Category Archives: St Mark’s Church

A new Vision at the APCM

Please come to the APCM on Sunday 26th at 7:30pm at

St George’s Church,
Badshot Lea,

and hear about the new Vision for the Parish.

Papers will be available in church on Sunday, but if you prefer to be paperless then all the documents are below:

Annual Report (find out all about the Parish)
Financial Report (find out all about the Finances of the Parish)
Minutes of last year’s APCM
Minutes of last year’s Meeting of Parishioners (where we elect the Churchwardens)
New motion to change the way we are governed going forwards

Photo accreditation: Georgie Fry

Wildflower Planting in the Community Orchard

P1020922On Sunday 26th April at 1pm, the congregation of St Mark’s Church and various Community Groups will be undertaking the second phase of the Community Orchard planting. Eleven fruit trees are now in bud, and it is time to plant the wildflowers that will grow beneath them. Everyone is invited to come along with their spades and trowels to plant some of the 400 wildflower plants that are going to help create a beautiful garden for all in Upper Hale. The project has been funded thanks to a generous donation of £1000 from the Farnham Institute.

Paul Sowden, a member of St Mark’s Church who heads up the project said, “We have a vision to make the churchyard a place of beauty to be enjoyed by all in the local community. Already people have commented that the bulbs that we planted at the same time as the trees have offered them a place of peace and tranquillity.”

John Ely, a local resident who engages in many community projects in the area said, “It takes commitment over a number of years to develop an orchard and garden, like to one at St Mark’s. I believe that it is important that we work together as a community to create these spaces. We can already see the benefits of such a project.”

The Reverend Lesley Crawley commented, “Yesterday someone told me that they look for excuses to pop out of their house and go to Tesco’s so that they can walk through the churchyard at St Mark’s. I laughed. It struck me that the extravagant beauty of the flowers is like a form of grace – God’s love for us – just given freely and extravagantly. But of course there is a lot of hard work behind the scenes. If anyone would like to join the gardening club then they should contact me – they don’t need to have a faith, a spade will do… in fact we can provide the spade!”

No Rota at St Mark’s!

St Mark’s Church in the Parish of Badshot Lea and Hale has grown by over 40% in the last year and the new people are mainly families with Primary School aged children. The ethos of St Mark’s is that every member is equal – in particular the children are fully included in the service and all the activities of the church are open to all on an equal footing.

Until recently there had been a rota for all the jobs – sidesperson, server, intercessions, reader, coffee making and so on. However, it tended to be only the more established members of the congregation who could commit to the rota – families preferred to remain flexible, and in particular most of the jobs were inappropriate to give to children.

So the congregation of St Mark’s are trying something new. They have made lots of cards with various jobs on them, for example ‘Light the Candles’, ‘Take the Collection’, ‘Tidy up after the Service’, ‘Server’, ‘Reader’, ‘Intercessor’, ‘Make the Coffees’, many of the jobs can be done by children. Then each Sunday there is ‘Host’ who is one of the established members (who can commit to a Sunday) and they bring the biscuits, open the church and put out the box with the jobs in. As people come in they help themselves to a card, if they wish to.

The Revd Lesley Crawley, who is a priest in the Parish said, “Getting rid of the rota has been brilliant – it has made the church even more inclusive and even zanier. I never know who is going to step up to do the reading or help me by serving at the altar. It definitely wouldn’t suit a place where the vicar needs to be in control! But it works for a church like St Mark’s where people invite their friends by saying, ‘Seriously, I bet our church is nothing like any other church you’ve been to!’ I would encourage every church to try it for their All-age services.”

New Signs at St Mark’s

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We have some new signs at St Mark’s with our new logo on them… plus directionals so that people will be able to find their way in! Soon there will be similar signs at St George’s and St John’s too. Sadly they came a week too late for one family who were parked in the car park at St Mark’s last week but couldn’t find the right door… Reminds me of the archdeacon telling me that we obviously didn’t want anyone to come to our church. “Why?” I asked. “Because no one would be able to find their way in,” he said.



We all have to do it but probably pay it little attention.

