All Saints, Teversham, Cambridgeshire, England


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: All Saints
Location: Teversham, Cambridgeshire, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 12 March 2023, 10:30am

The building

The church is first mentioned in the 11th century, and was dedicated to All Saints in 1393. It is a pretty medieval building with a striking square tower, which was added in the 15th century. The building was badly kept in the 17th and 18th centuries, but was substantially restored in the 1860s and 80s. The interior has a three bay arcade in the nave, with traditional pews nestling around the pillars beneath a plain roof. The chancel is beyond a simple but attractive open rood screen which dates from 1400. The upkeep of the church is partially supported by Friends of All Saints, Teversham, which has historical and architecural notes on the church building. Two previous rectors became Archbishops of Canterbury: John Whitgift, in the time of Elizabeth I, and Richard Bancroft, who oversaw the translation of the King James Bible.

The church

The rector is shared with the neighbouring parish churches of St Mary the Virgin, Fen Ditton, and St Peter, Horningsea. There are services in All Saints on three Sundays each month, with a village service every first Sunday at 3pm, and Holy Communion every second Sunday in the month. See the church’s entry on A Church Near You for further details.

The neighborhood

The village of Teversham, which is set in farmland, has a population of almost 3,000 people and is on the outskirts of Cambridge, near the airport.

The cast

The rector celebrated, preached and led the intercessions. Readings were by the organist and a member of the congregation.

What was the name of the service?

Holy Communion.

How full was the building?

I counted 12, including the rector and the organist. All Saints is quite a small church, but I think you could seat 60 or so comfortably. The rector noted the small numbers at the outset by reference to the comfort he found in the opening hymn: ‘Lord, we are few, but thou art near’; although he wondered if his view of few was quite the same as William Cowper’s, as the hymn went on to refer to a thousand hearts.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Fifteen minutes before the service seemed to be an unreasonably early arrival time, so the welcomer was not yet at her post. But the rector made me welcome and had a brief conversation with me before going to robe. After robing, he stood near the welcomer, speaking to most of the other arrivals.

Was your pew comfortable?

As a nod to Lenten discipline, I chose a pew without a cushion. But it turned out to be no hardship; it was so comfortable I gave it no thought during the service at all. Kneelers were not provided as standard, but were piled up to the side. I helped myself, and it was also pretty comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Reflective organ music failed to cover the rector’s conversations with members of the congregation as they arrived, but once they were in their pews, there was an air of quiet preparation.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

Rector: ‘The opening hymn is number 390’. Organist: ‘290 or 390?’ Rector: ‘390.’ More seriously, after the hymn, the opening words were, ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’

What books did the congregation use during the service?

New English Hymnal, and a service sheet for Holy Communion in Lent.

What musical instruments were played?

Organ alone, played pleasingly well.

Did anything distract you?

Realising half way through the eucharistic prayer that virtually everyone else had sat down, when it felt too late to follow suit – and realising even later that the only rubric in the entire service sheet was to kneel after the Benedictus.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

Classic Anglican, such as you might find in any rural church which has to tend to all its flock. The service was straight up and down Common Worship, with traditional hymns and the celebrant in a cassock alb and stole. After the liturgy of the word in the nave with the congregation, the celebrant moved to the altar in the chancel for the eucharistic prayer.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

17 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

6 — He actually preached, as opposed to reading out a script. I was also impressed by his quiet, prayerful preparation during the preceding hymn.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

It focused on the Old Testament reading, and the time of testing and quarrelling in the wilderness without water. Is the Lord with us, or is he not? He spoke about the way in which the writers draw us in to make the story our story, not just their story, and the wildernesses we can each find ourselves in, individually and as a church. But ultimately, there is the promise of the gospel, and Jesus as the living water, which does not need to be drawn with effort in pails from the well, but which gushes up like a spring from deep inside us.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

It is a long time since I have experienced a priest celebrating the eucharist so well. There was nothing showy, but throughout the service I felt the sharing of a deep faith, in the way he spoke the words of the mass and in the way he moved. I find it hard to explain what it was about it, but I did.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

It was very cold. It wasn’t even a particularly cold day. I dread to think what it is like in the depths of winter. There were pew heaters, but they weren’t on. Who can afford to heat country churches these days? But I did find myself craving a blanket.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

I didn’t have time to look lost before a member of the congregation came and introduced himself. He made me feel welcome, and encouraged me to return if I was in the neighbourhood again. He commented how lucky they felt to have their new rector and I was glad that they appreciated him.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

There were no after service refreshments, although people did stay and chat a little to each other. I didn’t stay long as I needed to go and warm up.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

8 — Like so many rural parishes, there is not a service every week, so if I do find myself in the area again, who knows if another visit will even be possible?

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?


What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

‘Lord, we are few, but thou art near’. It is sad that we are so few, but I am grateful that the Diocese of Ely is continuing to fund quality ministry in the small rural parishes which are so much the heart of the Church of England. May it last, despite all the current challenges.

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