Mystery Worshipper: Wediblino
Church: Avoch Parish Church
Location: Avoch, Ross-shire, Scotland
Date of visit: Sunday, 22 August 2010, 10:00am
It is a typically built Victorian type church from 1870 which replaced a previous place of worship. There is a steeple with bells. The inside of the church has some beautiful stained glass windows but is quite low church in the simple carved but rich wood furnishings.
They are part of a team ministry linked to the parish of Fortrose and Rosemarkie, tiny villages rich in history. They sponsor Bible study, crèche care, and a variety of activities aimed at fund raising as well as fellowship. There is one Sunday morning service, with the sacrament of the Lord's Supper celebrated twice each year.
Avoch (pronounced "och", as in the well-known Scots interjection) is a small village on the Black Isle, which is actually a peninsula on the east coast of Scotland. The village was at one time a small but busy port and had a thriving fishing industry. Today, however, much of their income derives from the tourist trade. The view from the graveyard over the Moray Firth is stunning. The church itself sits above the village on the side of a hill with a picture postcard setting. As their website describes it, it's "half way up the brae...on the right hand side of the road."
The service was taken by a clergyman whose name was not given, although he may have been the Revd Tom M. McWilliam, whom their website identifies as the interim moderator. The congregation are awaiting the arrival of their minister-elect, the Revd Alan T. McKean.
What was the name of the service?Family Worship
How full was the building?
The building was about two-thirds full, with a mixture of age groups in the congregation.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
As we walked up the path into church, two older ladies were very pleasant and asked us if we were on holiday. They seemed genuinely pleased that we had come to the church. Inside, two greeters gave us hymn books and were very welcoming. When we sat down, several people came over to us and welcomed us, including the stand-in minister.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was fairly standard and comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The congregation were very friendly. A quiet hum of conversation between parishioners went on but was not disturbing in the least. There was reverence but in such a way no newcomer would be threatened by it.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome, everyone. It is lovely to see you all and new faces here today."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Complete Mission Praise and The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version.
What musical instruments were played?
All music was accompanied by a well tuned organ. Their website identifies the organ as an opus of Millers of Dundee, installed in 1907, and states that it is thought to have a "particularly pleasing tone."
Did anything distract you?
Mr Wediblino and I were struck by the simplicity of the church and the beauty of the windows and simple decor within.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The service was very welcoming and friendly. There was an informal tone about it that helped us feel totally included.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – The interim moderator was very good but unfortunately could have got his point across sooner.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was about how people often interpret the scriptures in a way different from the meaning that Christ wanted us to take from them. Taking someone's interpretation, as opposed to the literal meaning of God's word, can lead to dilution of the true word and can keep us from living a full Christian life.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
As the sermon went on a tad too long, my attention drifted away to the stained glass. Not heaven, certainly, but still a little piece of paradise.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
My bottom getting numb as we awaited the end of the sermon. I am used to about 20 minutes, so anything over that and I start to fidget.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
People approached us on our way to the back of the church to say hello and to ensure that we felt included. We were asked to come back if we were ever in the area again.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
No coffee on offer. However, the warmth of the welcome and the parishioners made up for lack of this.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – If we lived nearby (which we hope to do in the next year or so), we would become regular attendees.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, very much so, as people seemed very genuine and it was lovely to find such as sense of community and mutual respect for all ages within a small congregation.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The welcome and friendliness of all attendees. As a postscript, we saw several members of the congregation during our week in the area, and all asked how we were enjoying our holiday and said that it was nice to see us.