Our west door, always wide open for visitors, has a new look: C + M + B, chalked by Bishop Steven when he came on 8th September: Christ Bless this House.
St Mary’s Church, the Glebe Field and the Church Hall were buzzing with visitors on Saturday 8th September. This was the day of the annual Ride and Stride in aid of Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust. It was also the day when doors around Oxford opened through the Oxford Open Doors initiative to reveal special places and extraordinary people. Here in Iffley we remembered our 13th-century anchoress, Annora, and welcomed well over a hundred people to the church including Bishop Steven who, while not ‘Riding and Striding’, came by boat to meet us and to make his mark on the church door.
The day also marked the culmination of our photographic competition, held by the Living Stones heritage arm of St Mary’s Church, Iffley. The aim was to encourage us and our visitors to look at the building in new ways and to document how we, in our different says, experience the ancient church of St Mary’s in today’s world. Three winning photographs are being made into postcards for visitors to the church. A panel of judges, Rob Farrands, Ron Cosworth, Hilary Pearson and Geoffrey Tyack, had already chosen two photographs to join the existing postcards of the Piper and Wagner windows and the Aumbry. One more postcard was needed. All the competition entries were exhibited, and visitors made their own choices from the displayed short-list. The winning photographers were David Patrick and Maggie Wilson.
The new look of the west door of the church has now, surely, joined all those lovely images captured on camera and shared through the photo competition. Rob Farrands spent the day talking with visitors who were busy with their cameras or phones, sharing his professional advice on how to photograph this ancient building and its idyllic rural setting. It was a day packed with new insights into the history, meaning and personal experiences of St Mary’s Church.
There is something very special, as a number of our visitors pointed out, about celebrating the ancient rural village when one can wander round the Glebe Field, thatched Church Hall, Churchyard and Church. And it’s not just experiencing this, it’s being able to communicate and share our experiences that makes days like this so rich. It was fun and intriguing discussing details captured in the photos, from the watering cans to the little bird of the Living Stones logo. And having the opportunity to glean insights from Rob about capturing the picture was really exceptional.
Several of the visitors said that they really appreciated having the church open and welcoming, and that they would definitely return. Our volunteers spent a very rewarding day, learning as always through looking, listening and sharing enthusiasms and the extraordinarily profound insights that our church reveals. Onwards and upwards for Living Stones, as one of them said!