Category Archives: St Mark’s Church

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!

Tudor Altar Mystery

Can you help the congregation at St Mark’s Church, Upper Hale solve a mystery? The altar underneath the window at the far end of the church is Tudor in style and has an inscription “GIVEN BI HENRIE LVNNE 1608”. However, the church was built in 1883. So where was the altar for the first 275 years?

Parish Priest The Revd. Lesley Crawley said:
“I was absolutely amazed to find that we had something so ancient in the Parish. It is a real treasure to have an ancient Altar, but we are all mystified as to where it came from. We’d love to know. Our church documents say it came from Waverley Abbey, but that can’t be right because the Abbey was closed in 1536 as part of King Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.”

If you would like to see the altar then the church is open on Thursdays between 10am and midday for “Drop-In Coffee” and the Sunday Service is 11am for 45minutes followed by coffee so you take a look while you drink your cuppa. Otherwise contact the Revd Lesley Crawley on 01252 820537

Baptism of Christ

We invited back to our churches ll those who had been baptised or confirmed in 2014:

We thank God for those who were baptised in our Parish in 2014:

at St Georges:

Alfie William Arthur Yeomans

Chloe Grace Hill

Elle Holly Basley

Erin Macy Langham

Florence Ann Aggie Burling

Harry Joseph Panton

Issac Jacob Daniels

Ruby May Hill


at St Johns:

Bella-Rose Blanch

Dylan James David Bond

Emme Nicola Pickles

Harriet Alexa Allibone

Penelope Ada Rowe


at St Marks:

Andrew Maxwell Robertson

Ben Dominic Cabrera

Benjamin James Taylor

Bethany Rose Taylor

Holly Gabrielle Flanagan

Isabel Louise Cabrera

Isabella Jane Featherstone

Jack Joshua Browne

Jaiden Aston Bowes

Kate Alexandra Sowden

Lucas Tommy Bowes

Lylah-May Bowes

Mason Olly Bowes

Mollie Elizabeth Helen Burton

Poppy Stella Rae Searle

Sofia Elizabeth Bainbridge

Thomas Asher Sowden

Toby Joseph Johnson

William Edward Ronald Parris

William James Best


We thank God for those from our Parish who were confirmed in 2014:

 Confirmed at Guildford Cathedral:

from St George’s:

Bayley Hobbs

Benjamin Grafham

Katie Campbell

Milo Kyle

Oliver Valentine

Tobias Kyle


from St John’s

Susan Allibone


from St Mark’s

Thomas Sargent


Baptised and Confirmed at Guildford Cathedral:

from St George’s:

Jamie Adam Finlayson

Julie Erin Mansfield

Lucy Jane Finlayson

Sarah Anne Small


from St John’s:

Joanne Elaine Richardson

Oliver Richard Pendle


from St Mark’s:

Deborah Louise Pearce-Simmonds

Jasmine Chelsea Flanagan


Here are the photos thanks to Alison Ridgeon and Lesley Shatwell


The Community Orchard is Planted!

When you dig a hole today…

Digging in to create a Community Orchard.

The fruit trees have been ordered and the planting date set for the community orchard in Upper Hale. Trees have been ‘adopted’ by community groups so that the trees get the ongoing care they need. Help is needed to dig holes on Saturday 8th November at 1pm and plant trees on Saturday 6th December at 1pm at St Mark’s Church, Upper Hale, GU9 0LT.

Hale will soon have a community orchard. Members of the community, old and young, are invited to bring their spades and help dig some holes for the fruit trees on Saturday 8th November at 1pm at St Mark’s Church, Upper Hale, GU9 0LT. The trees will be planted on Saturday 6th December at 1pm and again members of the community with willing hands and spades would be welcome!

Paul Sowden who is leading the team said:
“It is exciting that the orchard is going to actually happen. The trees have been ordered and I hope that this will become a beautiful and peaceful space for all in the community to enjoy. It was great to see young people at the consultation evening who were so engaged and interested in the project. We have eight community groups who have adopted a tree each, so that the tree can be cared for properly, there is room for other groups to adopt the other two trees. At the moment we are concentrating on the trees, but we also intend to create a wildflower garden and that will be our next challenge.”

John Ely, who has experience with creating and restoring orchards said:
“We have chosen trees that are local varieties so that they will thrive in this part of Surrey, not just apple trees but pears and cherry trees too. We’ve also decided to train a quince along one of the walls which will be a beautiful addition to the orchard.”

Parish Priest The Revd. Lesley Crawley said:
“We have a responsibility to look after creation and we know that planting trees has a beneficial effect not only in our own community but more widely than that too. Christians believe that the beauty of creation gives glory to God and I hope this orchard will be beautiful as well as fruitful and that it will become a sanctuary for all in Hale.”