Mystery Worshipper: Yorkshire Lass
Church: All Saints
Location: Hunmanby, North Yorkshire, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 26 August 2012, 10:45am
All Saints is a 12th century village church in a delightful setting, well looked after both outside and in. There was apparently an earlier Saxon church on the site, and there have been additions to the building over the years. The church was restored in the 19th century, when the ring of bells were added.
The church seems to be a really busy community, with lots going on. When we looked for a church to visit, we were excited to see on the notice board that the fourth Sunday would be Cafe Church (although we got Morning Worship instead).
Hunmanby, in North Yorkshire, is one of several villages that claim to be the largest in Great Britain, although its population numbers not much more than 3200. Despite its small size, the village is an important business centre. The church is in the middle of the village, and most people appeared to walk to get there. Not only that, they were early!
The vicar was away on mission, so the service was led by Maureen Andrew, a lay reader in training. I didn’t get the preacher’s name, but he was an elderly gentleman who seemed very pleased to be sharing.
What was the name of the service?Morning Worship.
How full was the building?
The building appeared to be full, but people were well spread out. It was probably about three-quarters full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were greeted at the door by a lady who said "Good morning," and greeted again as we were handed the hymn books by a very friendly gentleman who told us to sit wherever we liked.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was comfy enough for the service, but I suspect if it had been a long service my ample bum would have been numb!
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Church was absolutely buzzing, with people chatting and sorting things out. Recorded music was playing in the background. It quietened down in good time for the start of the service.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning and welcome, especially to our friends from Cross Hill" (people from the local Methodist church were visiting that day).
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Holy Bible, New International Version, together with the church’s own morning worship publication. I think the hymn book was Mission Praise.
What musical instruments were played?
Three women played a keyboard and two guitars.
Did anything distract you?
I'm used to a pretty lively church, and my biggest distraction was that although the music was modern and lively, no one seemed to move! There was no clapping or dancing – people seemed pretty restrained. At one point I thought a mobile phone had gone off, but I later discovered it was actually the children playing in a different room.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
All the music was modern worship songs, led by the music group. There were no song sets, just individual songs, which could have been a little more lively, especially from the congregation! The vicar was in Colombia and the church was praying for him every day whilst he was there.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – The preacher appeared a little nervous at the beginning, but soon perked up, speaking really clearly. He was easily understood, and his whole talk oozed his faith.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was about how life is split into three parts: history, present and future. The preacher stressed that as atheists get older they have less and less to look forward to, but as Christians getting older we have so much to look forward to. He referred frequently to quotes from the past and the present, and spoke in anticipation of the life to come.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The thing that really struck me was how happy the people appeared as they arrived! They really wanted to be there, especially the children, who were very animated as they walked into church.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
At the end of the service, the children and their leaders came forward to show what they had done. As the presider explained what they had done, she laughingly said that some of the sheep the children had made looked more like dogs. I thought this was a bad slip-up, and enough to put the children off. The congregation then applauded the children for their worship, which felt somewhat patronising.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
As we sat in our pew, a gentleman came and spoke to us. He asked if any of the children were ours, and wished us well. We then stood at the back a good five minutes, but no one spoke to us. We went to get refreshments, and the serving-lady passed the time of day. After ten minutes I took the cups back, and she then made more conversation, asking if we were on holiday. When I finally returned to my husband, I found him speaking with the lay reader. She had introduced herself, saying she didn't like to see people standing on their own. This definitely made us feel better, and showed we had been recognised as visitors.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Decent, fairly traded filter coffee, served with chocolate biscuits!
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – If we lived nearer I would definitely consider this as my regular church, but they would have to get used to me moving when singing!
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it helped that the sermon was focussed on the positive points of being a Christian. We did enjoy the service, but would have loved to experience Cafe Church in a small village. I realise that it was holiday time, but it would have been helpful to see a sign saying the service would be Morning Worship instead.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The prayers offered for the vicar while is was on mission in Colombia.