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From the Vicar, July 2023

From Rev Teresa Stewart-Sykes and Rev Sorrel Shamel-Wood


We’ve been having some lovely sunny days recently and some terrific thunderstorms! As I write, I’m keeping an eye on the forecast for the Church Fete at Drayton St Leonard! My colleague, Rev Sorrel Shamel Wood, has been reflecting on weather themed summer days and intriguingly ‘Alice’s Day’.


This is what Rev Sorrel writes:

The Christian calendar has included special saints’ days for many centuries, and July includes St Swithun’s Day on July the 15th. Perhaps you have heard of the legend, that if it rains on St Swithun’s Day, it will rain for forty days, but if it is dry on St Swithun’s Day then it will remain dry for forty days! Is the legend true? Well, perhaps you can test it this year and let me know!


However, the day which most captured my imagination when I was writing this article is “Alice’s Day”, on July the 1st. Alice’s Day celebrates the story of Alice in Wonderland, and of course being so close to Oxford, there are plenty of opportunities for us to celebrate: for example, the Story Museum hosts a special programme of events including puppets, trails and games. Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll (1832-98) was a fellow at Christ Church, Oxford and the idea for the story of Alice in Wonderland came to him while punting past Christ Church on the river Thames (or Isis, as it’s known in Oxford) towards Godstow Abbey.


Some of Lewis Carroll’s ideas for Alice in Wonderland were inspired by Medieval Christianity. For example, the way that she falls down a hole at the beginning of the story was inspired by the legend of St Frideswide and the holy well at Binsey. The alarming and aggressive “off with your head!” refrain from the Queen of Hearts may have been inspired by Godstow Abbey, at the end of Lewis Carroll’s boat ride, and its dissolution by Henry VIII during the Reformation.


Stories, such as “Alice in Wonderland” capture the imagination and stand the test of time. Why? Because not only do they offer a glimpse of a fantastical reality beyond the normality of our everyday lives, but they also offer structure and resolution: they have a beginning, a middle and an end. As humans, we can find life confusing and chaotic at times, so shaping it into a story and taking control of our own story can be very helpful: who am I? Where am I going? What has brought me to this point? How do I hope things will change, and ultimately resolve?


The bible is, in my opinion, the greatest story ever told. It follows the adventures of humanity from their beginning, through many trials and challenges, to the ultimate happy ending through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and his promise to return in the future. Much of Western literature has found deep inspiration in the pages of the bible, from its deep poetry to its sacrificial, redemptive hero narrative and, like Lewis Carroll, many writers have also found inspiration in the history of medieval Christianity. Here in the Dorchester Ministry Team, we have many beautiful historic churches right on our doorstep. Why not pay us a visit this summer, and find some inspiration for the start of your own story! Who knows? One day it may even get its own “day”!



Some of the historical information from this article derives from “Alice in Medieval Oxford” by Andrew Dunning: https://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/theconveyor/alice-in-medieval-oxford/