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United Reformed, Sion, Isle of Jersey
United Reformed, Sion, Isle of Jersey.
This is the oldest nonconformist building on the island. It
is a bright terra cotta building – very simple with
two light windows and halls. The church recently closed their
Victorian Gothic church in St Helier, which has become home
to another Evangelical church. The church at Sion has had
a major refurbishing. Before the refurb it had been a basic
Protestant "God box." But the pews and pulpit were
taken out and the floor removed, and the church was redecorated
in a mustard yellow with flexible furniture which can be turned
if necessary. The original organ has been replaced with a
large three manual digital instrument by the Italian Viscount
firm, although some of the pipes have been retained on one
of the walls.
This is a gathered congregation, so I guess a central site
makes sense. They share their minister with a sister church
in Guernsey. They participate in St John's Group of Churches
(Anglican, Methodist and URC) and Christians Together in Jersey.
They also support Amnesty International and are involved in
a large number of local, national and international charities.
The largest of the Channel Islands, Jersey sits in the Bay
of Mont St Michel off the northwest coast of France. As might
be expected, there is a strong French influence in the island's
culture. Jersey is not part of the United Kingdom, nor a British
colony. However, it owes allegiance to the Crown, which is
responsible for the Island's defence and international relations.
The village of Sion is dominated by a huge temple of a Methodist
church and appears to be a very traditional village, with
views across some very French looking land and houses as well
as a large cemetery. It was refreshing to note that there
are no mainstream supermarkets on the island.
The Revd Patrick McManus, minister.
The date & time:
17 February 2008, 10.30am.
What was the name of
How full was the building?
About 40 or so people, which seemed reasonable for the size
of the building.
Did anyone welcome you
I had travelled to Jersey by myself and was feeling a bit lonely,
but it has to be said that I felt very much at home in this
church after only a few minutes. This is a very welcoming
community. I received a huge welcome. Before the service I
was greeted by the minister's wife, who as it turns out has
relatives near where I live at home. I was taken round to
several people in the church. As soon as they found out I
was an organist, the minister asked me to play a few things
after the service! Nearly everybody came up to me and made
me feel welcome. There was a very strong family feeling amongst
Was your pew comfortable?
A nice modern comfortable chair.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
I arrived very early, so I went for a bike ride around the
lanes. When I finally pulled up at the church, people were
chatting outside. Inside, there was some piped orchestra music
playing in the background.
What were the exact
opening words of the service?
"Good morning and welcome to today's service."
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
A leaflet plus Rejoice and Sing, the trusty URC hymn
What musical instruments
The massive three manual Viscount organ, played well by the
minister's son Richard (who plays in a rock band).
Did anything distract
I have never been given such a huge welcome in my life. Usually
this Mystery Worshipper is ignored! They even asked me what
my home church was, and included it in the prayers.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
It was traditional without being too staid. Trusty old rousing
hymns, without the need for the current doggerel being churned
out by the likes of Hill Song, etc. I am sometimes wary of
the more obscure inclusions in Rejoice and Sing,
but everyone seemed to know these hymns quite well. "Praise
to my soul" kicked off the service with a nice bit of
solid theology and good tune. None of this "God is my
best mate" sort of language which, far from including
Exactly how long was
On a scale of 1-10,
how good was the preacher?
9 Pastor McManus demonstrated that he knew his congregation
very well. At times it became a two-way conversation.
In a nutshell, what
was the sermon about?
The sermon was about looking back at the ordinary times which
aren't necessarily mentioned in the Bible. The Bible doesn't
always have all the answers to everything. Sometimes we just
don't know what the Lord has in mind. Look back and take stock.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The welcome was certainly the most heavenly thing about this
church. I was introduced to everybody. The next day I was
cycling up a hill when a church member stopped her car and
invited me for a drink in her garden before I cycled off to
Plemont, the beautiful but sometimes dangerous swimming cove
on Jersey's north coast.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
There was very little bad about this service. It would have
been nice if there had been an evening service, as my evening
visit to another Jersey church was quite a different experience.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
I was shown straight to the organ and gave a little recital.
The minister then introduced me to a few people, including
someone who was born in the same nursing home as myself! I
also chatted with a charming old gent named Dennis, who was
of the opinion that not only was it fitting that Jersey is
not part of the UK, but that all of the UK should be part
of Normandy! I told him my surname, but he said, "No
that's no good. That's from the centre of France."
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
I had some orange juice, as I can't drink tea or coffee. They
list themselves as a fair trade church, however.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
10 With the huge welcome that I received, I would very
much like to make it my home church. However, I was on holiday
and a pilgrim. But I will return one day.
Did the service make
you feel glad to be a Christian?
It certainly did – but more importantly a welcome pilgrim.
I was made to feel so welcome – like a medieval Christian
on a pilgrimage! This is a church with a lot of potential.
However, sadly like so many other churches, the congregation
is becoming elderly and new younger people just aren't getting
through the doors. This is especially sad because the United
Reformed Church does feel like "the people's church"
and has retained the common touch with all its members.
What one thing will
you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The big welcome. I wish them all the best for their future.
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