Mystery Worshipper: Helen Mary
Church: St Mary & St Nicholas
Location: Beaumaris, Anglesey, Wales
Date of visit: Sunday, 13 August 2006, 11:00am
An historic 14th century church. On the porch is the stone coffin of Princess Joan, illegitimate daughter of King John of England. It is reported that for many years the coffin was used as a drinking trough for horses. The interior of the church is very pretty, with dark brown pews, fine old misericords dating from the 16th century, Gothic stone arches and wide aisles.
If today's attendance was typical, I'd say it's a mostly older congregation.
This picturesque 13th century castle town on the island of Anglesey enjoys a stunning view of the Snowdonia Mountains. The town grew around the castle built by Edward I and became a thriving port, and is still an important yachting centre today. The town is a popular tourist spot. There is a varied selection of shops and numerous eating places, catering for every taste from a sandwich to five course feasts.
The Revd Neil Fairlamb.
What was the name of the service?Sung Eucharist.
How full was the building?
One-quarter full – about 35 to 40 people.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A sidesman said "Good morning." The minister welcomed us personally in the pew, asking us where we were from, etc. Otherwise no one greeted us.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. Quite roomy, with thin cushions on the seats.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Fairly reserved. Some people were exchanging views and news. The congregation seemed well spread round the church.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"A very warm welcome to all, especially visitors from High Wycombe, Knutsford, Leeds and Paris."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Holy Eucharist in English and Welsh; Hymns Ancient and Modern, New Standard.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
There were quite a large number of seagulls outside.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Worship was reserved. The sung psalms had very awkward tunes and the congregation was not singing loudly. There were four enthusiastic ladies up in the organ gallery who were leading the singing from behind the congregation, and they were in very good voice, but I think it would have been better if we had been able to see them. The hymns were traditional but the tunes were not familiar.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – He was a good Welsh orator with a good sense of humour, and spoke with no notes. He seemed to cock his head to one side.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Beware of false prophets and people who claim that one holy book is better than another – that is the way of madness! Modern prophets should exercise discernment. Individual Christians should sit on ethics committees, for example. He claimed the Church had lost its authoritative voice.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The sermon was thought provoking but not quite like being in heaven. I was uncomfortable, for example, with the idea that absolutes are out.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The singing left a lot to be desired. Difficult tunes that not many people seemed to know. This sort of thing does not encourage those unfamiliar with the church service to take part easily. It would have been better to have a choir up front leading the singing.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
On the way out, eventually one gentleman and his wife decided to talk to us. They were very pleasant. But it was obviously not the custom for people to hang round after the service.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 – I would prefer a church where the singing was more lively and there was a broader spread of age groups.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I'm not really sure.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
How engaging the minister was.