St Nicholas Tadmarton

St Nicholas, Tadmarton, Oxfordshire, England


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St Nicholas
Location: Tadmarton, Oxfordshire, England
Date of visit: Saturday, 4 June 2011, 10:00am

The building

A small sleepy village church. Their car park is set amongst trees in what appears to be either an old orchard or someone's garden! The building, of which some remnants of the original features remain, is Norman and dates from the 12th century. The characteristics of various other styles, as well as puzzling features such as stairways to nowhere, can be seen in renovations done over the centuries. The tower, added in the 13th century, features a peal of six bells. According to the parish bulletin, thieves recently made off with some lead from the church roof, but the roof has since been repaired.

The church

They regularly sponsor an "open morning" featuring raffles, cake competitions, and craft stalls, and where visitors are invited to "have a go" at bell ringing or playing the organ, or to look up their family history in the parish register. During Lent they hold discussion meetings in parishioners' homes and sponsor fund-raising luncheons, the proceeds of which are given to charity. Each year they hold a traditional clypping service, where parishioners encircle the church, holding hands and passing a prayer of thanksgiving around the circle.

The neighborhood

Tadmarton is a picture perfect typical English village. The village's one public house, the Lampet Arms, sits directly opposite the church. The nearby town of Banbury is home to Tadmarton Products Ltd, one of the UK's largest wholesale suppliers of quality meat and fresh and frozen food to butchers, caterers, and retailers.

The cast

The Revd John Tattershall, vicar.

What was the name of the service?

Holy Communion

How full was the building?

Bulging. This really surprised me. I had expected three old ladies and a dog. It is, after all, just a small village church in sleepytown!

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Fantastic welcome. I was handed a service sheet, hymn book, and an A4 piece of paper with the psalm for the day.

Was your pew comfortable?

Average standard issue church pew, which did have a quite nice cushion on.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Busy. Lots of people mingling. The choir were busy robing at the back of the church in the rear pews.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"We start the service by singing hymn number..."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Hymns Old and New, New Anglican Version, and a printed order of service. The Holy Bible, New International Version, was used for the readings.

What musical instruments were played?

Organ, not very loud but well played. The choir were a full SATB ensemble, fully robed, and their singing easily drowned out the organ. And oh yes, the choir danced too!

Did anything distract you?

On the way in, I noticed some really nice looking cakes on the tea stand. I could smell them all through the service. A nice distraction!

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

Slightly high of middle of the road, but very welcoming. It flowed well. The hymns were a mix of modern ones and traditional. The Gloria was sung (and sung well). During the communion, the choir went to the back of the church and sang "God be in my head." I haven't heard that one in a long time, and it was really nicely sung. The youngish choir director seemed to keep them all together.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

11 minutes.

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

3 – Monotone! I switched off after 30 seconds and was left admiring a rather nice large painting on the church wall.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Sorry, but I really did not pay attention.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The choir – simply superb. Such a large choir – about 25, I guess, and in such a small village! It was really nice to see a robed choir who were well balanced and had all age groups in. Also the coffee – really good coffee. And the cakes – more about the cakes later!

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

The sermon. This was the only downside to the service. I simply was not inspired by the sermon – sorry! I have no idea how a vicar who led the service so well and put such passion into the prayers suddenly changed when it came to preaching.

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

Everyone mingled, and several people came up and said hello. I wasn't allowed out of the door until I had eaten at least three cakes. O happy prisoner!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Fresh coffee, and cakes to die for. There were some scrummy coconut cakes, some homemade shortbread that melted in your mouth, and some others that I didn't get to try. I was just up visiting friends in the area but would almost move the 200 miles just for the cakes!

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

8 – I was pleasantly surprised to find such a lively church in such a small village. But oh, the preaching!

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

Yes. There was a really nice balance to the service.

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

The choir's rendering of "God be in my head." Really reflective during the communion.

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