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The Church Tourism Study

Welcome to the website of the Church Tourism Study. Here you will find details of some of the churches I have visited so far about 700 now.DSCN0510

The aim of this study is to gain an idea of what is being provided for the many visitors to or churches. This seems to be a growing phenomena and many churches are surprised at just how many visitors they are getting. Our Monday to Saturday congregation is often much bigger than our Sunday one but the provision churches are making for their visitors is patchy. Some are very good and some are very poor. You will find examples of all these here.  There is a bias towards the south of the country because of where I live. The Church Tourism Study is now located in Dorset.

My latest project is a survey of the churches of Hertfordshire and you can find some of these entries here, not all churches I have visited are put on this site. This has been very enjoyable with some interesting churches in this often overlooked county.

In addition, I have been busy sending out questionnaires to several hundred churches up and down the country. This has been providing some fascinating  information about what is actually happening. All this information is being written up for a book on visitor ministry.

I hope that you enjoy looking at my reports and pictures. All opinions expressed are my own. It has never been my intention to denigrate churches but it has become obvious that many could do an awful lot better in this area. It is not hard and the benefits in ministering to our visitors are enormous.Do comment if you wish to or get in touch at churchtourismstudy@yahoo.com

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St. Peter & St. Paul, Blandford Forum

St. Peter & St. Paul, Blandford Forum

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It is always good to be able to report good news. I had visited this church before and found it locked which was a shame in a place like Blandford. However, it is now open and is welcoming and a very interesting place to visit. A large and imposing Georgian building which dominates the centre of the small town.

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The door was open, with a simple sign ‘Open for Prayer’. Inside it was cool and peaceful with a well signposted prayer area. There was a simple guide to the church (the larger guide book is out of print and being revised) and some postcards, prayer cards and other cards for sale. It was interesting to look at the prominent visitors book and the comments put in it – all of them appreciative. There were 33 this month already.

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The prayer area is well thought out with prayer books and other resources to help people to pray as well as a bowl with stones (with a provocative notice ‘Just let it go’) and a prayer tree and candles to light. This all looked well used which is excellent and shows how a parish church can reach out to those around by just being there and being available.

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This is a church which is undergoing much needed repairs and there is literature  about this and a website at http://www.cuploaproject.org.uk which is worth look at, as well as an active facebook page at

https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=the%20cupola%20project

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They deserve a lot of support to keep this historic building in good repair as well as ministering to the community. There is a website for the church at http://www.bfpc.org.uk/ which doesn’t say much, however it is only temporary so, hopefully, there will be some visitor information on the new one. Be that as it may, go and have a look at this lovely church!

St. Mary’s, Bridport

St. Mary’s, Bridport

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St. Mary’s is in the centre of town. A place busy when people when I called in. The church is open each day and there is a good sign or two to help draw people in. It is a shame that the website, at http://www.bridport-team-ministry.org/churches/bridport/ doesn’t say this. It is certainly worth going to see.

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Inside, I found some lights on and a welcoming interior. There is a welcome table opposite the door which is a nice idea. In general this is a place where a lot of effort has gone into welcoming people between services. There is a brief guide (free) and a laminated sheet to use also a prayer board and a votive stand – both well used as you would expect. There are displays on church life with some good cards to take away.

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A refreshment area is provided as well for visitors with notices encouraging it’s use. In the chancel, there is a prayer table with a bowl of water and pebbles, all with some suggestions how these could be used for prayer. There was also some interpretation notices on the altar and some memorials – we mustn’t assume that people know what these things are or how they are used!

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There was also a ‘Calendar of Saints Days’ book open on the right page! St. Mary’s is well worth a visit.

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St. Winifred’s, Branscombe

St. Winifred’s, Branscombe

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St. Winifred’s is a wonderful church sat deep in the Devon countryside approached by some steep and narrow lanes. It is not a place to rush but all the better for that.

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This church is open each day. I visited on a friday and some very friendly ladies were doing flowers for a wedding on the saturday. There is a friendly welcome notice on the door (this didn’t photograph that well so I haven’t put it up here). There is a guide book in the church as well as a laminated sheet to walk around with. I found some 25 entries in the visitor’s book for May. There was a prayer board (which had been moved away from it’s usual prominent position because of the wedding – so I was told) and a display of church life.

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There is a lovely modern cross on the chancel arch…

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And a rare, triple decker pulpit.

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All in all a very enjoyable visit to a wonderful church in a fantastic setting. The church website is informative. See https://holyford.org/churches/branscombe/st-winifreds-church/ but doesn’t give visitor information which is a shame.

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St. Paul’s, Honiton

St. Paul’s, Honiton

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St. Paul’s sit in the middle of the town and provided a welcome respite from the rain! It is open each day as it’s notice board proudly says. Many churches forget this!

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Inside, I found a well cared for and welcoming church. It was nice to see a display about the people of the church and what goes on here. It is not hard to do things like this but it does give a good welcome to people.

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There is a votive stand to use and a children’s area.

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A small chapel has been created and this has the blessed sacrament in it. People are encouraged to use this for prayer.

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The church website at http://www.honitoncofe.org/ implies that the church is open but doesn’t actually say so! Some ‘Cross in my pocket’ were for sale  as well as organ music CD’s and some free leaflets.

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St. Gregory’s, Seaton

St. Gregory’s, Seaton

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St. Gregory’s was open, despite some mixed messages given by the sign on the door! Inside, I found a well cared for church with some interesting features. There were prayer cards and booklets as well as some ‘Contemplation Cards’ which was an unusual touch. Also, an Easter Garden and a good children’s area.

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A prayer request board is available (and well used) and a nice prayer area has been set up in a side chapel alongside the blessed sacrament.

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There is a charming knitted ‘Last Supper’ – I haven’t seen one of these before.

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The church’s website is at http://www.coastalchurch.org.uk/ but doesn’t give any visitor info (although a lot of other things are on it). There us a Whistler window as well.

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St. Michael’s, Axmouth

St. Michael’s, Axmouth

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Almost beside the River Axe sits St. Michael’s which is clearly singed as being open each day. But first things first, I always have a look at church websites before I visit and this one is at http://www.axmouthcommunity.org/ but it doesn’t give any visitor info that I can see. However, there are some services recorded on soundcloud so that people can listen in. That is an excellent idea.

This is an interesting church with quite a bit to see. I found some laminated guide cards as well as leaflets about the wall paintings and a World War 1 folder giving details of those who died in that terrible conflict. There was also an excellent prayer leaflet and a prayer box to put requests into. Things that are worth putting some effort into. Also something I have never seen before, a laminated card with a prayer for use before a Church service. A lot of thought has gone into all this. I counted 22 visitors in the book this year so far, some who had called in after seeing the church as it stands beside a busy road.

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There is a chapel, The Bindon Chapel, which has been re ordered to make a usable space for all sorts of things. Worth a look.

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