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Stogumber's church is the focal point of a large rural parish with a population of about 600. Besides the village of Stogumber itself, our congregation come from a dozen or more small settlements dotted across an area roughly 3 miles by 2.
St Mary's is a fine example of a red sandstone parish church with several interesting and unusual features. The benches almost all date from the 1530s, predating the English Reformation.
A thousand years ago a Saxon minster stood on the site of the present church and collected tithes from a wide area. Today’s church is listed Grade I, was built of red sandstone and limestone in the late Middle Ages and consists of a chancel, a nave divided from two side-aisles by arcaded columns (one with its own altar and the other leading to the “Sydenham Area” south of the chancel) and a tower.
After a period of neglect in the early Victorian period, the church was renovated and re-ordered by the distinguished architect John Dando Sedding in the 1870s. The fine stencilling in the chancel is based on a William Morris design and dates from this period, as does much of the stained glass.
One ancient curiosity: the pagan Green Man, often found carved into church joinery, is here -– almost uniquely -- to be found in stone on the capital of a column in the north arcade.
Only recently did the PCC discover it had literally been sitting on some of its finest assets: in 2009 a noted church joinery expert revealed that some 90% of our 80+ wooden benches date from the 1530s or 40s.
With the involvement and support of the Diocesan Advisory Committee and most parishioners, the churchwardens are proposing a reordering which would make it easier to use the church for alternative forms of worship, concerts, meetings, fundraising events, etc, and also to improve access for people with disabilities.
The average attendance at a Sunday service is roughly 25.
This is an inclusive parish, quite possibly leaning towards the liberal end of the Anglican spectrum but by no means doctrinaire. There is a general tendency towards traditional and relatively plain forms of worship: sung responses, vestments -- but no incense (at the moment).
There is a fine musical tradition in Stogumber, with the choir singing at all Sunday services and a growing number of choral and (more recently) organ concerts.
The tower has a full set of bells which are rung before every Sunday service. Bell practice: Wednesdays 7:30 pm; all welcome.
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