as some of the traditional ‘paddle boards’ to walk around with. Only 10 visitors in the book in the last month. There was another friendly flower lady ( a bit of a feature of Friday morning visits). There is a delightful side chapel which is not labeled for private prayer but is good for this. There is a prayer tree which is a bit tucked out of the way – I would put it into the North chapel and make that a focus for prayer.

I would rate this church as OK.

St. Clement’s, Sandwich

St. Clement’s, Sandwich. This was open with a very clear sign welcoming visitors. They have stewards here and the man I saw was very friendly and handed me a ‘Spiritual Trail’ leaflet which had been professionally printed and gives historical information and some suggestions for prayer on your way around the building. An excellent resource. The steward told me that they received many thousands of visitors every year from all around the world. Sandwich is a popular destination and well worth a wander around. There are other guides to buy (some in different languages) and a good children’s guide (which I wished I had bought a copy of). They have prayer slips here with a clear sign saying that they will be prayed at their next mid week service. This really does treat the visitor seriously. There is also a votive stand with some simple cards, one of which says, ‘I lit a candle for you at St. Clement’s, Sandwich’. A lovely touch. There is also a simple leaflet of ‘Prayer Intentions’ to take away.There is a good, modern, meeting room that has been created in the South aisle – a good example of how too make an old building very usable. I would rate St. Clements as very good and enjoyed my visit.

St. Clement’s, Sandwich

St. Mary’s, Wingham. This was unfortunately temporarily closed due to an art exhibition that is being held over the coming weekend. A shame as the sign outside gives a clear invite to come in. From previous visits I know that the visitor is well catered for so I can give this a good rating.

St. Mary’s, Wingham

St. John the Evangelist, Ickham. This church is in a wonderful setting. The signs are basic but it is open. There is a good history sheet available – one of the best I have seen, but nothing else. 15 people had signed the visitors book in the last month. There is a good folder on the war dead. This is an idea that seems to be a feature of more and more churches. It is a good local history project to do that does bring both the building and the local community alive. There is a side chapel here which is not labeled for prayer but could usefully be so. There are pictures of the vicars back to 1839!

St. John the Evangelist, Ickham

I would rate this as OK but much more could be done.

St. Vincent, Littlebourne

St. Vincent, Littlebourne. I was eyed a bit suspiciously by two locals when arrived. A sign explained that there had been a recent attempt to steal some lead which might be a reason. It is open. The signs are basic and only 3 visitors had signed the book in the last month. There was a nice quote on the font and an open Bible on the lectern.There is a statue of St Vincent but nothing about him. That would be good as he is an unusual dedication. I would rate this church as OK for the visitor but it could be so much better with just a little effort.

St. Vincent himself

St. Mary’s, Patrixbourne. A delightful church with much of interest. The external sings are basic but there is a good board about the parish. Inside there are 2 histories and some walking maps available. There is a sign about the ‘Via Francigena’ (the ancient road between Rome and Canterbury – now that would be a walk) and a pilgrim’s stamp to use. There is a sand tray with some night lights but no signs at all as to what to do with it! A bit half hearted really. I would rate this as OK ish. Again, it could be so much better.

An attempt at prayer? – Patrixbourne

St. Martin’s, Herne. A large church on a main road in the centre of the village. There is a lot of information on the sign board (probably too much) but nothing about visitors. The church is firmly locked. This is a really missed opportunity as this is a nice church building. I would have to rate this as very poor. I didn’t even take a picture.

St. Nicholas at Wade

Lastly today, St. Nicholas at Wade. A lovely church which looks like it should be in Norfolk not Kent! The signs are good and it was open, again with some friendly flower ladies. It is normally open every day but is going to be closed later this month for some major repairs. This will take some time and services are being held elsewhere. There are lots of leaflets available and guides and prayer cards. They take their many visitors seriously here. They make much of their patron saint, and why not as St. Nicholas is well worth celebrating. He is the origin of our ‘Father Christmas’ and much more worthy than a strange rotund gentlemen in a red suit! There is a professionally produced welcome card for visitors, and a leaflet on ‘Images of our Patron Saint’. Both are excellent. There are also lots of pictures of happy church people which really brings out that this is a living church. There is a daily prayer sheet to take away and a children’s guide too. Also some prayer ideas for visitors. One unusual feature is a couple of candles near the war memorial. There is simple sign saying ‘Afghanistan Casualties – 419‘. This is updated regularly and is a poignant reminder of the cost of war.

The cost of war at St. Nicholas at Wade

I would rate this church as very good.

All in all and enjoyable days visiting.

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