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|1934: The Town Church, St Peter Port, Guernsey
Shaun the Sheep (with assistance from Tirzah and TME).
The Town Church, St Peter Port, Guernsey.
Church of England, Diocese
The Parish Church of St Peter Port, usually referred to as the
Town Church and also informally known as the cathedral of the
Islands, was first referred to in Norman times. The church is
built of granite and originally served as a fortress. The present
steeple dates from 1721, though there are parts of the existing
church that date back to the 13th and 14th centuries (nave and
choir respectively). Extensive restoration took place in the
19th century, and some of the stained glass dates back to this
time. However, most of the stained glass windows were blown
out during World War II when the Allies bombed the harbour,
mistakenly believing that there was a German submarine there.
The small windows at the top withstood the blast and so they
remained the Victorian originals, but most of the larger pieces
of glass lower down are post-war in vintage.
As the unofficial cathedral of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, the
church is something of a must-see for many of the thousands
of tourists who visit Guernsey each year. Unfortunately, due
to the lack of an online presence, it has been difficult to
find much information about the church as a community, although
it would appear that music plays an important role in the life
of the church.
The Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey comprise the Channel Islands,
which lie in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy.
They were the only British territories within Europe to be occupied
by German forces during World War II, and were not liberated
until 1945. The two bailiwicks are Crown Protectorates, independent
from Great Britain but relying on the Crown for their defence.
Guernsey and Jersey are also independent of each other, sharing
no common laws, elections or representative bodies. Guernsey
was occupied by the French during the Hundred Years War, and
the French influence on the island's culture is strong even
to this day. St Peter Port is the capital town of Guernsey.
The Town Church is right by the harbour and a focal point in
the town. The population of the island is around 60,000, although
this is considerably swelled by the tourists who visit each
We did not think to copy this information from the church notice
board, as we had assumed we would find it online! However, the
celebrant was the rector of the church, whose name we could
only work out to be Father Paul. He was assisted by a deacon
whose name we could not ascertain; the deacon also preached
The date & time:
Easter Sunday, 4 April 2010, 10.30am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Mostly full we estimated between 150 and 180 people.
It wasn't bulging at the seams, but there were few obvious empty
Did anyone welcome you
A sidesperson wished us happy Easter, asked if we were part
of a large party they were expecting, and directed us to a pew
at the side when he learnt that we were not. With the addition
of our party, our pew got quite cosy (see below), so there was
some good-natured shuffling going on which punctured the formality
Was your pew comfortable?
There were in total five adults sitting on a standard wooden
pew, which probably would have been more comfortable with four.
The kneelers were very large and quite high, which meant that
one of our party was unable to fit his feet comfortably between
pew and kneeler. As I was sitting at the end of the pew, I got
increasingly uncomfortable as time went on and was very aware
of the lack of room to change position!
How would you describe the pre-service
There was unobtrusive organ music in the background. Mostly
the congregation were chatty but not excessively noisy, wishing
each other a happy Easter. I could also hear bells, but am not
sure that they were from this particular church.
What were the exact opening words of the
"A very joyful and happy Easter to you all."
What books did the congregation use during the
A preprinted booklet with the liturgy, hymns and responses all
What musical instruments were played?
A fine organ accompanying an excellent robed choir.
Did anything distract you?
One of our party was distracted by the beautiful stained glass
window opposite, which in the morning sunlight was really quite
breathtaking. There was also a couple with a baby opposite who
kept taking the baby out during the service (although she was
behaving beautifully), which got a bit distracting. As we were
seated behind the pulpit, I also found myself distracted by
a rather sour-faced saint (perhaps a bishop, as he was wearing
a mitre) carved into the side of the pulpit, pictured above. Every time I looked
up, I saw his miserable face and felt his disapproval.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
One of our party described it as "a good proper reverential
Anglican service." It was not stratospheric, and there were
no bells or smells, but clergy and choir were robed and the
service was very proper. It was no less joyful for this, however.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
5 minutes (we all thoroughly approved).
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 The deacon had a clear measured delivery, straight
and to the point. It was very refreshing.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The women who went to Jesus' tomb had intended to embalm Jesus'
body. But things did not go according to plan. The graveyard,
the place of the dead, was where the resurrection of Christ
was first announced. The Church proclaims this same message
to us in the Easter liturgy. Jesus Christ overcame death not
only for himself, but also for us. There is no such thing as
death for the Christian. The dead are more alive than we are,
and are not far from us. They are as close as God, and God is
very near us indeed! Pray for our dear departed, visit their
graves, but don't look for them there. Even if you still have
sorrow in your heart, that sorrow is mingled with quiet hope
because of that first Easter day.
Which part of the service was like being in
Most of the service was divine, but particular mention must
be made of the wonderful choir (including some very impressive
soloists) whose singing of the Schubert Mass in G was
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Apart from the offputting miserable carved bishop referred to
above, probably the only niggle we had was that despite the
sermon emphasising that women were the first to learn the resurrection
message, pretty much everything in the service felt as though
it was led in large part by men.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The rector offered us a small Easter egg from a bowl of eggs.
At the table where tea and coffee were being served, a member
of the choir who had caught Tirzah's eye during a near-gaffe
in one of the hymns came up and started chatting. He was a mine
of information about the church, especially the stained glass.
How would you describe the after-service
After the service, there was fair trade instant coffee available,
and also tea and juice (fair trade status of both unknown) on
a side table. These were served in a proper cup rather than
plastic. There were also some home-baked goodies on offer: flapjacks
(brownies for our American readers), gingerbread and ginger
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 It is difficult to say for sure, as Guernsey is not
somewhere "just down the road" for most people, and it was difficult
to tell how many of the congregants were tourists and how many
were regulars. We felt we'd like to attend a less high profile
service to get more of a feel for the church community, but
certainly on the evidence of this service we see no reason why
we couldn't be happy there.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes, very definitely.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The glorious singing of the choir.
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