Stephen Taylor

Stephen Taylor has recently renewed his membership with the National Churches trust. He explains why he likes to be a Friend and support the work that we do.

Heavenly spaciousness

"I had no early interest in churches; indeed, my first rapture in a holy space occurred as a hippie traveller at the former Church of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, which awed me with its silent magnificence. Travelling on, through Syria, Iran and Afghanistan to India, I was constantly drawn to historic mosques and their heavenly spaciousness."

Journeys to the holy places of our own country began similarly, as a secular exploration of heritage. Music was another influence. Singing, starting with a small work-based choir at St George-in-the-East in Wapping, united for me our cultural past with the spiritual. Whether in English or Latin, in works by Tallis or Bach, music seems to me the closest we come to the sublime.

I recall a visit to Durham cathedral which just happened to coincide with a surprisingly intimate Evensong as transcendent. It was on the basis of such experiences that I became a Friend."

"While I love the cathedrals – Ely is another wonder – I now usually return to more intimate spaces – the small, historic, and sometimes sadly neglected churches around us. Fortunately, St Andrews in Clewer, which can claim to be the oldest building in Windsor, is in good health as well as being a lovely place to spend time in contemplation.

My favourite church

However, the one I choose to wave a flag for is among the forgotten.  St Mary Magdalene, Boveney, dates from the 12th century and once served Thames bargemen. Today it is redundant, in the care of the Friends of Friendless Churches. Miraculously, it is still open daily."