Once a month for the last six months Suzette Jones, The Diocesan Health and Well Being Adviser, has been leading us in Mindfulness sessions at St Mark’s Centre. Using Suzette’s simple technique it is possible to find moments to be mindful wherever we are – in queue, a traffic jam, even at the dentist’s.

Mindfulness is simply focussing on the breath and being present in the moment. Just by breathing attentively for a few minutes I have been able to step away from my busyness and whirling thoughts to find a little calm and perspective. I have found it liberating to realise that I don’t have to be doing all the time, it is ok to stop and be.

Many of us who have attended the sessions have managed to incorporate some mindful breathing into our lives and found it really beneficial in different ways.

It is so easy and impossible to get wrong. Come and sit with us and breathe.
Sue Jones

Next Mindfulness Sessions at St Mark’s Church, Alma Lane, GU9 0LT are on Monday Mornings 9:30-10:20am on 30th March, 27th April, 1st June

Walk the Prayer Labyrinth

What’s a labyrinth?

A labyrinth looks like a maze, except you can’t get lost in a labyrinth, there’s only one route through.  The large ones can be walked and you sometimes see smaller ones used as a decorative motif.

It looks a bit like a spiral, what makes it Christian?

The original labyrinths are pre-Christian and they are found throughout the ancient world.  A labyrinth becomes Christian through position, intent and use.  They were popular in Christian Europe during the middle ages and there’s a famous one dating from the 13th century in the nave of Chartres cathedral in France.  There has been a resurgence of interest in labyrinths during the late 20th century.

So what did Christians do with labyrinths?

Labyrinths may have been walked to symbolise pilgrimage, a journey through life, the inner journey to meet God at the centre.  They gave people a means of contemplation through walking.

Contemplation, what’s that?

Contemplation is a form of traditional prayer.  It’s a way of looking at things, through eyes and senses or the mind, to pass beyond the physical to an experience with God.  It is a way of coming to know God through prayer and listening, which is both simple and profound.

What about the context of the church today?  Are they relevant?

Labyrinths are part of a new tradition which has grown from the old.  Walking is one of the most accessible spiritual practices and it is as relevant today as it was in the past.  Relax, solviture ambulando (“it is solved by walking”).  Augustine of Hippo* did not explain what “it” might be, nor do we need to know what we want to gain from walking with God.

What happens, what do you do?

Think of a labyrinth in three parts: release, rest and return.  As you enter, start to focus on God and letting go.  What might you be holding on to which is keeping you from being close with God?  You might have the opportunity to pick up a stone, for instance, and drop it into a bowl of water, symbolically releasing all that hinders your journey towards God.  When you come to the centre of labyrinth, take time to be with God: stop, rest and listen.  And when it’s time to leave, walk back along the way and there may be the chance to reflect on new beginnings, new opportunities, planting a seed for the future.

Of course, not all labyrinths have activities, you may find that you walk the labyrinth in a group or in a group or in God’s company alone.

All this walking and praying sounds simple, does it work?

It is difficult to evaluate this practice, as it is with any other form of meditation or contemplation because it is highly personal.  The success and popularity of the      labyrinth at St Paul’s Cathedral has been cited by Sally Welch in her book Walking the Labyrinth as a reason why other churches are exploring the possibilities labyrinths offer for spiritual development.  It works for some people.

Just walk the labyrinth, walk with no expectation, no preconceived ideas and see what happens.  Listen to what God is saying to you.

How can I explore this tradition?

You could visit a labyrinth (check out which has a list of labyrinths world wide).  There are 117 labyrinths listed in England alone and they range from labyrinths set into the floors of churches, to outdoor ones made of turf , stone or wood.  Some are ornamental and some you can walk.

Or walk the labyrinth at St Mark’s during Holy Week – open on:

29th March 6:00-7pm
30th March 9:30-11am
31st March 9:30-11am
2nd April 9:30-11am
4th April 10:30-12noon

Adapted from a leaflet written by Lesley Shatwell

Plans for St Mark’s

History and background

St Mark’s church is in the heart of a populated area, opposite Hale School and surrounded by many families. It is a church that is growing – over the past three years the congregation has doubled and the number of children attending has tripled.

