Worshipper: St Hilda.
Moravian, near Chepstow, England.
Church in the British Province.
The exterior is a very simple, white-painted traditional church
building that adjoins a private dwelling. There is a small
structure holding a bell (it is so small I wouldn't call it
a tower). The interior is also very simple, with pews and
a pulpit. The only decoration is a plaque at the east end
depicting Christ as the Lamb
of God. A few simple bouquets of flowers placed here and there
did, however, lend a pleasant atmosphere.
The church was founded in 1832. At the time there was no church
in the village, and the local doctor, concerned for the spiritual
welfare of the community, petitioned the Moravians to establish
a congregation there. The church has served the village of
Brockweir since then, though it came close to closure in the
1960s and was only saved by the Baptist minister from Monmouth
volunteering to keep it going. It is the only church in Brockweir
offering regular worship, and so they make a special effort
to be ecumenical.
In the 1830s Brockweir was regarded as both deprived and depraved
(the church was apparently built on the site of the village
cockpit!). Nowadays it strikes the visitor as a typical peaceful
British village, with a pub and two farms, set in the picturesque
scenery of the Wye Valley, not far from the famous Tintern
The Revd Thom Stapleton, minister.
The date & time:
17 July 2011, 6.00pm.
What was the name of
How full was the building?
Pretty empty, actually. There were around 15 of us, mostly
sitting toward the back.
Did anyone welcome you
I wandered in and was spotted by a lady in the congregation.
She introduced herself and invited me to sit next to her.
I also shook hands with almost the whole congregation during
a segment of the service called "The Right Hand of Fellowship",
which was like the exchange of peace in an Anglican service.
Was your pew comfortable?
Pretty standard pew really, though improved by a strip of
carpet. I've sat in worse, but let's say I was in no danger
of dropping off during the service.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
Quite chatty, lots of people exchanging news, etc.
What were the exact
opening words of the service?
One of the congregation began with something like: "Welcome
to our service" and then read out the notices.
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
The Holy Bible, New International Version (I think),
and Mission Praise.
What musical instruments
Did anything distract
There was an unpleasant, musty smell that seemed to come and
go during the service.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
The hymns were sung in very subdued fashion. Seldom have I
heard the words "When Christ shall come with shout of
acclamation and take me home what joy shall fill my
heart!" sung with so little enthusiasm. However, by contrast,
the spoken parts of the service were very informal and did
not follow any liturgy.
Exactly how long was
On a scale of 1-10,
how good was the preacher?
6 Fairly informal but also preacher-like, and with
plenty of references to the cultural differences between our
nations (the Revd Stapleton is American). I seemed to keep
losing the thread of what he was talking about, and missing
In a nutshell, what
was the sermon about?
The sermon was about the parable of the sower (Matthew 13).
He described the parable as being about the existence of good
and evil in the world, and said we cannot ignore evil. However,
in terms of what our response to evil should be, we were reminded
that it is God's job to deal with evil and ours to be patient.
I think what he was emphasising was the need not to be judgmental.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
When we had a time of silent prayer there was an amazing atmosphere.
I felt that everyone was seriously engaged in prayer (Moravians
are renowned for their prayer life) and I found myself pouring
my heart out to God.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
Sitting right next to a member of the congregation made note-taking
very difficult. Plus I felt very guilty among these obviously
sincere people that my cover story contained a little white
lie in it, in that I let it be understood that I was visiting
the area on holiday whereas I am actually fairly local. Sorry,
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
As the service finished, the woman I was sitting next to turned
and asked me how I had enjoyed the service, and we chatted
briefly for a few minutes.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
There were no after-service drinks, though I would like to
mention that the church does offer a tray of water and juice
drinks for the refreshment of visitors during the week.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
8 If I lived locally I would happily make this my regular
church. I have also visited the church during the week, and
felt a powerful sense of God's presence then. If you are ever
passing that way, do pop in!
Did the service make
you feel glad to be a Christian?
Very much so, just a little saddened that there were not more
What one thing will
you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The sense of communicating with God during the prayer time.