Mystery Worshipper: Aileen
Church: St Peter & St Paul
Location: Shepton Mallet, Somerset, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 27 July 2014, 11:00am
It's a very large building, the original of which dates from Saxon times (only fragments remain of that church). Additions, subtractions and reconstructions have taken place through the ages ever since 1170. Marks of alterations over the centuries are clearly visible, culminating in a stained glass window by local artist John Yeo to commemorate the millennium and over 1000 years of Christian worship on this site. Inside is chock full of carvings, brass memorials and other fittings from every age. They offer for sale an illustrated booklet giving the long and complex story of the church.
Other churches in the benefice include St Aldhelm's, Doulting, and St Bartholomew's, Cranmore. They conduct joint services with the local Methodist congregation, who have been put out of their own building due to structural problems. They take part in Christians Together in Shepton Mallet along with the other Christian churches in town. They sponsor numerous groups and outreaches, including mission development, house groups, focus groups, and Tearfund, a group committed to ending poverty in the world.
Shepton Mallet is a small rural town in Somerset. Once an important wool centre, it now serves as a bedroom community for Bath, Bristol and Yeovil and is a major centre for the production of cider. There are many homes, very ancient, made a long time ago (they look lovely) and also lots of shops. It is a beautiful place, with cars and buses. There are lots of animals we can see.
The Revd David Williamson, priest in charge.
What was the name of the service?Morning Service with Baptism.
How full was the building?
About 50 people. The section on the right was very full with members of the baptismal party.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was welcomed by someone as I came in as well as by a gentleman named David, who spoke to us really nicely.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was comfortable, being wooden and having red cushions to kneel on.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
We all sat down and many spoke to each other.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Very delighted to have you with us."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. Hymns were put up ahead of us on a screen.
What musical instruments were played?
There was an organ, a piano, and a singer. It was very lovely.
Did anything distract you?
We had prayers of confession to create relationship, in our humanity and sinfulness. I felt I was not totally perfect, and I felt a bit distracted.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The priest was vested in cassock and surplice plus stole. The baby was baptised toward the end of the service and didn't cry at all! Everybody just stood up and sang well.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The preacher spoke well and it helped us to feel God loves us very much, and also is very faithful and rescues us.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The more we learn about the ways of God, the more we realise that God wants us all to live and wants to help us. We pass on our faith in God through baptism. This is the parents' responsibility. How are we doing? Do not be bashful about spreading the faith to others we are Christians always! No one's life is free of bad things, but people can escape their bad things. Jesus always asked his disciples if they understood what he was saying. If we understand God's love, Amen!
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I remembered being baptised as a teenager. It was something I chose, and I felt like I was in contact with God. I felt like being connected to heaven.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Whenever I hear God's perfection preached, I'm always aware of my own shortcomings and less than perfect behaviour.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
People chatted and showed me where the tea and coffee and food were. They were very kind to me.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was really excellent tea and coffee and food to have. It was also quite close to have it.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – I was very happy to be in this church. It is ancient and beautiful, and has excellent music and teaching. If I lived here I might belong to it.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I felt glad to be a Christian and because God the Father, Jesus and Spirit loves and helps me.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Remembering my own baptism.