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Church, Hunstanton, Norfolk, England
Church, Hunstanton, Norfolk, England.
of Great Britain/United
A fairly typical nonconformist chapel dating from the late 19th
century. We were a bit confused about where the entrance was.
It is at the side in order to make disabled access easier, as
the building is on a hill. Inside it was fairly large, with
lovely art nouveau style windows which depict the Tree of Life.
Union Church is a join Baptist/URC church. I wasn't able to
establish when the two congregations joined. On the day of our
visit, most of the people in attendance appeared to be age 50
and above, although there are apparently some younger people
around as our youngest member was invited to go to Sunday school.
Everyone was smartly dressed, with most of the men in suits
and ties. (Our group was in jeans and casual wear, but the welcome
was such that we didn’t feel out of place.) Their website
shows them involved in a mix of activities, including coffee
mornings, prayer meetings, Brownies, a women’s fellowship,
and ecumenical activities.
Hunstanton is a small seaside town situated on the north Norfolk
coast – although, as the locals point out, it actually
faces west. And so the sun sets over the sea – unusual
in the east of England! The church is located fairly near the
sea front overlooking a very attractive green. Hunstanton and
the surrounding area is lovely and we were surprised at how
many people were around, considering our visit was at the end
of December and most seaside towns are quiet that time of the
The service was led by Enid Headon, a lay preacher who lives
in the area.
The date & time:
30 December 2007, 10.30am.
What was the name of the service?
Family Service, although other than a children's address there
wasn't much for families.
How full was the building?
The church was probably about three-quarters full, so around
50 or 60 people perhaps. That said, our party was 16 in number,
so we helped to swell the ranks considerably.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
As we tried to find the entrance, some members of the congregation
said, "Good morning. You must be visitors!" and showed
us the way in. A door steward said good morning and gave us
a hymn book and a notice sheet.
Was your pew comfortable?
Wooden chairs with cushions. They tended to give a bit of a
numb bum and weren't very good on the back either. That said,
I was suffering with a back problem at the time so perhaps I'm
being a bit harsh.
How would you describe the pre-service
Chatty. Many people were seeing each other for the first time
since Christmas, so there was lots of talk about how Christmas
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning. I hope you all had a good Christmas."
What books did the congregation use during the
Mission Praise plus The Holy Bible, New International
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
I was distracted by a door adjacent to the pulpit with the word
"Toilet" on it. As a preacher myself, I know the feeling of sometimes
needing the loo halfway through a service. But it seemed weird
actually seeing a toilet next to the pulpit. No doubt it wasn't
just for the exclusive use of the preacher.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
The leader, Mrs Headon, clearly wanted the service to be joyful
and uplifting. But the organist resisted (and we'll come to
him later). So in the end the service was a bit sombre, unfortunately.
It was styled as a family service, but without our large group
there would have been no children present. Even so, there was
a short children's address. A church member spotted our seven
year old and offered to take him out to Sunday school.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 Mrs Headon had a pleasant "northern" voice and a gentle
conversational style which made her easy to listen to. She delivered
a very thought-provoking sermon.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The sermon was entitled "Looking backward and forward at the
same time" and was based on Isaiah 43:14-21 (the Lord forges
a new path for his people; be not mindful of the past). It was
very appropriate for the time of year. The old is by the new
revealed. Are we fearful about the future? Or do we despair
of things in the past? Should we forget the former things? No,
but neither should we dwell on them. We live by faith, and faith
means we do not know the future. We can't accept the gift from
God of the present and future if we hold on to the past. The
Lord can heal the past. Do not live as though you are facing
backward on a train, always looking at where you've come from.
This isn't healthy for us. God wants to wash away what was unclean.
Isn't it foolish to go and retrieve what was washed away? Water
washes away but also nurtures seeds.
Which part of the service was like being in
Probably the sense of fellowship before, during and after the service.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The organist. Mrs Headon tried to set an upbeat tone but the
organist wasn't having it. Every hymn or song was played incredibly
slowly. And the worst bit for me was the way he ruined a worship
song I value: "In Christ alone." I was almost in tears due to
frustration. (Is it too much to ask the Lord that the gentleman
should take a long walk off the short Hunstanton pier?)
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
We were directed to tea and coffee at the back of the church,
where several members of the church, including a lovely couple
who had moved to Hunstanton in semi-retirement a couple of years
ago, engaged us in conversation. We were also given several
boxes of mince pies to take with us.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
Very good – especially the abundance of mince pies!
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 We were made very welcome but somehow there seemed
to be a spark missing. And I'd be worried about murdering the
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Sort of. The service was reflective and struck the right note.
But the joy of the Christmas season was absent. Although a nonconformist
myself, I don't like the tendency within some nonconformist
traditions to avoid the Christian seasons after the day itself
has been celebrated.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Sadly, for the wrong reasons, the organist!
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