Most Holy Trinity, Newquay, Cornwall, England

Most Holy Trinity, Newquay, Cornwall, England


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Most Holy Trinity
Location: Newquay, Cornwall, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 30 August 2009, 10:30am

The building

The church was completed and opened in 1903 and has been renovated and extended over the years. As a result, the exterior, while unmistakably a church, has a rather hodge-podge look about it, most notably by the addition of a substantial porch in 1911 built to protect the entrance to the church from winter storms. The interior, on the other hand, is simple, with arches and pillars enhancing the open space. White walls, green carpeting and plenty of light streaming through the windows give the place a bright look – but stark! A Lady chapel has survived the "reforms" of the 1970s relatively well, but by contrast the main altar and sanctuary set one to dreaming of how grand it all must have looked in the old days.

The church

They sponsor a number of social outings as well as fund-raising activities held at the church. They support the Sudan Volunteer Programme, carrying on a number of relief activities in Sudan. There is a special emphasis on children's liturgy and catechesis, with an interest in getting children involved in charitable endeavours.

The neighborhood

Newquay is a popular seaside resort and fishing port on the north coast of Cornwall. In the immediate vicinity of the church there are several hostels and bed-and-breakfasts catering to those visiting the world famous Fistral Beach, downhill from the church. Most Holy Trinity is situated at the far end of town, rather than in a more central position – an area that was in fact the centre of what was merely a little fishing village at the time the church was built.

The cast

The Revd Mark O'Keeffe, parish priest, was celebrant and preacher. He was assisted by the Revd Mr Brian Everall, deacon, who read the gospel.

What was the name of the service?


How full was the building?

Full, with lots of young families.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

A lady on duty at the door smiled as she handed me the parish bulletin. I looked about for the familiar holy water font, but in vain – they either have none or it was tucked away in an elusive spot. I prefer to be left alone before mass starts, and that's indeed what happened. But there were genuine handshakes and smiles at the exchange of peace, which was very touching.

Was your pew comfortable?

It was a standard 1970s wooden jobby – absolutely fine for me, with probably the most comfortable kneelers I've come across in years.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Very noisy, with the atmosphere of a social club, amplified by a guitarist or two rehearsing. I didn't see anyone praying. In my opinion, quite disrespectful.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen" followed by a short welcome and introduction to the mass.

What books did the congregation use during the service?

The Laudate hymnal and the parish bulletin for the readings and antiphons.

What musical instruments were played?

Electric organ and guitars, badly played, which never seemed to agree with one another.

Did anything distract you?

Mostly the stark difference between the beautiful Lady chapel altar and the contrastingly sparse sanctuary and main altar. Also, being an organist, I took issue with the music, which was not in keeping with the reverence of the mass.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

Middle of the road, Vatican II Catholic worship. The celebrant and deacon wore beautiful Gothic vestments and there was a small amount of lace on the altar. Bells chimed at the Hanc igitur and major elevations, and the priest sang the Per ipsum with the people joining in at the great Amen. However, the mass setting and "songs" were almost all 1970s ditties that I didn't know. There was no genuflecting by the laity, no incense, and only one server who didn't seem actually to do anything.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

7 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

8 – Father preached in a very thought-provoking, fluent and engaging style, with an excellent voice to match.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

He started by addressing the laws laid down in the Old Testament about following religion and how religion doesn't translate into faith. He taught how we must respond to God generously with open hearts, obedient to the words of Christ.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The homily. It was very Catholic and I'd give it two out of three papal tiaras.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

The music! I am only 21 but I knew none of the "songs" and would have been extremely content with traditional hymns or even plainsong. Altogether very frustrating. The improvisations by the guitarists before and during mass made me want to shove my fists in my ears.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

The priest was shaking hands at the door. I had to rush off, but I did have time to exchange some very pleasant small talk. He thanked me for coming, which I greatly appreciated.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

I'm not sure if there was any, but my breakfast in the town centre was lovely!

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

7 – I was only on a brief holiday in Cornwall. However, when I return I intend to visit the parish again. My only reservation is that in a respectable effort to be inclusive, the music has become exclusive. I don't think I could put up with that on a regular basis.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Yes. The way the liturgy was celebrated really brought home the importance of Pope Benedict XVI's emphasis on continuity.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

The contrast between the reverence and humility shown by the celebrant, and the behaviour and determination of the lay people to turn the attention in the mass toward their participation.

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