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31st July 2018

A parish church set among some of the most historic gardens in Oxfordshire is the latest to
become a corporate member of the Prayer Book Society.

The twelfth-century parish church of St Leonard and St James in the estate village of
Rousham – owned by the Cottrell-Dormer family for around 500 years – overlooks gardens
planned by the eighteenth-century architect William Kent who introduced the Palladian style
of architecture into England.

Commenting on the church’s decision to join the PBS, the honorary priest-in-charge the Rev
Richard Smail said: ‘We did so because we believe in the values of The Book of Common
Prayer and the King James version of the Holy Bible. As a congregation we are keen to
support the work of the PBS in making those values known to a wider range of people.’
Richard describes Rousham’s Prayer Book services, notably traditional Sung Matins and
Holy Communion, as ‘attractive and fulfilling.’

He says: 'Despite the fact that we are a tiny village, our core congregation is enlarged by
worshippers from surrounding towns and villages who appreciate traditional Prayer Book
services, good music and vigorous preaching.'

Over the past ten years the average size of the congregation has grown from just under 30
to around 45.

‘Some are worshippers who dislike the changes and innovations made in their own
churches,’ explains Richard. ‘They appreciate Rousham’s traditional approach to worship in
which the core values of the historic Church of England are communicated and celebrated.’
Unlike many churches attended by what Richard describes as ‘a preponderance of the
elderly,’ Rousham’s congregation comprises a mix of people with a wide variety of ages and
occupations. They include village dwellers who work on the farm and in the gardens on the
Rousham estate as well as several professionals. Others include writers, artists and
journalists. Occasionally they are joined by ordinands from Oxford, 12 miles away.

Says Richard: ‘Our regular congregation is a mix of couples and young single people.
Families with children of various ages also attend. We are delighted that several couples
who have been married at Rousham continue to worship with us and often bring their
children to our church for baptism.'

Richard believes that it is unusual these days to visit a parish church in a village of only
around 75 inhabitants and find a ten-strong robed choir singing up to five items in a single

He adds: 'We are also fortunate to have a well-established and enthusiastic band of ringers
who call us to worship and celebrate special occasions.'

Richard’s robust and stimulating sermons encourage attendances, too. As one member of
the congregation put it: ‘The way Richard draws on illustrative material from art, literature
and music makes them not only enjoyable but particularly helpful as well.’

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