St Michael and All Angels
Although we are small parish, our worship includes a variety of services. Every first Sunday in the month our Children’s Church meets for children aged 3 and up during the service. Bring your children to listen to stories, play, cut, glue and generally have fun with Carolyn, leaving you free to relax and enjoy the service in peace! Every 2nd Sunday we have a traditional BCP Sung Eucharist. Every third Sunday we have Common Worship Communion Service. Every 4th Sunday we have a Prayer Book Service of Mattins (or Morning Prayer)
St Michael & All Angels was originally a chapel-of-ease to Witley, whose church is mentioned in the Domesday Book. It is constructed of Bargate stone. The oldest features are three 11th Century windows, still containing the original oak frames. There are a number of monuments in the churchyard from the 18th and 19th centuries, among which is the famous Sailor’s Tomb, which commemorates the nearby murder of an unknown sailor by three fellow travellers in 1786. The stone bears a bas-relief of the act.
The church was originally a two-celled structure, consisting of a nave and chancel. The most memorable feature of the church today is its timber bell-turret with shingled spire, which stands upon an enormous timber frame which has been dated to the 14th Century.
Apart from the addition of the timber turret and spire, the proportions of the 11th Century building remained unchanged until around 1855, when the church was enlarged by the addition of a short aisle and a vestry on the north of the nave; new windows were added in the west and east walls and on the south of the nave; and the church was reseated, a gallery being retained at the west end. In 1884, the nave was lengthened westwards, and a transept, baptistery and porch added on the south of the nave.
On the south side of the turret is a large sundial bearing the inscription ‘Hora pars vitae’ (‘An hour is part of life’). The font is the original, a large circular tub-shaped block of Bargate stone. Of the three bells, one is mediaeval, with an indecipherable black-letter inscription, the others are modern. The registers date from 1613.
In 2008 a new set of glass doors to screen off the vestry were installed. They were dedicated by The Very Rev Victor Stock, Dean of Guildford Cathedral on November 19 2008. The doors symbolise the village life of Thursley and feature a tree of life surrounded by wildlife from the local Common. When light floods through the glass from the vestry windows, visitors see the words from the prayer of Azariah, a song of praise from the Book of Daniel (Ch 3 vv 57-88) “Praise Him and magnify Him forever” etched into the textured glass. The doors are the creation of Tracey Sheppard FGE, whose work can also be seen in Winchester Cathedral and many other places.
"Through the glass - Reflections on the beauty and symbolism of the glass screen in St Michael and All Angels, Thursley" by Peter Muir.
I was late for the meeting and the artist had already pinned up a full sized mock-up of what the finished screen would look like. As I came up the aisle and saw it for the first time I was stopped in my tracks. It was a real “wow” moment. That was many months ago but when the finished screen was finally unveiled and dedicated we all were able to see that our vision had been fully realised. It puts a glorious finishing touch to our church reordering and is a truly a gift from this to future generations.
The screen speaks to me in so many ways. It proves that old and new do belong together. It reminds me of the unity of people and purpose as we work for a common goal in building God’s kingdom. The process involved a lot of discussion and divergent views. In the end people whose initial ideas had been very different all agreed “this was best”. It is a very tangible way of giving a gift to God. I think of how it, perhaps, helps us to say what is difficult or inexpressible. In the screen you can see the connection between God’s creativity and the life of our village and Thursley Common which has been central to this community for generations. The terrible fire of 2006 was a memorable event and the inspiration for the Tree of Life and the gorse and ferns below with their image of flames. But there is more to this screen, so much more.
“A man that looks on glass
On it may stay his eye
Or if he pleaseth through it pass,
And then the heaven espy”
George Herbert’s well known lines remind us that we can limit our vision to simply looking at our new screen to admire the workmanship and craftsmanship and then move onto something else. Or we can go beyond the immediate images in the screen and glimpse the depth and glory of God’s creation and our life in him. The images of burning and re-awakening, mirroring the regeneration of the Common, around the Tree of Life lead me to think of the Resurrection of Christ.
The various plants and creatures from the common each draws you into further reflection. The butterflies and their life cycle – caterpillar, chrysalis then butterfly - symbols of life, death and rebirth again remind you again of the Resurrection of Christ. The lark is a symbol for the humility of the priesthood because people believed that they only sung on the ascending flight. I can reflect on the deep symbolism of the minister passing from the vestry through the screen at the start of each service to share worship with the gathered congregation. A lizard sits on a rock and is pierced by a thorn from the gorse bush (an allusion to St Michael’s sword killing the dragon) and my thoughts are led to grief and tribulation and contemplation of the Crown of Thorns. On the left hand door the gorse is seen as jagged shapes against the flames; on the right hand door the gorse is topped by blossom emphasizing new life rising from the flames. It is a vision full of hope and promise.
Our church in Thursley is open every day and visitors are always welcome. When you come and look at our screen allow yourself to be drawn into a contemplation of the creativity of the God who has truly inspired our artist. In Michelin terms, it’s 3 stars – worth the detour.
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For Genealogical Enquiries the local Diocesan Record Office is:
All of the older parish records are deposited with the Surrey History Centre, 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking, Surrey GU21 6ND
Tel: 01483 518737 Fax: 01483 518738 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For Parish enquiries please contact:
Primary Contact is
Associate Vicar: Revd Peter Muir tel: 01252 702360
Day Off is Monday
Vicar: Revd John Page tel: 01252 702640
Day Off is Thursday
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