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|2072: St Matthew
the Apostle, Douglas, Isle of Man
the Apostle, Douglas, Isle of Man.
Church of England. This is a Forward
in Faith church under the pastoral care of the Bishop
The rather grim, grey stone building stands on a corner overlooking
the quay in Douglas Harbour. It was built in stages between
1895 and 1908 to the design of the Victorian architect John
Loughborough Pearson. Unfortunately a planned belfry and steeple
were never built, and this may explain its rather odd appearance.
However, the inside has a beauty all its own, and the eye
is immediately drawn to the high altar with a brass cross
and six candles, behind which is a wooden reredos in late
Gothic style in the form of a hinged triptych. Above this,
lancet windows depict a crucifixion scene. Pillars of pink
sandstone support arches in the nave, which is flanked by
interesting stained glass windows and stations of the cross.
Wrought iron screens enclose a Lady chapel in the north transept,
and there is a small chapel in the south transept that came
from the chapel of HMS Valkyrie in memory of comrades who
died in Word War II. Statues of various sizes adorn the church,
the largest being that of Our Lady, situated outside the Lady
Masses are celebrated daily. Full details of services and
a calendar of social events can be found on their website.
Douglas is a bustling resort on the Isle of Man, a small island
33 miles long and 13 miles wide, situated in the Irish Sea
between England and Ireland. It is not part of the United
Kingdom, but is a self-governing Crown dependency, with a
policy of low taxation. In its heyday in the early and mid
20th century, the island was a popular holiday destination
for visitors from northern England because of its abundance
of beautiful sandy beaches, pretty wooded glens with tumbling
waterfalls, and stunning mountain scenery. Today electric
trams still climb to the summit of Snaefell, and horse-drawn
trams transport tourists along the promenade. You can enjoy
dramatic coastal scenery on a tram ride from Douglas to Ramsey,
or travel by steam train through luxuriant countryside to
the picturesque towns of Port Erin and Port St Mary. The large
sandy bay of Douglas is lined with Victorian hotels, many
of which have been modernised, and at the far end there is
a harbour with a sea terminus for car ferries. The church
is situated in the harbour area and its immediate neighbours
are some cafes, bars, and quayside shops selling nautical
The celebrant and preacher was the Revd Canon Duncan Whitworth,
assisted by a retired priest, the Revd A Solomon, and a lay
person. Mr John Riley presided at the organ.
The date & time:
Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, 5 September 2010, 10.30am.
What was the name of
Solemn High Mass.
How full was the building?
There were probably about 80 to 100 people there, predominantly
middle aged and elderly. Sunday school was due to start on
the following Sunday, which may have explained the dearth
of children. The only young person I saw was a youth called
Charlie, who gave an excellent first time reading during the
Did anyone welcome you
Yes. We were greeted by a sidesman who gave us quite a handful
of leaflets and books.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was a reasonably comfortable chair with quite a comfortable
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
The organist was playing some anthems. Otherwise, people greeted
each other and chatted – not that quietly!
What were the exact
opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
The English Hymnal, Church of St Matthew Supplementary
Hymn Book, mass book, a sheet containing prayers, readings
and the gospel, and a collection of music for the office of
holy communion set in E flat by H H Woodward. I thought the
provision of music was a splendid idea.
What musical instruments
Mr Riley played a splendid pipe organ that was originally
built by Ernest Wadsworth Ltd of Manchester in 1922. Wood
of Huddersfield rebuilt it in 1979, and several changes and
additions have been made since then.
Did anything distract
One thing that bothered me was the fact that the sun was shining
outside and yet the interior wasn't lit as brightly as you
might expect. It suddenly dawned on me that the church couldn't
possibly be facing east; as far as I could make out, it was
facing north. I spent far too much time pondering over this.
Also, exchanging the peace was an unusual experience for me
in that it only involved the clergy and servers, before the
vicar continued with the mass. My companion and I were deprived
of our usual embrace!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
I really enjoyed and felt very much at home with the service,
which was in accordance with the Catholic tradition of the
Church of England. The small altar party consisted of thurifer,
crucifer and two taperers wearing white surplices over red
cassocks, and two priests and an assistant vested in green
chasubles. After processing into the chancel, the celebrant
censed the altar with reverential ceremony and all faced toward
the liturgical east. Beautiful traditional language was used
throughout. There was much genuflecting and bowing. Sanctus
bells were rung at appropriate times, and the fragrance of
incense filled the church.
Exactly how long was
On a scale of 1-10,
how good was the preacher?
8 Father Duncan spoke clearly, using prepared notes.
In a nutshell, what
was the sermon about?
Jesus calls us to be loyal to God, to take up the cross and
follow him; and ordinary life gives us plenty of opportunities
to do this. But for Christians living out their lives, following
God is often not an easy option. We have disappointments and
setbacks, which test our commitment and loyalty to Jesus.
Even though we do our best, we stumble and fall. However,
God picks us up and so we are able to carry on. Father Duncan
concluded with a quote from a John Keble hymn:
"The trivial round, the common task,
Will furnish all we ought to
Room to deny ourselves; a road
To bring us daily nearer God."
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The moving reverential worship and the rich liturgy really
put me in heaven for the whole service. I particularly enjoyed
the singing of the Angelus at the end of the mass.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
When I placed my folded-up Mystery Worshipper card on the
offertory plate, it looked nothing like the cash and envelopes
already there. I had tried to conceal it under some coins,
but the coins slid off and my folded up MW card was there
for all to see. My heart nearly stopped when the sidesman
looked at it, then looked at me – as though he wanted to
give it back to me! Luckily he moved on and I prayed it would
soon be buried under other offerings.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
There was no chance of hanging around. Two ladies who sat
behind us immediately engaged us in conversation. Others came
up and made friendly conversation. We were made to feel most
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
This definitely goes on my list of civilised churches, because
they offered sherry! They also offered coffee and a selection
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
10 If I happened to live on this serene island, I would
definitely worship here. It was wonderful to discover a church
with Catholic ceremonial and traditional teaching, and a family
atmosphere that I felt I could easily belong to.
Did the service make
you feel glad to be a Christian?
Undoubtedly. A mass that is so beautifully celebrated is a
joy in itself.
What one thing will
you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The fact that a small team could deliver a delightful uplifting
service of such a high standard will stay in my mind for a
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