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  1486: Matterdale Church, Matterdale End, Cumbria, England

Matterdale Church, Matterdale End, Cumbria

Mystery Worshipper: Wandering Star.
The church: Matterdale Church, Matterdale End, Cumbria, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: This simple little church of unknown dedication dates from Elizabethan times but may have been rebuilt in 1685, as attested to by a carved stone set in one of the walls. The church is reached via a narrow path that meanders through an old graveyard. It's a plain building of stone, consisting of chancel, nave, north porch and small western belfry containing one bell. Curious carvings of initials and dates can be found both on some of the stones and the interior beams. Inside, the wooden chandeliers, beams, ribbing, paneling and pews give the church a rustic appearance. The stained glass dates from much later and is the work of Charles Eamer Kempe, one of the major figures of Victorian decorative art.
The church: Matterdale Church is a member of the benefice of the Good Shepherd Team Ministry, which embraces the parishes of Greystoke, Matterdale, Mungrisdale, Patterdale and Watermillock. Holy Communion is celebrated at Matterdale only every two weeks.
The neighbourhood: The tiny hamlet of Matterdale End, set amongst the hills and dales around Lake Ullswater, affords some spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. The church nestles in a dip in the landscape and no photograph from the road can do it justice. I'm sure the view from the adjacent hills is better, but I regret to say that the climb was beyond by capabilities, especially in Sunday shoes!
The cast: The Revd Helen Brett Young, assisted by Elaine Thomas, who also preached.
The date & time: 3 June 2007, 11.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Holy Communion and Baptism of Baby Pippa Steele.

How full was the building?
The small building was almost full. It is listed as having 125 seats, but I should think the church could hold only about 75 people at a push.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Upon entering, I was given a hymn book and a specially printed copy of the service. As I weighed up where to sit, I was advised to sit on the right. "We usually leave the left for the baptismal party," I was told. After I settled in, I was met with reserved smiles and nodding heads.

Was your pew comfortable?
The pews were of stone and oak, with carpet runners on the seats – a little uncomfortable. The kneelers were quite thin.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was a gorgeous sunny day, and cameras flashed as happy relatives fussed over freshly scrubbed children amongst words of "My, how you've grown!" and the like. I was delighted most of all to see Mother Helen, fully vested for mass, arriving via the side lane pushing her small son, Jonathon, in his pram – breathless, smiling, and ready to begin the service. Because the church was so full of young families, there was the clamour of a party before the service began. The tiny yet very efficient pipe organ provided background music.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father be with you."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Mission Praise plus the service sheet.

What musical instruments were played?
A quite small yet completely adequate pipe organ, played by a charming elderly lady.

Did anything distract you?
A butterfly joined the congregation, and its wonderful flutterings between the windows and around the children were lovely if distracting.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Every attempt was made by the priest and her assistant to create a relaxed service. I would say the worship was stiff upper lip, with a smile tickling the corners of those lips.

Matterdale Church, Matterdale End, Cumbria

Exactly how long was the sermon?
20 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Elaine Thomas was very well prepared, used countless visual aids, and spoke animatedly and enthusiastically. She spent most of the time wandering up and down the aisle, making eye contact with individual children and adults, and encouraging replies to her questions.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Elaine began by asking us about free gifts – what free gifts would we like to receive? As Christians, our biggest gift is hope for the future, given by our three-in-one God. Because we are loved by and for God, Baby Pippa's life is going to be a great adventure. She then produced a rucksack and asked, "What should Baby Pippa pack for the journey?" "A map," someone suggested, and she pulled a Bible out of her rucksack. "Water," someone else said, and out came a bottle of water, with an explanation of how Jesus is the Water of Life. This went on for some time, the final items in the rucksack being a name badge and a small wooden cross. "Take these, Baby Pippa," she said, "and step into the promises of God. Journey with God and live a beautiful life."

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I'd have to say that the spectacular scenic setting of the church was heavenly. Taking part in a service in such a place was most uplifting.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Although it was a warm day, some of the heating appliances appeared to be running at full capacity. Some areas were very warm. I guess we experienced some of the unpleasant heating arrangements that might be found in that other place.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I spotted a photo montage by the altar and walked up to it to study it. I noticed that a few parishioners depicted in the montage had the same maiden name as I did. A gentleman came up and matched some of the photos with members of the congregation – now much, much longer in the tooth – and a small child in the montage who, he said, would be married from this church in two weeks' time.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Tea and coffee were served in proper china cups. Juice was also available. I had to avail myself of the facilities, and I am happy to report that they were clean and modern – cosy even!

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – If I were living in the area, I probably would seek out a larger church. It was all a bit too traditional for me, despite the efforts of Mother Helen and Elaine. I have noticed that it is very difficult to bring change to small Anglican fellowships such as Matterdale.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. I was pleased to see children who I didn't imagine went to a church service often, paying attention and soaking up the atmosphere in a place of love and hope.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The setting, and Elaine Thomas's carefully prepared, animated sermon, which appealed on all levels.
 
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