Wenlock Abbey ruins back in service after 470 years - video and pictures
[gallery] A Shropshire church building that was closed nearly 500 years ago hosted a congregation of worshippers once more for Easter.
The nave of Wenlock Priory was filled with people from multiple Christian denominations for a special Easter Sunday service – despite the fact that only fragments of the walls still stand.
The one-off event was put on by Holy Trinity church in Much Wenlock, as the nearby parish church building is closed for repairs.
The former Catholic monastery was closed by Henry VIII in 1540.
About 200 people filled the ruins for the service, led by Rev Matthew Stafford – who noted the last serving prior at the monastery was a namesake of his, one John Stafford.
Rev Stafford said the use of the unusual setting had come about out of necessity. He said: "We as a church at Holy Trinity have been lucky enough to get a Listed Places of Worship Grant for repair work but that means our church is shut for three months.
"We had to think outside of the box for where we could hold an Easter service. Being in a wonderful team ministry of 14 churches and 13 parishes, we weren't short of churches to go to but because we have this tremendous Christian heritage with the priory at Much Wenlock, we thought why not see if we could do it in the grounds?"
He said he thought English Heritage, which looks after the priory, might be cautious about it, but the national body welcomed the idea.
"I was expecting to have to jump through all kinds of hoops but they couldn't do enough to make it happen," he said.
"The result was we got about 200 people in the priory ground celebrating Easter and it was a real cross section of people, young and old.
"We set everything up where the altar would have been and everybody filled the nave and we were very fortunate that the weather held. It was really special."
He said it was also a cross-denominational service with people from various Christian traditions, helped by the fact that this year's Easter celebrations fall on the same Sunday for Anglican and Catholic alike, despite their different calendar calculating traditions.
"We all gathered and sat down and celebrated the true meaning of Easter. There's always a danger that with celebrations like Easter and Christmas you just go through the motions, so it was great to do something with a greater connection to what Easter is all about," he added.
Holy Trinity is expected to reopen for the first Sunday of June.
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