Open Church in Monken Hadley
St Mary the Virgin, Monken Hadley have recently joined many London churches who’ve decided to open their doors ‘out of hours.’
Starting from an open-door policy on a Sunday afternoon, St Mary’s discovered an opportunity to reach the local community through a series of Open Church music events. These events are reaching a variety of people – be it the local school musicians, or the far-travelled visitor in search of his heritage – and drawing them into the life of the church community.
The Revd Dr Thomas Renz shares some of their story:
“Open Church started with us keeping the doors unlocked on Sunday afternoons. Then we started to add music between 3pm and 3.45pm. The initial idea was for some willing musicians to provide background music while people had a look around our lovely mediaeval church, but from the start virtually everyone sat down to give their full attention to the music. Young musicians from local schools and further afield volunteered, as well as professionals with whom church members have contacts. It was largely word of mouth that spread the news and we now have 20-40 people join us regularly for the Open Church events. The events are free and refreshments are served otherwise with donations welcome, and because our initial copyright licence only allowed for six such events in a calendar year we added a spoken word event of Christmas related poetry and stories which was also well received.
“In the meantime we took the decision to keep the church open every day during daylight hours from just before we meet for Morning Prayer (8.15am-8.45am) until after Evening Prayer (6.30-7pm). Some people seem to come regularly for a few minutes of quiet, catch their breath while out on a run across the Common; some come from far away in search of ancestors commemorated on one of our plaques; some walk by and are pleasantly surprised to find the doors open. Many do not leave any comments but some use the visitors’ book (and some mistake the fabric log book for the visitors’ book and write in there). Some admire the building, others report having found consolation, one claims to have seen a ghost…
“We are also in the process of getting a glazed lobby for our West Door. The frame is already in place; we are just waiting for the glass artwork to be completed. Our West Door had long been opened only for special occasions because using it regularly would bring a mighty draft into the building. But the side-entrance in the south porch is not very obvious and to many the building looks closed even when it’s open. The lobby will allow us to be visibly open towards the main road.”
St Mary’s found a unique opportunity to open their doors and host events which help them engage with their local community, and they are now seeking to invest in this important form of Open Church.
Dr Renz adds:
“Donations used to be used for church funds generally. They are now for the musical life of the church.”
Many churches like St Mary’s across London have benefitted hugely from taking the step to have their doors open, be it just on Sunday afternoons, or throughout the week. Londoners and tourists alike are interested in both the heritage and the spiritual life of your Church. We hope that hearing some of St Mary’s story might inspire you to think of new and innovative ways to open up your building to the community in which it stands.
St Mary the Virgin have a series of Open Church Music events this summer, details of which can be found on the calendar at www.monkenhadley.church with more information found in the parish magazine (available for download from their website).
Are you interested in resources to help you think about opening up your building? See our open churches toolkit or be inspired by examples in our publication Buildings on Sure Foundations.
If you have a story of how opening up your building has had an impact on your community, please be in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was written by Gemma Scharnowski, a former Capital Vision 2020 Assistant at the Diocese of London. [edited on 14 May 2019]