|761: St Peter's, Port Isaac, Cornwall, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Mrs Pusey.
The church: St Peter's, Port Isaac, Cornwall, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: The church seemed Victorian and was unremarkable from the outside, perhaps because it was slotted into a site so cramped that one only got a view of the west end. Inside, it was lovely, with the chancel up a flight of granite steps, and a light and airy nave. The nave altar looked like a crate.
The neighbourhood: Port Isaac was a fishing village. It now seems to be a summer haven for people who drive enormous Chelsea tractors which they are quite unable to manoeuvre in confined spaces. All around are steep hills, pedestrian-only snickets, tiny granite or slate-hung cottages, and when the wind is blowing, a whiff of fish guts and pasties.
The cast: The names were not supplied. The celebrant was a retired priest and the preacher was a lay reader.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Perhaps 30 people in a building which might seat 100.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, the woman who handed me books and leaflet.
Was your pew comfortable?
There were sensibly-spaced church chairs, each with bookshelf and kneeler rack. There were beautiful tapestry kneelers, though I think I was the only person to use one, the Prot. squat being in vogue here. This shook me as this is the Diocese of Truro.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Expectant and all but silent.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Will you sit down?"
What books did the congregation use during the service?
A home-made service book and Hymns Ancient and Modern (revised).
What musical instruments were played?
Organ and voice. The singing of familiar Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley hymns was a little ponderous, but then there was no choir, and not many of us.
Did anything distract you?
The celebrant sounded so like my school chaplain of long ago that if I shut my eyes I could see the school chapel, and smell the cabbage-and-polish flavoured air again. The altar was beautifully set out with all the trimmings. There were several wonderful flower arrangements, created from untortured country garden flowers, with a slight pong of foetid vase water hanging in the air. There were two dead butterflies on the Book of Rememberance in the chancel. The celebrant whipped his chasuble on after the offertory with a flourish born of decades of practice, with no tweaking required to adjust his orphrey lines. There was a puzzling notice on the pew slip: "Shell Cottage: if you would like to attend for a day or part of a day please be in touch with Judith." I wasted valuable time pondering on what might transpire if one did.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Several notches above stiff upper lip, but not spikey. There was no smoke, no robed servers, no lace or faffing about.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 This was quite the best sermon I had heard for a long time, and certainly the best ever from a lay reader. He let us know that he had been a naval officer, and certainly spoke like one.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It was St Barnabas's Day. He stood alongside (note naval aphorism) Our Lord. Consider how Our Lord stands alongside us. We must consider how best we can stand alongside him.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The assured and measured delivery of the celebrant and the complete quiet enabled total concentration on the consecration. There was no traffic noise from outside, only the odd squark from a gull.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
There was one child and one adolescent only in the congregation. I hope the rest were away on holiday. It would be a shame to think that such a gem of a place was for the over-50s. Nothing even slightly amusing caught my eye or ear, always a grave disappointment.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was invited to have coffee straight away. Other visitors were keener to converse than the locals.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Instant, hot water from a thermos, proper cup and saucer. It was good coffee, but certainly not fairly-traded.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 I was aware of a certain reserve towards visitors both in church and around the village during the rest of the week. Indeed, I was cut dead by a church lady with whom I had tried to chat later in the week in the Co-op. Our neighbour set out to be as rude as possible. I suspect the locals have good reasons to resent incomers and holiday makers, though.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?