St Mary, Virgin and Mother, Capel St Mary, England


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St Mary, Virgin and Mother
Location: Capel St Mary, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 8 March 2020, 10:45am

The building

Photo: © Robert Edwards and used under license A typical historic British rural Church of England building that has been tastefully updated with a useful, modern room to the side that you enter via an inside passageway.

The church

Unlike a lot of old churches, this one was warm! Also, for the comfort of the congregation, the pews are out. Instead, comfy upholstered chairs are in! It being Lent, there were no flowers to cause hay fever sufferers problems with pollen. However, the lack of flora was more than made up for by colourful banners and beautiful stained glass windows.

The neighborhood

Capel St Mary is a large village with several churches that seem to work together a bit where possible. It has easy connectivity to the A12 motorway and appears to be an affluent village.

The cast

The church is in an interregnum, and a visiting priest did most of the service. Ladies took one of the readings and the intercessions.

What was the name of the service?

Holy Communion.

How full was the building?

Half full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

I had a jolly friendly chat with a member of the congregation as I went up the drive, followed by another jolly friendly welcome, and yet another as I was given the hymn book. Well, books actually, and the service book and the reading sheet – but I managed to negotiate the paperwork! I got a warm welcome with no awkward moments around the ‘to shake hands or not to shake hands’ scenario that the coronavirus has presented us with.

Was your pew comfortable?

Lovely comfy chairs.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Lots of friendly chatting before the service, and during it a bit too! I think I sat in someone else's chair, but my deaf ear ignored the slight confusion this caused. It is possible that I was being too sensitive, though, and the confusion was around something else – not quite sure what.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

‘Please stand for the first hymn.’

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Service book; Hymns Ancient and Modern; Songs of Fellowship; a sheet with the readings, the collect, and the post communion prayer. All very Anglican – but it is an Anglican church after all!

What musical instruments were played?

Pipe organ. The organ was very high up. Organists need to have a good head for heights, or maybe play in a low key!

Did anything distract you?

The collection was taken up in big baskets, so a little tricky to sneak my Mystery Worshipper calling card in, but I think I got away with it!

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

Worship was traditional Anglican. The congregation knew exactly when to stand and when to sit – no instructions needed.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

10 minutes

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

9 — The sermon was very easy listening, with a start that had us on the edges of our seats. It finished with enough of a challenge to be able to take something home. The priest was a retired gentleman who is helping out during the interregnum, and his experience showed.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Being born again, with a wonderful graphic description of how our first birth might have felt to the baby being sprung down the birth canal into the world.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The gospel reading moved me to a wet eye. It was just the way it was read.

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

Well ... as we are in coronavirus territory, the peace was a little painful even though we had directions for not shaking hands. All a bit tummy churning!

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

I was shunted through to coffee with alarming friendliness.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Well, there were chocolate biscuits, so say no more! Coffee and biscuits after the service were on offer in the very well equipped church room, also nice and warm. Tea was good. Coffee smelled OK but I never touch the stuff.

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

7 — If I moved to the village I would definitely return. Everyone was very welcoming, and the young family in church looked very comfortable.

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

Umm, yes, I think so.

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

The welcome.

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