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|2667: St Mary
the Virgin, Sawston, England
Worshipper: Addie Stephidelis.
Mary the Virgin, Sawston, Cambridgeshire, England.
of England, Diocese
A typical English village church with a mixture of round Norman
and pointed Gothic arches. Flint outside and whitewash inside.
It is set in a beautifully kept churchyard, a little bit back
from Sawston High Street. This church gives the impression
of having been an integral part of the community for centuries
you can see the march of history in the brasses, the
war memorial, and in more recent additions like a patchwork
curtain or the giant green frog in the children's area at
St Mary's, Sawston, shares a team with St Peter's, Babraham.
It looks like a busy church, with three services on a Sunday,
and events through the week. The congregation at the service
I attended were largely over retirement age, although there
were a couple of mothers with young children, and several
teenagers drifted in afterwards to attend the 10.45am.
Sawston is one of several villages dotted around the outskirts
of Cambridge, although protected by enough green belt to have
retained its own identity. A pleasant, self-contained village,
abundantly provided with churches, pubs, schools, banks and
other necessities of existence.
The service was led by the priest in charge, the Revd Alan
Partridge (which name must be a sore trial to him!), assisted
by lay ministers Rita Ollett and Jose John.
The date & time:
First Sunday in Lent, 9 March 2014, 9.15am.
We have received a comment on this report.
What was the name of
How full was the building?
Reasonably full. There were empty seats dotted around the
place, and the aisles were not occupied, but I would guess
there were 40 or 50 in the nave.
Did anyone welcome you
The lady who walked through the door before me turned round
to welcome me and introduce herself. Then, when it came to
exchanging the peace, she remembered my name and greeted me
Was your pew comfortable?
It was lovely: a wooden chair
with padded seat and back. My only complaint would be that,
had anyone been sitting next to me, I would have had nowhere
to put my hymnbook.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
Gently chatty. People were drifting in and talking quietly
to their neighbours. Recorded organ music was playing over
the sound system.
What were the exact
opening words of the service?
"Good morning, and a very warm welcome to St Mary's on this,
the first Sunday in Lent."
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
The Complete Anglican Hymns Old and New, and a customised
booklet entitled something like Holy Communion in Lent
this had the words of the liturgy on the right hand
pages, and explanatory notes and illustrations on the left
hand pages. There was also a photocopied notice sheet, which
included the text of the collect and readings.
What musical instruments
The Revd Alan explained rather ruefully that this would be
a "karaoke style service", as no organist was available
today. And indeed, the accompaniment to the hymns was recorded
organ music. However, we were assured that on other Sundays
there would be live organ music. I also noticed a drum kit
and keyboard toward the front of church, and it turned out
that these would be used in the Open Door service that followed
after the one I attended.
Did anything distract
This is a beautiful church and there was a lot to look at:
the Royal Arms over the door, a copy of Rembrandt's Prodigal
Son, and so on. My attention was particularly drawn to
the war memorial on the pillar in front of me, which, unusually,
featured one name from the Korean War as well as 1914 and
1939. There was a second-hand bookstall, too, and I must confess
to having spent some time wondering what treasures might be
found on it. Then, during the post-communion prayer, a man
came in, sat next to me, and asked me (a) what time it was;
(b) whether this was communion; (c) if there would be coffee
a distraction that I think would have distracted anybody!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Middle-of-the-road Anglican, with some unexpected elements.
For example, the sermon was introduced with a low church off-the-cuff
prayer, but later a bell was rung during the eucharistic prayer.
I get the impression that this church is, like many rural
churches, having to be all things to all people.
Exactly how long was
On a scale of 1-10,
how good was the preacher?
6 The Revd Alan seemed to be trying to fit a quart
into a pint pot! He only had room to look at two of Jesus'
three temptations in the detail he obviously wanted to, and
broke off abruptly when he got to the end of the second one.
Here and elsewhere, he employed a markedly enthusiastic tone
that became tiring to listen to after a while (he said at
one point that Jesus doesn't float over all this like a supernatural
hovercraft and that the devil was trying to persuade Jesus
to do a bungee jump).
In a nutshell, what
was the sermon about?
Jesus' temptations were related specifically to him and to
his identity as the Son of God, but we can learn from them
too. Many people in our world try to live by bread alone.
And we should look at the way that Jesus uses scripture to
defend himself against temptation. If Jesus himself seeks
help in scripture, how much more important is it for us?
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
Being greeted by name during the peace, and then, at the communion
rail, being addressed by name: "Addie, receive the Body of
Christ." These two gestures made me feel very personally welcomed.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
Well, the notices at the beginning of the service were like
Purgatory! They went on for a good ten minutes and seemed
largely irrelevant to new visitors. And, while they didn't
pain me, some of the metaphors in the sermon seemed a bit
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
I was complimented on my singing voice, and introduced to
lots of people, and invited to take coffee, and generally
made to feel very welcome indeed. It didn't take five minutes
of hanging around, either more like thirty seconds
remaining in my seat.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
A well known commercial brand of instant, I'm afraid to say
(I am always vaguely surprised to come across churches who
aren't boycotting this particular brand!), served in green
beryl cups and saucers. Very superior fruity cookies, and
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
7 This isn't the kind of church where I feel most at
home, theologically speaking, but the welcome was so warm
that I'd quite happily come back.
Did the service make
you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, although I did wonder what someone who may be attending
church for only the first or second time in their lives would
have made of some of the jargon and odd metaphors.
What one thing will
you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Being welcomed by name to God's table.
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