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|2514: St Dunstan's,
Woking, Surrey, England
Worshipper: Addie Stephidelis,
accompanied by Vinnie T. Inbeth-LeHem.
Woking, Surrey, England.
of Arundel and Brighton.
St Dunstan's is a modern building, completed in 2008. Architecturally
inoffensive but interesting from the outside. Inside it is light
and airy, all calm paint and pale wood. The building comprises
a complex of offices and what may be a bookshop, and the church
itself. The latter is in the shape of a quarter-circle, with
the sanctuary at the apex. The altar is an attractive block
of carved stone, and an icon of Christ crucified hangs over
The Roman Catholic community in Woking has been around in one
form or another for centuries, though until 1900 or so worshippers
were obliged to travel to Sutton Green or Send to celebrate
mass. Today, 62 nationalities are represented in the parish,
with large Italian and Polish communities.
Twenty-five minutes south of London by train, Woking is a typical
commuter town, having largely grown up around the railway line
from the mid-19 century onwards. Its ethnic and cultural diversity
has long been a distinctive characteristic; the nation's first
mosque was built in Woking in 1889.
The service was led by the Revd Canon Frank Harrington, assisted
by three Polish parishioners whose names I couldn't find out.
The date & time:
Saturday, 30 March 2013, 10.45am.
What was the name of the
Swiecone. (This is a traditional Polish service where
the food that will be eaten at Easter is brought to church to
be blessed. Vinnie T.'s grandmother was Polish, so making up
a basket and taking it to church is a family tradition.)
How full was the building?
Standing room only! I would estimate that there were a good
250 people there, about 100 of whom were children.
Did anyone welcome you
No, although there was a lot of awkward smiling as we all waited
outside to be ushered in.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was pretty comfortable, though I suspect it might have become
less so had there been a long sermon! Varnished pale wood, without
cushions but with fold-down kneelers, in a gentle arc shape.
They reminded me vaguely of old-fashioned tram seats, though
I'm not entirely sure why.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
Raucous! As mentioned above, there were a lot of children, most
of them over-excited and possibly having already been at the
chocolate, and a lot of other people meeting and greeting each
other. It didn't feel irreverent, however; it was very joyful
and everyone was glad to be there. The service started about
five minutes late, but it didn't seem to matter.
What were the exact opening
words of the service?
I'm afraid I don't know it was in Polish, and wasn't
dzień dobry (good morning), which is about as
far as my knowledge goes. It's some consolation to know that
the priest, Canon Frank, was in the same boat after one
of the Polish contingent had made the introduction, he said
"Dzień dobry", then, for good measure,
repeated "Good morning" in Gaelic.
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
No books were used, though I did see somebody carrying a Pismo
Święte (Holy Bible).
What musical instruments
None it was a very short service and there was no music
of any sort.
Did anything distract
There was a child a couple of rows in front of us grasping a
green-legged figurine, and I did get distracted wondering whether
it was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (I'm pretty sure it was).
Also, the furniture in the sanctuary was quite eclectic, and
I was amused to note a jungle of office-style pot plants and
a strategically-placed electrical socket.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
I think family-friendly is the best way to describe it. As people
came in, they placed their baskets of food on the sanctuary
steps all shapes and sizes these, but typically containing
eggs (chocolate or otherwise), cake or sausage. The (bilingual)
liturgy was very short and simple, consisting of some intercessory
prayers read first in Polish and then in English, with brief
responses from the congregation. At the end, the priest sprinkled
holy water over the baskets and that was it.
Exactly how long was the
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
In these days when chocolate and cake are seen as sinful temptations,
it's very refreshing to come together to thank God for the simple
blessing of food, to be grateful for what we have rather than
to feel guilty about enjoying it, so in that respect the whole
thing felt like a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. And I did
enjoy the sheer exuberance of the congregation.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
One hopes that heaven will have no need for a sound system.
The poor priest found his radio mic failed, and so was obliged
to speak all his lines bent at an angle of 90 degrees over the
lectern so that the stationary one would pick him up (tall priest,
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
Not much. The congregation flowed to the front to collect the
baskets, then out at the back. There was very much a sense that
it was all over now, time to go home (to the extent that we
completely missed out on the alleged coffee see below).
There were some people standing around in the lobby area, but
they seemed to be waiting for friends rather than to be up for
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
Reading the church's newsletter on the website, it appears that
there was coffee, and that people were encouraged to bring cake.
But we didn't catch on to that, so we just followed the flood
of people out of the doors.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 "Regular: as in once a year on Easter Eve? Yes,
absolutely, would love to. "Regular: as in every week?
Well, apart from the whole not-being-a-Roman-Catholic thing,
I don't feel that this service was representative of what it's
like on a Sunday, so it's rather difficult to judge.
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
Very much so. It was a very joyful gathering. Vinnie T. (who
is an agnostic) said it made him glad to be Polish, so that's
What one thing will you
remember about all this in seven days' time?
The sheer mass of people and their array of Easter baskets.
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