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|2117: St Martin's,
Worshipper: Wes Charles.
St Martin's, Barnehurst, England.
of England, Diocese
Built in 1936, it is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year
with a collection scheme to fund an as-yet unidentified project,
possibly to put some glass doors on the church. Inside looks
quite new, with whitewashed walls and brick columns. The altar
is set quite far back from the congregation.
The church has a Sunday School, the children leaving part-way
through the service. They also have a drama group and a reasonably
Barnehurst was primarily woodland with a few cottages only 100
years ago. Houses and shops began coming in the early 20th century.
Many of these had to be rebuilt after World War II, as there
was heavy bomb damage to the area. The modern town is dominated
by an early 1980s shopping centre. The Royal Mail does not recognise
the name Barnehurst; to them it's Bexleyheath. In fact, an enquiry
once elicited the following official reply: "The addition
of the locality of Barnehurst into all addresses within the
geographic area could lead to a deterioration in the service
we provide." Some would regard that as an attempt at irony.
The Revd Gareth Bowen, vicar.
The date & time:
Sunday, 16 January 2011, 10.30am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Just under half full (about 120), but many of those were visitors
for a christening. Apparently in general they get about 50,
plus more at the earlier service and evensong.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was handed a hymn book and service sheet as I entered.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was a wooden chair, which served its purpose. Not uncomfortable
but not possible to nod off!
How would you describe the pre-service
Very noisy and chatty, but I put this down to the christening
crowd rather than the regulars.
What were the exact opening words of the
Unfortunately, I can't remember. I'd really rushed to get there
on time and the service started five minutes late. I was pondering
this point when it started and I forgot to notice!
What books did the congregation use during the
Hymns Old and New and a printed service sheet.
What musical instruments
An electric organ, albeit one that sounded very good. It is
new, with speakers that were apparently designed for the church.
Did anything distract
Mainly the crèche, which was just behind me and really
noisy! It's nice that children came to the service, but it was
really hard to hear what was being said at the front. The adults
who were minding the crèche didn't really manage to calm
the children down, although they tried! And a man sitting next
to me kept turning to the same hymn (no. 500) every time we
picked up the hymnal to sing something.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Sort of serious in a noisy way. It wasn't exactly stiff-upper-lip,
but quite formal, despite all the noise from the crèche
I felt the vicar was trying to make himself heard by people
at the back, which wasn't easy! And the service had no Gloria,
no Creed, and the shortest eucharistic prayer I've ever heard!
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
8 The vicar was quite clear to listen to and communicated
his message well. The general style was quite conversational,
which was nice. This was clearly a "come and find out more"
sermon for the visiting baptism guests, and the vicar made a
big point that you can't be a Christian unless you go to church
– a bit of a sweeping statement, but I knew what he was getting
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
Contrasting the message of the gospel against the stresses of
modern life, he spoke about the modern lust for power and wealth
(although I doubt it was any different at any other time) and
contrasted it with Jesus coming from a humble background and
eventually being despised and rejected. If it was good enough
for him, it should be good enough for everyone.
Which part of the service was like being in
It's hard to think of anything in particular. It's not that
it was an unpleasant experience, and in fact I quite enjoyed
the experience – it's just that nothing really stood out as
particularly heavenly. There was a moment that made me chuckle,
as all the baptism visitors sat at the front and clearly didn't
know what to do. At one point I caught the organist directing
them to stand up and sit down at the right time!
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Well, I thought I had this nailed at the start when the vicar
cut two verses from the first hymn ("Crown him with many
crowns"). I mean, what's the point? It really annoys me
when people start messing around with something that is a complete
work. Anyway, that got superseded by a part of the sermon that
compared the decision of following Jesus with that of buying
something on Amazon. And in the end, that itself was overshadowed
by one of the godparents standing at the font chewing gum with
her mouth open. OK, rant over!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We didn't have time to hang around for long, but when we did,
a few people came to say hello and have a chat. They seemed
How would you describe the after-service
Fair trade but served in plastic cups. Why can't churches think
of the environment a bit and use china, or at least paper?
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 I don't think today was a representative service, and
I'd have liked to have experienced it without a baptism to see
what it was really like. The vicar seemed good and the choir/musicians
sounded good too. I think I'd have quite enjoyed it on a normal
day as it seemed traditional enough for my tastes. The earlier
service is from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. I might
try that at some point. Now if only they wouldn't cut verses
from the hymns!
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Not really. There were too many distractions from the crèche
to really concentrate.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The man next to me and his fixation on hymn 500.
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