Outlook Issue 27 Spring 2019
News and Views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
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Visitors’ stories
‘Many churches visited. All special. This is very special.’ That’s just one of the comments in St Mary’s Church Visitors’ Book. Have you ever had a look at it? It’s fascinating! People descend on our church from almost every continent. But why do they come? Many come having traced their family tree: ‘My 3x great-grandfather got married here 200 years ago’; ‘Ancestor was a curate here 1847’; while New Zealand relatives of the old Loder family found it ‘wonderful to tread the same paths’. More recently, we’re reminded of the US troops once stationed nearby: ‘Came to see where my aunt got married, GI Bride’; while others come with childhood memories: ‘Last here in 1939 as evacuees’, or to mark a special anniversary: ‘Married here 70 years ago, 1942.’ Some visitors wander in on the off-chance, and find themselves blessed: ‘Came in to shelter from the rain; wonderful peace, sitting in this beautiful church.’ ‘Unexpected interior – shining and inspiring!’ says someone else. Music is a special bonus: ‘Lovely church and organ playing too – what a treat!’ while the rare experience of finding a church ‘open when I needed you’ is widely appreciated. There’s often praise for the friendliness too: ‘A warm welcome with my dog, thank you’; and, cheekily, ‘A bright welcoming church with a vicar to match!’ Not so posh Many visitors come specifically to admire the Millennium Frieze, although one visitor drily comments, ‘So intricate and full of history … but to fully appreciate the detail, work and love that has gone into it, I would have needed a small ladder!’ One or two remarks take one by surprise: ‘Oh, the smell of incense in the morning – heaven!’ Or how about this: 'Very nice church; I like it that it is not so posh as in Austria’. Taking the long view, a visitor from Toowoomba notes that the church was ‘built 200 years before Australia was colonised.’ But perhaps the sweetest entry is from an excited Henry, aged 3: ‘I found Postman Pat in the toy box!’ Of course the architecture thrills and inspires: ‘Wonderful soaring arches lift the spirit’, and ‘The Light! the Light!’ exclaims someone else.’ People love the flowers, the font, the stained glass, the sense of community, the fact that it’s ‘a living church’. But perhaps most telling are two words that appear on nearly every page and in a variety of languages: ‘beauty’ and ‘peace’. ‘This is the most beautiful church I have ever been in’, says one; and ‘I have found solace and hope in this church’, says another. But one particular comment says everything: ‘A beautiful meditative place where God can be found in still, still calm.’ That’s special! Mary Hodge Photograph by Janice Poulson