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of Heysham: St Peter's, Heysham, Lancashire, England
Worshipper: Chris Teean.
of Heysham: St Peter's, Heysham, Lancashire, England.
of England, Diocese
This small ancient church has a spectacular cliff-top setting
with views over Morecambe Bay to the Lake District fells. Consecrated
in AD967, the oldest parts of the church date from the 8th century
and there is evidence there was an even earlier structure on
the site. It is surrounded by timeworn gravestones, which just
appear to tumble into the sea! A Saxon cross shaft has a depiction
of the raising of Lazarus and there is a stone coffin near the
entrance. Inside the church is quite small and cosy: a nave
and chancel separated by an oak rood screen, together with north
and south aisles. There are some beautiful stained glass windows,
particularly the east window, which depicts scenes from the
crucifixion and the resurrection. A well-preserved Viking hogback
tomb cover, the finest example ever found in Britain, lies in
the south aisle.
There are regular services at this church and the sister church
of St James. There are the usual societies such as a Mothersí
Union, a choir group, and a flower-arranging group.
The church lies on the edge of the original village of Heysham,
a pretty cluster of houses situated next to the sands of Morecambe
Bay. This area of northwestern Lancashire is not that well known
even though it is not far from the city of Lancaster. It has
an air of times gone by. There is an abundance of tearooms to
cater for the needs of walkers who come to enjoy the lovely
coastal scenery. A little walk past the church brings you to
cliff-top ruins of St Patrickís chapel and rock-cut graves,
again dating from the 8th century. A further walk along the
cliffs reveals Heysham port, with its two nuclear power stations
and a ferry terminus for the Isle of Man.
The Revd David Tickner, rector.
The date & time:
Passion Sunday, 10 April 2011, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
It was quite full, with about 60 people, predominantly of what
might be described as the more mature type. I didnít see any
children at all.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I enjoyed a convivial chat with a gentleman outside the church
who was giving out leaflets promoting Our
Daily Bread, a publication of RBC
Ministries. Inside the church I was welcomed with a cheery
"Good morning" by a greeter, who also handed me a
hymnbook. The rector came over to say hello.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was about as comfortable as you could expect a wooden pew
to be. There was a cushion along the length of the pew, and
the hassock was a deep embroidered cushion. I believe the ladies
of the parish made the hassocks back in the 1960s when they
celebrated the churchís millennium. So some 50 years later they
are still doing a good job!
How would you describe the pre-service
The organist was playing a medley of numbers, and people were
greeting each other.
What were the exact opening
words of the service?
"Thus says the Lord God: Come to the four winds, o breath,
and breathe upon these slain that they may live. I will put
my spirit within you that you may live." (Ezekiel 37:9,
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
Hymns Old and New: One Church, One Faith, One Lord.
I was also given a Parish of Heysham Holy Communion service
What musical instruments were played?
Pipe organ, played with expertise by a gentleman sitting at
the console in the north aisle.
Did anything distract
I was puzzled about the people sitting in the choir stalls.
They were not wearing choir habits, so were they the choir out
of uniform, or were they VIPs like members of the parochial
church council? Who knows!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
It was very simple but dignified. The rector, wearing his black
cassock, announced the introductory notices from the lectern
and then donned his surplice and a purple stole before beginning
the service. Two lit candles were placed on the simple altar
table, but I couldnít see a cross at all. The rector conducted
the first part of the service from the lectern, read the gospel
from the pulpit, and then stayed at the altar for the rest of
the service. Apart from one lady reader he didnít have any assistance
at all, even during the administration of communion.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 The rector spoke clearly and certainly had no need
of a microphone!
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
At this Passiontide we often think of death. It was at the time of the plague, when an enormous number of people died, that the church changed attitudes to death. There is a promise of life that comes through faith, and in death we will find a world of hope and life. Jesus asks us to take on the fullness of the life that he can offer us.
Which part of the service was like being in
Being in such a delightful little church with the sun pouring through the windows was a really enjoyable experience. The singing was engaging and enthusiastic, and I must say I was in heaven for most of the service.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The only thing that disconcerted me was the presence of a foot
(with painted black toenails) by my side. Its owner was a lady
on crutches who probably had a good reason to place her leg
along the pew. However, I felt my personal space had been invaded,
and I couldnít see why she had to sit so close to me when there
were quite a few empty pews available.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Although I stayed awhile, people were busy chatting amongst
How would you describe the after-service
Surprisingly, there wasnít any form of refreshment on offer.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 The simple type of worship seemed to suit this church and its congregation. Although I generally prefer a more elaborate ceremony, I think if I lived in the area I would definitely want to worship here and give it my support. The ever-present problem of declining congregations and exponentially increasing costs must surely be a burden to this ancient church, and it would be a terrible tragedy if it had to close its doors through lack of funds.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Very much so. I left the church with joy in my heart, but sadness
as well when I saw families and ramblers walking past the church,
not realising what a gem they were missing.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
A church that is so beautiful, both inside and outside.
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