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|1743: St Helena,
Lundy Island, England
St Helena, Lundy Island, England.
Church of England, Diocese
A tall Victorian building (1896), the work of the Gothic Revivalist
John Norton, whose churches are usually in urban places (e.g.,
Stapleton, St Mathias Bristol, etc.). It was constructed of
stone from demolished cottages on Lundy Island. The church stands
at the top of Lundy and can be seen from the sea. It has a tall
tower with eight bells which can be heard across the island.
The interior is high church, featuring polychromatic brick (coloured
patterned bricks) and windows showing signs of ad-hoc repairs.
Curiously the east window is unfinished although the tower has
been completed (usually the other way around!). I overheard
one of the officials say that St Helena's may soon close due
to the expense of keeping it in good repair.
St Helena's is extra-parochial and in the care of the Hartland
Coast Team Ministry. This was called an annual service, so I'm
not sure whether services happen at other times of the year
Lundy Island is a granite outcrop about three miles long and
half a mile wide that rises approximately 400 feet out of the
Bristol Channel about 11 miles off the North Devon coast not
far from Ilfracombe. The island is owned by the National Trust
and is financed, administered and maintained by the Landmark
Trust. Lundy's climate is bleak, foggy and inclement, and it
has been said that the difficulty of getting there is exceeded
only by the difficulty of getting away. Even so, Lundy is popular
with day-trippers and scientists. Its relatively isolated location
has made it a haven for several unique species of plants and
animals. There are only a few small houses and one makeshift
road, and the island is home year-round to 28 people.
The Revd Philip Auden, port chaplain, Mission to Seafarers –
a jovial chap whom I saw walking around the boat that we came
in on, which was the Waverley, the last seagoing paddle steamer
in the world. Mr Simon Morgan presided at the electronic keyboard.
The date & time:
7 June 2009, 3.00pm.
What was the name of the
Evensong (Book of Common Prayer).
How full was the building?
The church was comfortably full of passengers from the boat.
Some chose to stand up.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Chaplain Auden's jovial demeanour whilst on the boat changed
into the usual Anglican stiff upper lip upon entering the church.
An official looking person was stationed at the door, but most
people kept to themselves in true Anglican fashion.
Was your pew comfortable?
A slightly dusty but comfortable enough Victorian pew.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
Whilst the boat was en route from Clevedon, an announcement
was made about the service and a makeshift choir was drawn from
What were the exact opening
words of the service?
"Welcome to Lundy Island."
What books did the congregation use during the
A nicely printed service sheet.
What musical instruments were played?
Sadly, the church's pipe organ has been rendered unplayable
by the salty air. Instead, Simon Morgan presided expertly at
the electronic keyboard, and one would be hard put to notice
the difference. There was a makeshift choir and the hymns were
high church fantastic. The last hymn is one I will always associate
with this day: "Christ triumphant ever reigning" –
marvelous words which seemed to join the beauty of the creation
around us with being part of the church.
Did anything distract you?
The incense! Quite unexpected. However, my watch kept distracting
me, as the Waverley keeps very strict time and, well, time was
marching on. I thought I would have to make a quick escape if
the boat were to leave before the service ended! A gentleman
presented a plaque to the chaplain for a lady called Gwyneth
White, who had been associated with the island for a long time.
I couldn't help thinking that he looked rather like Matthew
Kelly, moderator of the popular British TV programme Stars
in Their Eyes.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Anglo-Catholic! Having grown bored with the Protestant hymn
sandwich, I thought it nice to have a service with a bit of
majesty. The psalms were chanted on a monotone note, as were
the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis. The eight bells were rung
as we sang Psalm 150. For me, there was a hint of sadness as
the last bell chimed on our way out and we had to make our way
back to the boat. It marked the end of a beautiful service in
a lovely place.
Exactly how long was the
I was staring at my watch hoping I wouldn't miss my boat, but
even so I lost track of how long the chaplain preached. So I'll
just say, "Not too long."
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 Chaplain Auden's style was very engaging and conversational,
with plenty of laughs although many serious points too.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The sermon was based around the readings, which were as beautiful
as the island we were visiting: Ezekiel 1:4-10, 22-28 (Ezekiel's
vision of the four living creatures) and Revelation 4:1-11 (the
throne of heaven surrounded by elders and the four living creatures).
He said that he didn't fully understand the readings and they
reminded him of the science fiction TV series Doctor Who,
which drew some laughs. The Church has lost some of its beauty
and majesty and has confined religion to a box of four walls
on a Sunday. But there is beauty in fellowship. Look around
at the beauty of God's creation.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The music. Even without the pipe organ, the beauty and majesty
of the service lit with candles and the wonderful hymns seemed
to mirror (although it could never recreate it) the beauty of
the creation outside. Also, in a way, the fact that we were
on a tight schedule made the service more poignant in the sense
that we have little time and so much to fill it with!
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
Only a slight one – in that there were no regular worshipers
to welcome and greet. Also, a couple sitting near me were initially
a bit grumpy, and as soon as they realised that there was no
pipe organ they left the service. Finally, on the boat, an elderly
Welsh gent complained that he had walked out because the service
was "too high." I presume he must have been "chapel!"
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
No time. It was 4.00pm and boat was off at 4.30. And so I shook
hands with the jovial vicar and sped off down the hillside.
Goodness knows how some people made it!
How would you describe the after-service
No coffee at church today, but the Waverley set out a very nice
meal for us on board for the trip back.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 If I could live on the island I would love to come
here. It would be nice to have so much peace and quiet! I'm
not of the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church, but there is something
about that kind of worship that lifts it above the plain and
sometimes banal offerings of the hymn sandwich type of service.
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it did. The service was a point where people joined together.
It was good to be with people from many churches (including
some youth!) who took part in organising and producing today's
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The sound of "Christ triumphant ever reigning" ringing
in my ears as I walked out of the church into the sunshine with
the sight of cliffs and the sea ahead. Also the sound of the
eight bells ringing – and the last sad couple of chimes
as the church doors closed behind us.
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