Sailors Church, Ramsgate (Exterior)

Sailors' Church, Ramsgate Harbour, England


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Mystery Worshipper: Fedoracat
Church: Sailors' Church
Location: Ramsgate Harbour, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 28 June 2015, 6:00pm

The building

The Sailors' Church was built in the mid 19th century to minister to the the men and boys who fished out of Ramsgate, and to provide accommodation for the fishing apprentices (also known as Smack Boys) and emergency space for shipwrecked sailors. The church itself is essentially rectangular and occupies the ground floor of the three-floor building. The rooms above, and the building next door, originally served as living quarters. The interior of the church is quite plain.

The church

Traditionally, the congregation was made up of fishermen and their families, but today it is a community representing the working harbour (mostly pleasure vessels, with a small number of fishing boats), the port and the neighbourhood.

The neighborhood

Ramsgate is a seaside town in east Kent. St Augustine landed near here in AD597. The harbour, begun in 1749 and completed about 100 years later, is England's only Royal Harbour. The town has played an important military role, having been a chief embarkation point both during the Napoleonic Wars and for the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940. Many of the roads have military-sounding names. Today Ramsgate thrives on tourism and fishing, and in the summer in particular it has a very unusual sound and feel. The church lies next to the inner harbour but below the town.

The cast

The Revd Gordon Warren.

What was the name of the service?

Evening Worship.

How full was the building?

It is quite a small building but it was not full – I think maybe 30 people total.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Several people smiled and said hello as we walked to the pew.

Was your pew comfortable?

The pews have very low back supports, so I thought on balance it was uncomfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

People were chatting and catching up.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Hello and welcome, particularly to new faces."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Printed card with hymns and prayers.

What musical instruments were played?

Small electric organ.

Did anything distract you?

I live in the area and often sit in the church as a place of quiet, listening to the clanks of the boats and the passers-by. But I have never been to a service here before, so almost everything was a distraction! I was looking at the memorial stone for former harbour missionary who died in 1902 aged 30. Oh, and also the cobwebs on the back of the pew.

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

It most reminded me of chapel: robust sea-themed hymns belted out with gusto. If one didn't know it was Anglican, I think you'd probably guess it was a Methodist chapel.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

24 minutes.

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

6 – Unfortunately the Revd Gordon Warren was continuing with a running illustration, so it took a little while to work out what he was talking about.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Romans 6 tells us we are no longer captive to sin, but Romans 7 says that we are still struggling with it. Think of a housekeeper (he said by way of illustration) who is told how to keep to the rules of the house by a note that spells out what not to do – though the housekeeper would never have done any of those things if the note had not mentioned them. But she eventually marries her master and then keeps the rules because of love. (I wasn't really convinced this illustration was helping very much.)

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The Methodist heft to the service reminded me of my grandmother, a robust Methodist. I also couldn't help thinking of the generations of rugged sailors who had occupied the pews. The combination of the two thoughts made me smile.

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

The Revd Warren's delivery was (perhaps appropriately) a bit rocky, and the content was quite hard to follow.

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

Unfortunately we had to go, but there was tea and cake. A couple of people spoke to us on the way out and thanked us for coming.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

I cannot honestly say that I tried it, but the cake looked nice and the coffee was filter with proper cups.

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

6 – I live in the area, but the style is not really my thing. I enjoyed singing the hymns (primarily 19th century) but I think I might get tired of the style quickly. I didn't hate it – I can imagine going back.

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

I didn't feel miserable. This is an accomplishment.

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

The cobwebs. (Sigh) Yes, I am that shallow.

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