BISHOP CONSECRATES NEW BURIAL GROUND

(FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 15) The Bishop of Dorchester consecrated new burial ground at St Mary's Church, Thame, on Tuesday.

The Rt Rev Colin Fletcher, currently acting Bishop of Oxford, also blessed the church's newly planted Millennium yew, which was taken from a 2,500 year old tree.

Around 30 residents and local dignitaries attended the ceremony, described by the Bishop as 'something that happens in a community once every several decades.'

Before sanctifying the area, which was set aside during World War II as emergency burial ground, he invited the congregation to remember those for whom the ground will hold special memories in the years to come, adding: "This is a churchyard for the community, not just for the people of St Mary's. It will not be just a patch of ground but a place of rest and memory, and a place for people to mourn their loved ones."

Prayers and psalms were read by the vicar of St Mary's Church, the Rev Nick Stuart-Lee, the Rev Derick Chambers from Christchurch, and the Rev Simon Brignall from the Thame Valley Team Ministry.

He then blessed the ground, walking to each corner and saying a prayer, before blessing the Millennium yew tree, which St Mary's treasurer, Rosalie Gibson and her husband Terry have nurtured since they collected it at a ceremony at Dorchester Abbey almost seven years ago, when it was just six inches tall.

The tree was one of 8,000 planted throughout England to mark the Millennium and one of 350 collected from the ceremony at Dorchester Abbey, attended by botanist David Bellamy who reminded the congregation that the trees might still be in place on the eve of the year 3000.

Yew trees, which are known for their longevity, have a habit of renewing themselves meaning Britain's oldest yew trees predate its oldest buildings, and form a living link between ground sanctified by pagans and that by the Christians which followed.

Thame's Millennium yew tree was taken from Surrey's famous Tandridge Yew, estimated to be 2,500 years old.

Blessing the churchyard's new addition, the Bishop described it as 'a tree that will be seen by very many people in the years to come'.

Rev Nick Stuart-Lee, said: "I thought it was a very special occasion and it was especially good to see so many members of the community here.

"This is a community occasion - not just a church occasion."