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‘Bless to me, O God, the path whereon I go….’ from a prayer by the Iona Community

July 24, 2012

Today has been spent around the highways and byways of Essex. A county often maligned for it’s supposed chav culture but a place of great beauty when you take the time to look at what is around. I have really enjoyed visiting some lovely churches. Perhaps none with the magnificence of Suffolk but some real gems none the less. This is what I have found-

St. George, Great Bromley.

St. George’s, Great Bromley

It is always good to start my visits with a good one and St. George’s is just that. A great church, not far from Colchester. It was open with basic signage outside but a lovely welcome notice in the porch. Inside there are some guide booklets and some interesting leaflets about the Christian life, including one about the Sacrament of Reconciliation – very unusual but very welcome. There were only 12 visitors in the book over the last month.

Prayer at St George’s

There is a prayer board, a votive stand and a side chapel for private prayer. A very nice touch is a candle for St. George’s, Baghdad. There is also a good display about the Stone family – ancient and modern.

I would rate this church as good and it is well worth a visit.

 

 

 

 

All Saints, Brightlingsea

All Saints, Brightlingsea

Unfortunately, this church was firmly locked with no indication at all as to when it might be open. A shame, as this is a church which is often mentioned in various guide books. I would have to rate this as very poor form the point of view of my study.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St. Mary the Virgin, Layer Marney

An unusual, brick built church which sits just behind the Tudor pile which  is Layer Marney Tower. The church is approached down a track and well worth visiting it is. There is no sign outside but a very good welcome in the porch. This church has a lovely, peaceful atmosphere. There are some impressive monuments to various members of the Marney family. There is a free guide sheet and 45 visitors had signed the book this month. There is a secondhand book stall which might be a library! It is not at all clear. I was impressed with this church as there is a lot to see. I would have to0 rate it as only OK though. Just a bit more thought into welcoming the many visitors who come here would be well rewarded I feel.

Monument in Layer Marney

St. Mary the Virgin. Layer Marney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St. Mary the Virgin, Maldon

St. Mary the Virgin, Maldon

One of two Anglican churches open in Maldon. This is a nice little town with it’s river frontage, and some Thames sailing barges moored there.

This is the church in Church Street just up from the river. The first thing that struck me as I went inside was just how cool it was (it was 28 c outside). The second was the lingering smell of incense and the third was the relative starkness of the interior. It is a church which exudes a sense of the holy. The sign outside was OK but there was a nice welcome notice in the porch which gave a sense that here is a church which really welcomes the visitor. There are a selection of gospel imprint leaflets (these are very good) – downloadable from http://www.gospelimprint.co.uk. Also a guide and an unusual leaflet , ‘Be still and Know that I am God: Praying the Mass’ all about preparing for worship. Here is a church which takes it’s worship seriously as well.

St. Mary the Virgin, Maldon

There is a votive stand, a prayer book and a holy water stoup as you enter. Water is also left in the font which is a rare sight.

I enjoyed my visit to this church as, no doubt, had the 17 others who had signed the visitors book in the last month.

I would rate this as very good.

Then up the High Street to-

 

 

 

All Saints with St. Peter, Maldon

All Saints with St. Peter, Maldon

Another nice church to visit. There is a very clear welcome sign which tells all who pass by that the church is open every day. Inside, there is some guides and a lot of effort has gone into a prayer area. There is a votive stand with prayer slips for a prayer tree (these seem to have become very popular).

Prayer area

There are a selection of prayer booklets and some pray sheets to guide people. All very well done.

There is also a children’s area left set up. I couldn’t see a visitors book. A satisfying visit and I would rate this church as very good. The, a visit to Greggs opposite in order to satisfy the inner man. Then onto the highlight of the day.

The Chapel of St. Peter on the Wall, Bradwell on Sea

Crucifix at St. Peter’s Chapel

I have long wanted to visit here. Having parked there is a track across farmland to this very simple but ancient chapel. It is the sight of a mission by St. Cedd but had fallen out of use and was only re consecrated in 1920. It has become a site of pilgrimage as well as being used for daily worship by the Othona Community who reside nearby.

It is a very simple structure being essentially one room. There is a small display of history and guides and various leaflets about Celtic spirituality. Postcards are for sale. The visitors book was full and hundreds sign it each month.

Sunflower prayers

On the altar is a sunflower made up of lots of separate prayer petals. The visitor is invited to add another. Very simple and very moving. In fact it is impossible to praise this chapel enough. It is simply a place where God is very present. One of those real ‘thin places’ as George Macleod used to say. I would rate this chapel as excellent and it is highly recommended for the visitor.

This part of Essex has some lovely churches and here is another-

St. Thomas, Bradwell on Sea

St. Thomas, Bradwell on Sea

This is in the village. It was open with a good selection of leaflets for the visitor inside. There are Celtic prayers, gospels and others available. Also a guide and post cards. There is a basket of books for children to look at. There is a prayer board and a box for prayers.

Mary at St. Thomas’s

There are copies of booklets about Baptism, bereavement and what the Christian faith is about. All from the excellent Redemptorist Press range.

This is a lovely church to visit and I would rate it as good/very good.

 

 

St. Lawrence Rural Discovery Church

This is an unusual church

St. Lawrence Rural Discovery Church

as it is closed to regular worship but has instead found a role as a visitor center which holds regular exhibitions. It is not open mid week but only at the weekends. There are some leaflets for children though in a special holder. It gives a a simple discovery trail.
This whole church is an idea that deserves to succeed. Obviously I haven’t rated this for this study.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christ Church, Latchingdon

Christ Church, Latchington

Unfortunately locked with, again, no indication of when it might be open for a look around. Very poor, especially as this church is in the heart of the village.

It does have a composting toilet in a shed at the back though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St. Nicholas, Tolleshunt D’Arcy

I wasn’t at all impressed with this church. Again, in the centre of a village but again firmly locked. What makes this a particularly poor example is that there is a poster in the porch (see picture). Are you really welcoming people????

A real shame as this does look worth a visit.

St. Nicholas, Tollshunt D’Arcy

I rate this as very poor indeed.

Then lastly today a good one to end up with.

 

 

 

 

 

St. John the Baptist, Layer de La Haye

St. Nicholas, Layer de La Haye

This church is right next to a big new reservoir project so it might start top get more visitors. There is a sign advertising the tower being open at weekends with reservoir  views. It is good to see a church using a local opportunity.

Inside there is a guide and a bell guide – they seem to be very proud of their bells. There are post cards for sale. Only 4 visitors in the last 2 months had signed the book which is surprising. There are yet more secondhand books for sale – this seems to be popular in some churches! As well as a small library with very old books – does anyone borrow them?  There is a good display of Messy Church, The Catherine Bullen Foundation in Namibia and the Diamond Jubilee. It shows that this church cares about what happens in the world as well as in the parish.It is an interesting church to visit and I rate it as good.

Another hot day and a whole crop of good churches visited. This is a great opportunity to see what is happening around the country. Thank you to all of you who have got in touch about my visits (I leave a card to say I have been). Your feedback is useful to me. Lets see what tomorrow brings!

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One Comment
  1. You have showed great perseverance behind the blog. It’s been enriched since the beginning. I love to share to with my friends. Carry on.

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