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||1439: Nativity and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Studley,
Mystery Worshipper: Wandering Star.
The church: Nativity
and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Studley, Warwickshire, England.
The building: This is a traditional square towered, 900 year old
church building, set on a hill so that the tower is visible from miles away.
John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72)
described the church as "ancient but good". Stained glass windows
abound. Three groups of pews plus communion table comprise the nave, and
the high altar and choir stalls occupy the chancel. There are a number of
child friendly areas: one outside on the church grounds, another inside
by the font on the south side, and a third above the vestry and behind the
organ loft. This latter space is carpeted and reached via a gated spiral
staircase, and affords a grand view of the fields of Studley. A glass partition
separates the children from the space where the organ originally stood,
now occupied by a drum set. I wonder if the drums are beaten from this position?
The organ has been refurbished and moved into the chancel, beside the choir
stalls. On this particular Sunday, rugs and and activities were arranged
outside in preparation for Junior Church. A beautiful, hand-painted Easter
cross hung from the roof.
The church: Their website states: "We aim to avoid being pigeonholed
as any particular variety of church, but seek to welcome all who are looking
for God." They sponsor a variety of study and friendship groups that
meet in people's homes, as well as bellringers, a mothers' group, youth
groups, a walking group, and others.
The neighbourhood: Studley sits on an ancient Roman road, but the
earliest evidence of a settlement here dates back to Saxon times. In the
17th and 18th centuries, the town was a major manufacturing centre, producing
needles, charcoal, bricks and malt. Today Studley is a heavily populated
area, thick with houses. It is also known for its pubs and restaurants.
It is said that there are more pubs per capita in Studley than anywhere
else in the United Kingdom, save for Blackpool. The church itself is set
down a country lane, off the main road, leading into pastureland, a far
cry from the nearby M42 and A435 – a surprising oasis.
The cast: The service was led by the associate minister, the Revd
Margaret Deimel. The Revd Richard Deimel arrived a little later, having
taken a service at Mappleborough Green, and was just in time to baptise
baby Theo. Licensed Minister Clive Hickman (I believe his name was) preached.
The clergy were assisted by members of the ministry team, and several members
of the congregation gave the readings and prayers.
The date & time: 29 April 2007, 10.45am.
What was the name of the service?
Celtic Communion and Junior Church at Studley – Wild Flower Sunday.
How full was the building?
Almost full, with a good number of young families.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Not personally, but my party and I were welcomed en masse. Plenty of smiles
and greetings all round.
Was your pew comfortable?
The wooden pew was comfortable although the bookshelf was a little narrow.
How would you describe the pre-service
A happy bustle of welcomes and chatter as the congregation entered. The
keyboard was played quietly.
What were the exact opening words of the
What books did the congregation use during the
The Holy Bible, New International Version; Studley Worship
902 (song book); Celtic Communion Order of Service; Order
of Baptism; a bulletin sheet and prayer sheet.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard and guitar.
Did anything distract you?
It was a miracle that the preacher managed not to be distracted from his
message despite the gurglings and burbling of babies and young children
and the occasional dropped book, bottle or rattle. He was totally un-phased.
We did have a number of pieces of paper to manage, and it was rather difficult
to maintain a prayerful manner whilst rifling through them. However, this
did not detract from the enjoyment of the service.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
The whole service was held just like a picnic in the park, yet none of the
reverence for God or the sincerity of our offering was lost. All the songs
were modern. The worship was really enjoyable and relaxed.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 I really like listening to a preacher who holds an open, soft bound
Bible across his hand. It was a real joy to see the Word of Truth nestling
in willing hands. I loved Clive's easy references to the Word.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
"What is the point of it all – is death all there is?" Nature
dies, and we are part of the same natural process. But Peter broke that
natural law when he raised Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:36-43). God has
power over nature. His supernatural power overcomes death and gives life
everlasting. No one will snatch God's sheep from out of his hand (John 10:22-30).
It is bemusing to think that some people choose Frank Sinatra's song "My
Way" as a funeral selection. Surely if they had it "their way"
they wouldn't be in the box! When we become followers of Jesus, we know
the joy of everlasting life. But isn't God alone immortal (Timothy 6:16)?
All the rest of us have a termination date. Through God's supernatural Holy
Spirit we can have complete trust.
Which part of the service was like being in
This was a really busy service. It was during the return to seats after
communion that it seemed heavenly. I felt as though I were part of a big
family in heaven, where amongst the hustle and bustle there was opportunity
to take communion, smell the flowers, praise God, feed someone else's baby,
say a prayer, and best of all, enjoy a real feeling of love and care.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Somewhat odd, but here goes. At one point we were invited outside to enjoy
the wildflowers, but some of the congregation remained inside. Suddenly
those inside the church started singing. As lovely as the flowers were,
to hear the singing inside while we were outside was quite hard to bear.
Is that what it is like?
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
There was a general sharing of the joy of the service. The Revd Richard
Deimel, divested of his clerical garb, cup of tea in hand, came up and welcomed
How would you describe the after-service
Coffee and tea were fair traded and served in proper china cups. Plentiful
juice was available too.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 Such a lovely feeling of extended family. This should be the ideal
for every church. I felt part of a family.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Oh yes. I was so pleased to rejoice in the heavenly Father of this enormous
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Coming back into the church after praising God for his creation, in his
creation, to joyful singing of "See what a morning" by Stuart
Townend and Keith Getty.
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