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|1778: St Joseph's,
Peasedown St John, Somerset, England
St Joseph's, Peasedown St John, Somerset, England.
Roman Catholic, Diocese
The building was completed in 1989 and is a simple, brick structure,
unremarkable from the outside. The interior has a surprisingly
high-pitched roof and is white-painted and well-lit via a large
skylight above the sanctuary.
This is a new mass centre which the church community financed
and built themselves without assistance from the diocese, after
the closure of their previous meeting place which had apparently
also done duty as a cinema and a retail site. It is an "experimental"
church, being largely lay-led without an assigned priest. Priests
from the diocese officiate on Sundays to celebrate mass and
consecrate sufficient hosts for weekday services.
The taxi driver who took me to St Joseph's was forthcoming on
the history of Peasedown, which was originally a small coal-mining
community a few miles outside of Bath. It has since expanded
to a population of just over 6,000 souls, many of whom find
the area a pleasant rural location to live while working in
Bath, Bristol and environs. Local churches have banded together
to dedicate the village to the Holy Spirit, and the symbol of
the dove can be found in mosaics on the external wall of the
church by the door, as well as on several buildings along the
The Revd Malcolm Smeaton, chaplain, Prior Park College, Bath,
The date & time:
Sunday, 5 July 2009, 9.00am.
What was the name of the service?
All Age Mass.
How full was the building?
The building can accommodate around 90 people comfortably. I'd
say there were about 65 in attendance. I understand it would
have been full were it not for a first communion service going
on at the main city-centre church, St John's, that morning.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was personally greeted at the door and given a mass sheet
and the week's bulletin. A lady in the row behind me also asked
where I was from and if I needed anything.
Was your pew comfortable?
There were upholstered chairs and kneelers (hand embroidered
and made from local wool by one of the church groups); both
were quite comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service
I was quite an early arrival. As the church filled up, people
greeted one another quietly. Prior to the gathering song, a
soft medley of hymn tunes was played.
What were the exact opening words of the
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the
What books did the congregation use during the
There were mass books available for use but, as far as I could
see, most people just had the week's mass sheet with songs,
readings and responses printed on it.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
Above the altar is a very large cross which I thought plain
at first glance; then I noticed a tiny gold Jesus, about 10"
in height, in the middle of it. I spent quite some time pondering
what theological statement was being made here, and my eyes
kept straying back to it throughout the service.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
The worship was a mixture mostly modern "worship songs"
by the likes of Dan Shute, Matt Maher and Boyce & Stanley, and
including, as the final piece, the song we all love to hate,
"Shine, Jesus, Shine." This certainly raised a smile from me
when I saw it listed. I'm not a great fan of these kind of tunes;
however, they were tempered by an old favourite "Be Thou My
Vision" and it was hard not to be carried along by the obvious
pleasure and enthusiasm with which the congregation participated.
There were a few hands raised and waved but this seemed mostly
confined to the back rows. Father Malcolm chanted the liturgy,
which always pleases me. He also chanted the dismissal and final
blessing in Latin (with a bit of instruction to the congregation
as to what the response should be).
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
"Are you listening?" Building on the first reading (Ezekiel 2:2-5 whether
or not the Israelites listen, they will know that a prophet
has appeared among them), the homily picked out a number of groups who are not listening to the word of God. This included neo-pagans and "secular Sunday worshippers" in the shopping malls and garden centres; the phrase "Tesco ergo sum" was used. To be honest, I was not terribly impressed with what I perceived as this rather negative appraisal of non-churchgoers, rather than offering ways in which people might be encouraged to want to listen to the word.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The joy and warmth exuded by the congregation, which actually
transcended, for me, my prejudices against modern "worship songs."
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
As mentioned earlier, the somewhat condemnatory tone of the
homily. Although it could hardly be described as fire and brimstone,
to me it jarred with the rest of the service.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn't have a chance to look lost. Coffee and biscuits were
on offer at the back of the main body of the church. At least
four people came up to me, having clearly spotted a new face,
to ask if I were new to the area or a visitor and to talk about
their church and ask about mine. I discovered that, in fact,
the cross which had caught my attention had at first been plain
but that the golden corpus a souvenir from Italy, I believe
had later been affixed to it by a member of the congregation.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
Fair trade coffee in a china cup with saucer; it was hot and
wet but not particularly flavourful. A variety of biscuits was
available I got one of those raspberry shortbread numbers
that we British know as Jammy Dodgers.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 If I lived in the area, I think I could be reasonably
happy there, although I would probably want to supplement it
with visits to a higher-up-the-candle place from time to time.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The tiny, tiny little Jesus, swamped on his enormous cross.
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