Mystery Worshipper: Mordecai
Church: All Saints
Location: Marazion, Cornwall, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 20 June 2010, 9:45am
The church was built in 1861 on the site of an old ruined chapel of ease. It is the work of the Victorian church architect James Piers St Aubyn, who was educated in Cornwall. It looks small from the street outside, a grey stone building with a bell tower and an illuminated cross above the door. Inside, it's like the Tardis (Doctor Who's time machine) there are three sets of pews and two aisles, and a lovely domed chancel, giving it a very spacious feel.
The church is on the main road through Marazion, a small town facing Mounts Bay in west Cornwall, near the southwest tip of England. It became the parish church of the tiny town in 1893, taking over that function from the church at the inland village of St Hilary. They have several baptisms every year. It seemed to be quite a lively congregational parish, as well offering a genuine welcome to summer visitors. They have a Sunday school but the children were all on diocesan youth activities when we were there. The following Sunday there was to be an ecumenical open-air service, which sounded as if it would be well attended, and a parish tea in the grounds of the vicarage.
The town of Marazion is one of the oldest in Britain and was given a Charter in 1257 by Henry III. It was a fishing port, but today is more of a holiday resort. It has lovely beaches, and a causeway, walked by pilgrims in honour of the alleged appearance of St Michael, over to St Michael's Mount. The causeway is passable only at low tide; when the sea comes in, the Mount can only be accessed by boat.
The Revd Nigel Marns, rector of Ludgvan, Marazion, St Hilary and Perranuthnoe.
What was the name of the service?Eucharist.
How full was the building?
Not very full about 30 present, occupying about half of the seats along the sides of the central bank of pews.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
As soon as we entered the building we were warmly greeted, given books and invited to sit wherever we wanted. We were asked if we were on holiday, asked where we were from and where we were staying. We felt we were really welcome to be there. Mr Marns came in, saw us and came up to us and introduced himself as "Nigel", then made sure we had seats that were convenient for us. I have mobility problems, and both the sidesman and Mr Marns asked if I'd be able to walk up the steps to the altar at communion, or if I would like to have communion brought to me. During the peace, Mr Marns spoke to just about everyone in the congregation, and people moved about to shake each others' hands. A number of people spoke to us and welcomed us.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes it was a standard pew with crocheted or embroidered mats at regular intervals, so about the same as the pews in my home church. Every pew had canvas-work kneelers, which had bright and colourful designs.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
As people came in, others welcomed them and chatted quietly; it felt like it was a large family.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning everyone and welcome to any visitors."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Mission Praise and a service booklet.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
Mr Marns said we were going to sing a song that might be unfamiliar to some "I am a new creation", which I know well. The organ accompaniment was extremely jazzy! The other distraction was a flickering light in the chancel. Finally, it was a little off-putting at the end of the service when it was announced we would close with the Marazion prayer, which wasn't in the service booklet.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Generally middle of the road Anglican, but all the hymns were sung with great gusto.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Mr Marns was obviously speaking from the heart. I couldn't tell whether he referred to notes. There was a lot packed in. It was very simply put, but it was a bit disjointed, as if it could have been two sermons, and it didn't flow as well as it might.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The parable of the Prodigal Son. Mr Marns started off by talking about jigsaw puzzles and how frustrating it is to have a missing piece. We are all like links in a chain - we are linked to others in our Christian faith. If we didn't have God in our lives, there would be a missing piece in our lives. The Prodigal Son was a missing link in the father's relationships. God misses us in the same way.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The amazing welcome.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Having to put the Mystery Worshipper card in the collection and hoping that the congregation wouldn't feel bad about it.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We didn't have a chance to look lost - we were invited to have a cup of coffee, and several people checked we had one. About half the congregation stayed for coffee. We had a couple of quite long conversations, telling us about the church and how pleased they were to have Mr Marns as their rector, and chatting generally.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Fair trade in china cups with saucers, a good selection of nice biscuits, including chocolate covered ones!
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – This church reminded me so much of my own as we were made so welcome. They seem to be a mainly elderly congregation but I was told they normally have a small Sunday School and they have had six baptisms over the past year. They have had problems with previous clergy but they are keen to move forwards.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes I felt I was part of the family of the Church.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The amazing welcome and the interest and concern for us.