Mystery Worshipper: Louise
Church: Muddiford United Reformed
Location: Muddiford, Devon, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 24 March 2013, 10:00am
A small traditional chapel built in 1846 at a cost of £250. It is known as the Chapel in the Valley. Badly damaged by flooding in 2012, but restored as best they can.
They appear to be a close-knit congregation. They say they are welcoming - but read on!
Muddiford is a picturesque little village located in what feels to be the middle of nowhere. Local attractions include the Broomhill Sculpture Garden, featuring a wide range of works in an informal setting. The church is built very close to a river, hence the aforementioned flooding.
A young woman called Sabrina, whose last name I did not catch even though I asked several times. They introduced her as their pastoral advisor from synod.
What was the name of the service?Morning Service.
How full was the building?
There were not many people there, but as it is a very small church it felt quite full. Considering that this is a small village church I was surprised to see people of all ages there.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was welcomed by the preacher and a lady from the congregation. The lady asked me if I was a visitor or lived in the area. In addition to a hymn book and a service sheet, a child gave me some bells, which we later used while we sang "Sing Hosanna".
Was your pew comfortable?
The pews were traditional wooden pews and not particularly comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Most people were quite chatty. They are very clearly a close knit community and had a lot of news to exchange.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning and welcome."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Mission Praise hymn book and a service sheet with additional hymns and prayers.
What musical instruments were played?
There was a keyboard, which was played both as a piano and an organ. There were also a guitar and a flute.
Did anything distract you?
It was quite cold in the church, and the inside of the building felt a bit unloved. This might of course be because of the recent flooding!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The theology was what I would classify as very liberal, but the style of worship was very lively and included all ages. There were both a children's and an adults' talk, and there were activities for the children in the church during the adult talk. There were some modern and some traditional hymns.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – Sabrina was very clear and made some interesting points I had not heard before.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The preacher compared the different gospel accounts of Jesus' entry to Jerusalem. She described how much of a sacrifice taking off your coats and putting them on the ground for a donkey to walk across would have meant to the people of the time. She told us of an old continental tradition of carrying wooden donkeys through towns to make people think about how they would welcome Jesus. She also asked us to reflect on how we welcome Jesus into our lives in various situations.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The singing and music. When the piano, guitar and flute were playing, it was all wonderful. I also loved that the service addressed all ages.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
There were no microphones in the church. It is a small building but it felt as though the preacher was having to speak up a lot.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Fairly soon after the service, I was offered a cup of coffee, which was brought into church on a tray. As the hall they normally use for tea and coffee was not in use because of flood damage, this happened in the pews and it all felt a bit cramped. Apart from a lady called Pat and the preacher, no one really talked to me.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was only coffee on offer, and as I am not a coffee drinker I cannot really judge its quality.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – The service had a wonderful atmosphere, but they could work on their welcome to visitors/newcomers.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Reflecting on how I would welcome Jesus if he were to arrive here today like he did on Palm Sunday.