All Saints, Tuckingmill (Exterior)

All Saints, Tuckingmill, Cornwall, England.


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: All Saints
Location: Tuckingmill, Cornwall, England.
Date of visit: Sunday, 1 July 2012, 9:45am

The building

Dating from 1845, this red Devonian sandstone church in the Norman Revival style is spacious and impressive, although in need of repair. (In fact, there is some work being done in the churchyard, a memento of which I'll mention a bit later.) The church is comprised of a chancel, nave, south aisle and north porch, and a western tower containing eight bells. It has the largest arch in Cornwall outside Truro Cathedral. The font bowl dates from the 12th century. The windows above the main altar on the east side depict the birth, crucifixion and ascension of Christ. In the churchyard is a war memorial dedicated to men of the parish who lost their lives during World War I.

The church

The building next door, formerly the school, is now the church hall. An active social calendar was posted. The news sheet advertised bell ringing, a coffee morning and a ladies' group.

The neighborhood

Tuckingmill is a suburb of Camborne, once one of the richest tin mining areas in the world. It was here that William Bickford invented the safety fuse for explosives used in mining. Some ruins of stacks and engine houses still stand. Tuckingmill, like many of the surrounding towns, suffered with the demise of the mining industry, but in recent years there has been a move toward regeneration. Tuckingmill Valley has been transformed from the most visible derelict land site in West Cornwall into an award winning park featuring walking trails, play facilities, and creative art installations.

The cast

The Revd Mike Firbank, rector, assisted by two readers and four servers – two adults and two children.

What was the name of the service?

Family Service

How full was the building?

About 60 people in all. Most of the nave pews had smatterings of people in them.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

There was a warm hello and a smile from a woman handing out books. Once I had found my pew, one of the church wardens came over, shook my hand, and welcomed me to the church.

Was your pew comfortable?

Typical Anglican pew with a strip of red carpet that offered no extra padding. A seat not designed for comfort.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

It was noisy. The organ was playing in the background but this was drowned out by the chatter. It got louder and louder until the rector loudly pronounced "Good morning" into a microphone.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Good morning. Did you notice the toilet by the gate?" (Somehow one of those workmen's portable toilets had found its way into the churchyard.)

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Family Service Book and Hymns Old and New. The news sheet was printed on the inside of the Redemptorist Live the Word, Sustaining You Through the Week publication.

What musical instruments were played?

A nice little two-manual organ (although there were some dodgy stops), positioned to the south side of the nave altar platform. I always feel sorry for organists who are in such public view.

Did anything distract you?

The organist, in the nicest possible way. Being that she was so visible, it was hard not to keep watching her at work. She was a very enthusiastic organist, evidently enjoying herself and getting into the swing of things with the selection of very popular hymns. How a service can incorporate a gamut of hymns running from "Love Divine" to "Kumbaya" I will never understand. What do they sing for the rest of the year? And then there was that churchyard loo ...

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

Anglo-Catholic with an evangelical twist. The rector calls himself "Father" and referred to the service as a "mass". The Sanctus bell rang out at the appropriate times, but there was also some good evangelical hand waving during the hymns (no clapping, though). In lieu of a "sermon" we had a "talk".

Exactly how long was the sermon?

21 minutes.

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

8 – The rector spoke without notes, loosely wandering around at the front of the church, with "audience participation".

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The talk was entitled "Shame!" The rector mentioned an embarrassing moment he had suffered whilst at school, when he was caught pretending to be a pop star singing into a hairbrush in just his boxer shorts! He then invited members of the congregation to tell their own embarrassing moment. He tied shame in with the gospel reading of the woman with hemorrhages as one who was excluded from society and shamed. He spoke of the need to share shame and to be healed by Jesus.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The children singing "Kumbaya." It hadn't been practised to perfection but was sweetly sung.

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

As Father Mike ministered communion to the children, he genuflected before each child and gazed deeply into their eyes as he said "The Body of Christ." At first I thought this was because the children were short and he wanted to get down to their level. But then I noticed he was genuflecting before each adult communicant as well. I thought that if I held my hands high enough as he came to me, he wouldn't genuflect, but he did. He placed the host firmly in my hands and looked straight into my eyes. I tried not to return his gaze. I have never encountered a priest so close up at communion, and it felt very uncomfortable.

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

The end of the service heralded an exit from the church and off to the hall for coffee or tea for those who wished. As I left the church, the rector (he introduced himself as Mike) shook my hand, as did one of the readers and the church warden. It wasn't clear where I was meant to be going when I got to the outside, but eventually I got directed into the main hall.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

I was offered tea or coffee and given the choice of a mug or cup and saucer. I took the mug option. Big mistake! The coffee was most definitely not fair trade – in fact, it was quite awful, and there I was with a whole mug of the stuff! There were also biscuits on offer but I didn't avail myself. Mug in hand, I wandered around the hall looking at the pictures before being approached by a very friendly woman for a bit of a chat.

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

5 – There were things I loved, there were things I liked, and there were things I didn't like, but for me the one thing that didn't work for me was that I didn't find it a spiritual experience.

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

Yes, the hymns were eminently singable.

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

Coming face to face with the priest at the distribution of communion.

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