St Peter’s, Frogwell, Chippenham, Wiltshire, UK


Info and corrections →

Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St Peter’s, Frogwell
Location: Chippenham, Wiltshire, UK
Date of visit: Sunday, 3 December 2023, 10:00am

The building

A modern church built in the 1960s, hexagonal in shape, showcasing the work of distinguished artist and sculptor Frank Roper and his wife Nora Ellison, an artist who worked with glass. It has been described as one of the finest modern church buildings in Britain. The church has no internal supports and its shape and the height of the roof creates a light, spacious area for worship. The floor to roof Peter Window is particularly striking, and contains beautiful modern etchings depicting St Peter in three forms at different times in his life.

The church

In 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the church started an initiative called the FoodBox. This project distributes surplus food donated by local supermarkets to more than 100 families and individuals in need, every week. The church community also has links to the Tom Metcalfe Centre, a day service for adults with additional needs. There is a monthly service aimed at adults with disabilities, and some are also members of the regular weekly worshipping congregation. These activities give the impression of a church that cares for people in the local community and is committed to practical outreach action.

The neighborhood

Chippenham is a market town of ancient origin in Wiltshire. It is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and in the Domesday Book, and there was a settlement here by the River Avon before the Roman times.

The cast

An ordained minister led the service and preached. She was assisted by a lay person in distributing the communion. There was an organist and a small choir.

What was the name of the service?

Sung Eucharist for Advent

How full was the building?

About a third full, approximately

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Yes, a lady just inside the entrance said hello as I walked in, and asked my name and where I was from.

Was your pew comfortable?

Very – this church has modern seating, and the chairs, which have padded seats and backs, have been arranged in rows, connected to each other.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Quiet, chatty, relaxed. A small group greeted people as they came in, handing out service sheets, and chatting with them.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

‘Good morning and welcome to the service’ – this was said in a very quiet voice from the back of the church, so I wasn’t sure at first that it signified that the service was starting.

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Booklets produced by the church locally for their communion services, which contained the words of Holy Communion Order One from Common Worship.

What musical instruments were played?

An electronic organ.

Did anything distract you?

During the first hymn I thought I could hear someone talking in the row behind me, and that was distracting. There were also one or two people walking about at different times.

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

It was traditional, and occasionally heartfelt, although also a little half-hearted at times. I felt it needed more oomph and enthusiasm.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

Six minutes.

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

6 — It was a competent sermon, but unremarkable. The preacher did not stick to one main point, but put together a collection of statements about the Christian faith. Nothing to disagree with there, but not very interesting to someone who has been going to church all her life and has heard thousands of sermons. I think this also describes most of the people in the congregation. We need a fresh, original approach to preaching that makes us think.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The theme of the sermon was ‘Waiting for the Lord’, because it was Advent Sunday. It felt more like a homily than a sermon, offering a series of exhortations about the need to be patient in waiting.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

Singing the chorus of a modern hymn – the words are:

Come, Lord Jesus, come, Lord Jesus,
Pour out your Spirit we pray.
Come, Lord Jesus, come, Lord Jesus,
Pour out your Spirit on us today.

It’s a song and a sentiment I often want to express, and in singing it I was able to enter into a worshipful frame of mind and worship freely.

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

Observing the rusting metal inner supports and the concrete cancer that is eating away at the pillars between the lovely etched glass panels of the Peter Window.

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

I was approached by the same lady who had welcomed me, who remembered my name, and introduced me to someone else. This person took me under her wing, explained that coffee would be brought to us, showed me where to sit, and introduced me to other people at the table. I then chatted to the people next to me for about 20 minutes as I drank my coffee.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Forgettable instant coffee, but I appreciated that it was served in a china mug rather than a plastic cup. And it was hot.

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

8 — I would quite like to visit this church again. It was certainly very friendly and I got the impression that the friendliness wasn’t for show, and that people genuinely care for each other at this church. I also appreciated the quiet, reverent style of worship.

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

Yes it did.

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

The impressive modern cross on the wall behind the altar. I was looking at it frequently during the service and I felt it was a helpful focus for worship and prayer.

Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you’d like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.

Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.

Comments and corrections

To comment, please scroll to the end of this report and add your thoughts there. To send us factual corrections, please contact us. We also discuss reports on our Ecclesiantics bulletin board.

© Ship of Fools