In 2011 the numbers were depressing, with an average of ten people dotted around the 200 chapel chairs in a cold and dark church having a traditional communion service with an organ which made horrible whining noises. So the decision was made to change the worship to make it “all-age” every week, the chapel chairs were sold and replaced by comfortable, flexible seating, the organ was mothballed (as it would cost £15,000 to repair) and a keyboard was purchased, the hymns were replaced by a mixture of hymns and modern songs and the hymnbooks were replaced by a projector and screen. The congregation, although small, longed to serve the local community. So they worked with the Diocese and Jane Voake, our families support worker was employed to do befriending work and classes for parents with children who have ADHD. “Messy church” was started, on Thursdays after school.

Inclusivity is an important feature of the St Mark’s congregation. A quarter to a third of the congregation are now children and they are full members of the congregation – they never go out to do something different to the adults – they serve, they sort the Powerpoint, they take the collection, they read, they help with the intercessions, they aren’t talked down to in a special all-age sermon.

Many families, who don’t come to church on a Sunday, still see St Mark’s as their spiritual home – they appreciate the courses that Jane runs and return to see her and her team. We are working with our architect to create some spaces at the back of church for Jane and the team. We would like comfortable places with settees and movable storage units to create the sense of rooms where people can relax and chat, and also where they might like to sit and have a private conversation with Jane in comfort.

Messy church has grown such that the church needs some rearranging – we have the meal at the back of the church and the worship at the front – but we have a congregation of 80 and we are finding that we are too squashed when we are having our meal. The rear of St Mark’s church is also used a great deal for other community activities – the Youth group, a younger youth group and a toddler group. These groups are growing and the church is becoming a space for the community. However, the font is a significant obstacle and a health and safety issue when children run around.

Position of the font

Hence, we would like to reposition the font (pictured below), it is getting in the way of using the building for the community. We also feel that it would be nice to have the font in view when we worship and especially would like the font at the front and up a level so everyone can easily see when people are baptised.


Picture of the font which is a trip hazard for children running around.

Removing the choir stalls

To have the font in our preferred location we need to remove the choir stalls which are just into the nave on the raised area with the organ. The choir stalls are no longer used because the style of worship is informal with a band and songs projected onto a screen.  The photograph below gives a sense of the style of worship. Both St John’s Church in Hale and St George’s Church in Badshot Lea have choirs, but the style of worship St Mark’s suits those who prefer a more informal experience.


A picture of the interior of St Mark’s Church

Moving the nave altar

The most beautiful area of the church is the chancel which has some lovely “art and crafts” style paintings and altar rail, the flower arrangements and the high altar with its altar frontals. There is a sense of peace and beauty in the chancel. Below are photos of the paintings (which we are hoping to restore).


Wall paintings in the Chancel.

This part of the church feels entirely cut off from the rest of the church, the choir stalls and creating an almost complete barrier between the congregation and the chancel. Even the priest doesn’t venture into the chancel area. We would like to move the font and nave altar into the area where the choir stalls currently are, then move the chairs for the congregation forward and without the barrier of the choir stalls there will be a greater sense of unity between the chancel area and the body of the church.

Bringing into view the Tudor-style Altar

The high altar (underneath the window at the far end of the church) has an inscription “GIVEN BI HENRIE LVNNE 1608”. However, the church was built in 1883 – 275 years later! So it is amazing to find something so ancient in the church. At the moment no-one can see the altar because it is covered by the altar frontal. But we intend to bring it forward and have the newer altar as the high altar. That way everyone will be able to see it more easily.

Restoring “Emily”

The Organ at St Mark’s is nicknamed “Emily” and we would like to hear her being played again. Hence we will be getting some advice about how to restore her and then applying for grants to see if we can raise the money to fix her up. Hopefully, we will have a concert too, with our organists playing her to raise money.

Other changes

At the moment we are looking at improving the insulation, the flooring and the lighting. None of these things have been finalised yet, but I’ll blog when I know more!