Mystery Worshipper: Merlin
Church: St Mary's
Location: Cardington, Bedfordshire, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 18 June 2006, 10:30am
A fine Romanesque church, surrounded by pleasant woodland. Parts of the building date from the 12th and 16th centuries, but the church was substantially rebuilt around 1900. There are a number of medieval tomb slabs set into the east wall of the south chapel.
St Mary's has connections with the Whitbread family, who founded the famous English brewery that bears their name. One of the side chapels holds several monuments commemorating the family. The church has also been long associated with the Royal Air Force. In the churchyard is a tomb wherein rest the remains of those who perished in H.M. Airship R.101 at Beauvais, France, on 5 October 1930. What is left of the Airship flag hangs inside the church.
This is a mixed rural and urban area, with new housing having sprung up recently.
The Rev. Len Moore.
What was the name of the service?Parish Communion and Sunday School
How full was the building?
Half full, about 35 adults and a few children.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A warm welcome and handshake. I was handed all the books required for the service. I sat in a pew on my own, and everyone in the congregation came and shook hands with me.
Was your pew comfortable?
The Victorian pew was fine, hard but still comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I arrived about eight minutes early. People were chatting quietly with each other.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. Please be seated."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Hymns Ancient and Modern, Mission Praise, and an order of service. I did not see a Bible.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ, well played.
Did anything distract you?
There were two or three late arrivals. A lady sitting behind me sang exceptionally well, and as I have a poor voice I listened to her instead of singing myself. An old bier was situated to my right, and I kept wondering what it would have looked like 180 years ago, perhaps being pulled by people or horse-drawn.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I would say it was a standard Church of England type of service, perhaps a bit mundane.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
4 – The preacher seemed to be a man of good humour with a concern for others.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He spoke about the plans we make and how plans often have to be changed, perhaps due to illness. Gethsemane and the crucifixion were mentioned.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I especially enjoyed the organ music and the pleasant singing voice of the lady behind me.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The priest kept asking if everyone could hear him. He had trouble with the microphone at first but later got the hang of it. I could hear quite well. And that old bier kept drawing my attention away.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
People came and chatted and asked questions. I suddenly realised that Rev. Moore had been a luncheon guest at our house some years ago. I began to fear that he might recognise me.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I chose tea, served in china cups. It was fine and so were the biscuits.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 – I was brought up in a very strict ultra-conservative sect and do not wish at this time to return to church on a regular basis.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I am undecided about this question.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The old bier.