St Mary's, Coity, Bridgend, Wales


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St Mary's
Location: Coity, Bridgend, Wales
Date of visit: Sunday, 7 April 2013, 9:30am

The building

The church is a traditional Anglican church building. The members put a lot of effort into making it a friendly, welcoming space. It has a very long chancel, which makes it difficult to see the priest when he is stood at the high altar and makes it feel like he's a very long way away, even though the church is quite small. The church is set back from the road, but the entrance gate has clear signs that state the times of services.

The church

It is part of the parish of Coity, Nolton and Brackla. There is a Church of Wales primary school at Brackla. They sponsor numerous activities, including a Mothers Union, prayer groups, Young Christians Club, bell ringers and even a recorder group. They are a warm and welcoming community for all ages.

The neighborhood

Coity is a small village in south Wales. Its most important feature is the Norman castle, which passed through several families via complex marital arrangements before it was abandoned in the 17th century. The church is next door to the ruins of the castle.

The cast

The Revd Cei Rees, the assistant curate of the parish, was celebrant and preacher. People from the congregation were involved in readings and intercessions (names unknown).

What was the name of the service?

Sung Eucharist.

How full was the building?

Not full at the beginning of the service, but when the Sunday school joined at the offertory the building felt much fuller. There were approximately 50 people present (including choir and Sunday school), and people commented that several regulars were missing.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

I was welcomed at the door of the church and given a hymn book and service book. When I had taken my seat, a lovely man named Barry introduced himself and asked whether I was a visitor or new to the area. A number of people exchanged the peace with me, including the celebrant.

Was your pew comfortable?

It was fine for the hour that I had to sit in it!

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

The atmosphere before the service was unfortunately quite chatty, leaving little room for quiet reflection before the service. The priest only arrived at the very last minute.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Good morning, lovely people!"

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Complete Anglican Hymns Old & New and a seasonal service booklet prepared by the parish including lectionary readings.

What musical instruments were played?


Did anything distract you?

The artificial flowers in the window sills, which were a shame compared to the beautiful real flower arrangements at the front of the church.

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

The curate appeared to be rather evangelical but the congregation seemed fairly middle-of-the-road Anglican. The service was a standard Anglican communion service using the revised common lectionary, but the sermon and the fact that the curate raised his hands during the hymns reflected the fact that "common" was not his natural inclination. However, the congregation clearly appreciate the curate's ministry.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

11 minutes.

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

7 – The delivery was amazing – he had no notes and spoke freely.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The curate talked about the wonder of the Resurrection and the importance of our love for Jesus Christ. He used examples from his personal life.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The intercessions were beautiful and very well delivered.

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

Not being able to follow the congregational mass setting, as the music for this was not provided. The celebrant did not make it clear who was welcome to come to the altar to receive communion. If I had been a non-churchgoer, I might have felt very uncomfortable and uncertain of what to do at this point.

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

The celebrant hadn't mentioned that there was coffee served in the hall (a short walk around the corner from the church). However, people approached me soon after the service to invite me to join them for coffee, where again people chatted to me. I felt very welcome.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

The atmosphere was lovely, although the tea was horrible!

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

7 – It would not be my natural denominational choice, but I would really recommend this church to any Anglican friends.

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


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

The intercessions.

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