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Priory, Cartmel, Cumbria, England
Worshipper: Chris Teean.
Priory Church of St Mary and St Michael, Cartmel, Cumbria,
of England, Diocese
Called by some the most beautiful church in the north-west,
the priory looms over the small village of Cartmel. The tower
is unique in England in that the upper section is placed at
an angle of 45 degrees to the lower section. It is thought this
was done to prevent interior arches in the church from breaking
outwards. It was built as the centre of a 12th century Augustinian
community. At the time of the Dissolution it was stripped of
its valuables but kept open as a parish church. The great east
window was erected in the 15th century, but all that is left
of the medieval glass following the Dissolution and Cromwellian
ravages are the figures of an archbishop of York, the Blessed
Virgin Mary holding Jesus, and St John the Baptist. Apart from
the medieval glass, other windows are 19th century and show
a remarkable variety of style. The font, pulpit and organ were
also installed in the 19th century. The reredos above the high
altar is a 20th century depiction of scenes from the life of
Christ. A magnificent 17th century oak screen separates the
nave from the chancel and a quire outfitted with misericords.
There are two side chapels. At the west end is the enormous
beautiful Magnificat window, under which are boards with the
words of the Apostlesí Creed, the Lordís Prayer and the Ten
Commandments. In more recent times the priory has acquired four
interesting sculptures by the world famous sculptress Josefina
The priory holds daily services and hosts various types of concerts
and organ recitals. Full details of services can be found on
Often described as a cathedral city in miniature, Cartmel is
a picturesque village in the hills to the south of the Lake
District National Park. The priory dominates a village containing
a few shops, pubs, cafťs, and a tear-jerkingly expensive restaurant.
It is also famous for its racecourse and its sticky toffee pudding.
The preacher was the Revd Canon Peter McEvitt and the celebrant
was the Revd Mark Brackley. They were assisted by the Revd Paul
McMurray and the Revd Andrew Teather.
The date & time:
Feast of St Bernard of Clairvaux, Saturday, 20 August 2011,
What was the name of the
High Mass with Procession of the Blessed Sacrament and Solemn
How full was the building?
Fairly empty! However, it must be remembered it was a Saturday
afternoon. The service was conducted in the quire, where I counted
30 people in the congregation. A handful of tourists wandered
around the nave.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Was your pew comfortable?
We were sitting in the quire misericords, which were about as
comfortable as you would expect them to be. I was horrified
at the absence of kneelers Ė attempting to kneel on the wooden
floor between the high pews would have been like getting into
a strait-jacket so I did not attempt it. The service was one
where reverence needed to be shown by kneeling, and I felt extremely
uncomfortable at having to crouch down where I would normally
How would you describe the pre-service
Quiet and expectant, whilst the organ was being played quietly.
What were the exact opening words of the
"In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
What books did the congregation use during the
The New English Hymnal. It would have been most helpful
if we had been provided with an order of service.
What musical instruments were played?
Two organists took it in turns to play a rather splendid organ,
built in 1969 by Rushworth and Dreaper of Liverpool.
Did anything distract
The lack of an order of service meant the congregation struggled
with the responses. When the celebrant said, "The Lord
be with you," some replied, "And with thy Spirit"
and others replied "And also with you." The lack of
direction meant that some stood and some sat or attempted to
squat where they would normally kneel. At the distribution of
communion, the absence of direction and the unwillingness of
the people at the end of the pews to make the first move meant
that others became impatient and the whole thing ended up rather
like a rugby scrum.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
It was definitely at the stiff-upper-lip end! The four sumptuously
vested clergy, complete with birettas, brought up a procession
of thurifer, crucifer, acolytes and servers. The altar was censed
and there was appropriate bowing and genuflecting. The exposition
of the Blessed Sacrament was carried out with reverence, but
the procession around an empty church entertained the only tourists
present: a mother, father and child!
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
5 I thought Canon McEvitt spoke rather fast. The lady
sitting next to me said she couldnít catch a word of it. This
service had been organised by the Guild of Servants of the Sanctuary
(GSS), and Canon McEvitt spoke of his early days as a priest
when he thought he was addressing a Gilbert and Sullivan (G&S)
gathering. He couldnít understand why his witty quotes from
the Mikado were frowned upon!
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
Basically his message was that we should follow the example
of Bernard, who was forced by his obedience to his calling to
do those things he didnít really want to do instead of what
he would rather do. We should look to the saints for our inspiration,
call on them in our need, and seek their prayers. He concluded
by quoting some of Bernardís writings.
Which part of the service was like being in
Sitting in the quire and looking at the medieval glass in the
window over the high altar reminded me that this beautiful church
has been a site of praise to God for over 800 years.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
At the benediction, the priest said the words so fast that it
was impossible to make them out. I know we must have said "Have
mercy on us" about 50 times! The Divine Praises were also
terribly rushed. And I wasnít the only one who noticed! The
priest chanted, or rather wailed, something so untuneful and
so unintelligible that a retired priest sitting behind me complained
loudly, "Thatís terrible!"
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
There was a short interval between the mass and benediction
where we sampled refreshments, engaged in convivial conversation,
and had a good opportunity to look around this fascinating church.
After the conclusion of the benediction, everyone departed rapidly.
We ran towards our cars when we discovered the weather had changed
from lovely sunshine to a deluge of rain.
How would you describe the after-service
We were served tea together with a selection of biscuits and small cakes. I had hoped there might have been some sticky toffee pudding on offer!
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 This service would not give me a clue about regular
worship in this church because it was a one-off event organized
by the GSS. However, in my days before becoming a Mystery Worshipper,
I did worship here on an extremely well attended Palm Sunday
when there was a procession through the village, and I am basing
my score on that visit.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
If anything, I felt rather apologetic towards the lady who sat
next to me. She had never been to a benediction service like
this before and I think she found it to be a rather terrifying
experience! I wonder if she will ever set a foot in a church
again? The provision of a printed order of service would have
made such a difference and would certainly have helped people
unfamiliar with it.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Running out of breath as we intoned "Have mercy on us"
as breakneck speed.
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