Mystery Worshipper: Church Mouse
Church: Holy Trinity
Location: Tattershall, Lincolnshire, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 5 September 2010, 10:00am
The Collegiate Church of Holy Trinity, Tattershall, is joined with St Michael's, Coningsby; St Margaret's, Roughton; St Benedict's, Haltham on Bain; and St Mary's, Kirby on Bain. All are part of the Bain Valley group of churches. Activities include Bible studies, flower festivals, harvest suppers, something called a Cameo Club Social Evening. The church has a reputation for concerts and exhibitions. A vast open space is used as a café, open most days. Holy Trinity is also very famous for its bat colonies, with over 600 at the height of the season. They often fly around if violin music is played, and have been known to dive-bomb the bride at weddings!
Next to the church stands the 130ft tower ofTattershall Castle, which stands proud in the flat landscape of theLincolnshire countryside. From the top of the tower you can have a goodview of the planes coming up the runway from RAF Coningsby, home of theBattle of Britain Memorial Flight. A mile out of Tattershall lies theresting place of the remaining wreckage from the Boeing 747 that wasblown up over Lockerbie.
The Revd Canon John Moore officiating, led by reader Mrs Sheila Mullinger. Ms E. Knowles played organ and interceded.
What was the name of the service?Sung Eucharist
How full was the building?
Around 30 people were present. Only part of the church is used for the service as the church is huge.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
As I walked into the service part I was greeted by Mr Mullinger,andseveral others whose names I can't remember but was told. As soon as Isat down, Canon John Moore came and gave me a very enthusiasticwelcome, and then introduced me to the reader and the two women infront of me. When the service started I was welcomed by name, which waslovely.
Was your pew comfortable?
The wooden pew was fine. The church has many bats, which are of courseprotected,so before each service protective covers have to be taken off. Not onesight of bat droppings anywhere, very clean.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The atmosphere was of quiet talking and of everyone being friendly butwith reverence. The bells were ringing.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
Canon John Moore stood looking at everyone for a moment, and then witha lovely smile and arms open he said:"Good morning and welcome to my brothers and sisters in Christ." Hegave a special welcome to the two children present, and then to me, theobvious stranger in their midst.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
I was given a lovely booklet containing Holy Communion: Order One from Common Worship, beautifully set out. I was also offerred a booklet that contained collects and readings. The hymnbook was Hymns Old and New. I was also given a leaflet called "Sunday Link" with details of services etc.
What musical instruments were played?
An organ. I think it was an electric thing as I couldn't see any pipes (sorry, not very musical!).Very efficient.
Did anything distract you?
It was by no means a nasty intrusion, but I had a Jaws shark try to eat me! Let me explain: There were two delighful children behind me, playing with a plastic shark and some other toys. They came and had a little look at me a few times by squeezing around the pew. Charming. I wasn't distracted by it, but I was very interested in how things were done at the altar. The reader prepared the altar, assisted by a very able server, beautifully attired. After communion I noticed Sheila the reader consumned the wine and tidied up.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was lovely: more than halfway up the candle, I think. Six candles on the altar, two at the side. Canon John has a way about him: he has a very welcoming disposition, and took his time with his words. His invitation to the peace was so meant. I was particulary pleased that he didn't hog the entire service to himself. A chap called Len was asked to pray the Collect, so there were many involved in worship. It felt good, and if someone had made a mistake no one would have minded, and probably had a giggle about it. The gospel procession was done with great reverence. I was having a good old nose as I like to see things done properly, and it was. In the prayer of consecration the server rang his bells. Sadly, incense was not the order of the day. At communion a man stood by the two steps leading up to the altar, and he held out an arm to assist people down the steps. I thought that was charming and held onto his arm, just to show chivalry is not dead!
Exactly how long was the sermon?
The sermon was suprisingly short – six minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – I have a thing about the amount of boring sermons that are preached in churches. So I eagerly awaited this one. It was preached around the gospel, which was Luke 14:25-33 (on counting the cost of being a disciple), not the most inspiring of passages. I am so sorry to be saying this, because I think the preacher struggled with a rather boring subject. I felt there was too much biblical reference, and not enough human element in it. Nothing to even remotely make one smile, or nod, or shake one's head. I watched others in the congregation and some of them were looking around them. I thought maybe it was the wrong congregation for that sermon. Something more personal in its contents would have made them sit up and listen. I say all this with charity and love. I suppose what I am trying to say there was no Oomph in it! Sorry.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
I think thepoint was that we must prepare for the spiritual life..
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The server ringing bells. Canon John's persona – his caring nature and spirituality came through. I loved the way he spoke about and to the two children. They took some little pen drawings up for him to look at. He asked if they were Jesus, and both he and Sheila thought that's what the pictures portrayed. The little chap said "No, it's a robot." We all clapped them – they seemed very at home there.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The invitation to share the peace was done most lovingly, but most people seemd a bit uncomfortable with it. Personally I like to go around at least shaking hands. I didn't feel I could as a visitor, but then I probably have frightened them all to death. I think also I would like to have seen a little more of the Holy Spirit within people. The Spirit was there but probably hibernating for the winter!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was shown to the café for coffee. This is situated in the back of the church. People were friendly, and I had a lovely talk with the server. Café tables had pretty tableclothes. Parts of the church still had there bat covers on. What a problem. I stepped on, and then noticed, a tiny little memorial stone to "Tom Thumb" – it seems he was a Tattershall man. The pièce de résistance was the very new toilets. What a relief – a church with loo! Very disability friendly.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I an not sure if the coffee was fairly traded. I have yet to taste adecent cup of church coffee anywhere in Lincolnshire – nowthere's a challenge!
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – Such a big church, but the worship part has been madecomfortable. I feel maybe it could be a place I could worship in. Thereis lots going on. John and Sheila were so lovely. Again, as with allthe churches in the area, I worry about the ageing congregation. Olderpeople are so valuable to us with their wisdom and understanding, buthow is Holy Trinity going to keep going when the bat population isbigger than the human one?I wish them many blessings – they are trying so hard to keep thechurch going. Their love of Christ is evident, so I pray he enfolds hisarms around them and keeps them going.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I am always glad and estatic to be a Christian. But I am also sad that Christianity has that big F word to fight all the time. I mean "financial". Yes, the service filled me with warmth and a feeling of being part of something fantastic – if only things like bats and money didn't get in the way.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Canon John's sincerity.