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614: St John's, Llandudno, Wales
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St. John's, Llandudno, Wales
Mystery Worshipper: Bruised reed.
The church: St John's, Llandudno, Wales.
Denomination: Methodist.
The building: A large building with evidence of recent work – light and airy inside, and outside stonework in very good condition. A new wing stands next to it, built to match the original church building.
The church: I know little about the normal church community: the service was part of the Easter People programme and therefore not really in the normal context for this church. The congregation were all Easter People visiting Llandudno for the week. Most seemed to come as individuals and there were no large groups in evidence.
The neighbourhood: St John's is in the middle of the main shopping street, situated between two branches of Marks and Spencer. It is also in the tourist area, being just one street from the promenade.
The cast: I was unable to obtain names. A man led the service with assistance from two stewards and a sound technician.
What was the name of the service?
Silent communion.

How full was the building?
The church is large and probably seats 500 at full capacity, which it was for other meetings during the week. I estimate there were 150 people there for this service. People gathered towards the front of the church so it felt companionable.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A steward handed me the service sheet and invited me to take a pebble. This pebble was later used as a symbol of penitence: instead of the usual vocal prayers, we placed our pebbles at the foot of a cross.

Was your pew comfortable?
The pews were quite comfortable with long cushions and a length of carpet to soften the seat.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet and friendly. The service started at 7.30am so I was still waking up – I guess others were the same.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning and welcome." The leader then described how the service would proceed. This allowed the entire communion service to proceed in silence starting with the lighting of a candle and ending with saying the grace together. The leader also said he'd purloined the stones from the beach, which you're not allowed to do!

What books did the congregation use during the service?
No books, only a service sheet.

What musical instruments were played?
None – this was silent communion after all.

Did anything distract you?
The slight confusion during some parts of the service.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The best way I can describe it is unique. I've never been to anything that was quite the same. It was quiet, medatative and committed.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
There was no sermon. Instead, we had a period to meditate on a passage printed on the service sheet.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
There was a lot of space to focus on God, which was just what I'd gone along to find.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The confusion when handing round absolution and communion. Absolution was symbolised by raising someone to their feet, who then turned to the next person and did the same. It was passed along each row but when it reached the end we were unsure where to turn next. The communion took place in silence, and with no stewards to direct us. This again resulted in differing opinions as to what to do when the elements got to the end of each row.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
No one hung round, we all left (in my case to go back and have some breakfast before going to the morning Bible study). It wasn't the sort of service that you stop and be social after.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 – I loved the service but it's not the sort of thing I'd go for every week. As part of a retreat or church weekend, or as a special service it'd be great. I brought the service sheet home so I do hope to use this sort of thing again.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
It's not the sort of thing that is open for the unchurched but gave me much needed space to reflect. I think I'll express it like this: The service was an oasis for those who are glad to be Christian.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The space in silence.
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