IT could be a question for the General Synod - how do you get tourists to stop taking selfies inside a historic church while worshippers are praying?

This Christian conundrum is now being considered by ministers at The University Church of St Mary the Virgin in High Street, Oxford.

In a recent newsletter associate priest Rev Charlotte Bannister-Parker highlighted the issue now being faced at 'the most visited parish church in England' where more than 400,000 people call in every year.

She said in the newsletter: "I am not usually a grumpy person but I have been overwhelmed by the numbers of tourists coming through the church and the fact that so many of them seem unaware that this is a sacred space.

"Not only is the whole experience of visiting St Mary's so often seen through a camera lens but also some visitors seem completely unaware of the difference between this space as 'the House of God' and, say, that of the Sheldonian."

Rev Bannister-Parker urged staff and welcomers to 'challenge the mentality that 'if you don't take a photo it did not happen'.

The reverend added they could also address the fact that the 'sizeable footfall' means that seeking a quiet place to pray or reflect is often often hard to find.

Graham Campbell, visiting with wife Monica Campbell, from Australia, said: "I think it's quite right that tourists inside the church should show respect to people who are worshipping."

Vicar of the church The Rev Dr William Lamb stressed that the church welcomed everyone including tourists.

But he added that staff needed to ensure that the crowds were 'well controlled' so that everyone visiting the church has a good experience.

He said: "We want to encourage visitors to come to St Mary’s and to ensure that they have the best possible experience.

"This ministry of hospitality is an important part of our mission as a church.

"At the same time, we are also aware that the sheer volume of visitors and tourists sometimes detracts from the peace and tranquillity offered by the University Church."

Ideas being considered to tackle the problem include playing music quietly in the background and inviting visitors to join in with prayers at different points during the day.

The reverend added: "Many cathedrals do this and we know that many visitors appreciate and value such an invitation."

And he said parts of the building could be reserved for private prayer while staff could liaise with tour guides and work with them to ensure that numbers in each tour group were limited appropriately.

Rev Dr Lamb added: "With this subtle approach, we are convinced that we will improve the experience of visitors and tourists.

"We want people to feel welcome at St Mary’s and we want to make sure that a visit to St Mary’s is a positive experience for everybody."

The church has a 13th century tower which provides good views of the city and was the site of the 1555 trial of the Oxford martyrs.