Holy Trinity, Broadstairs (Exterior)

Holy Trinity, Broadstairs, Kent, England


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Holy Trinity
Location: Broadstairs, Kent, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 11 June 2017, 10:00am

The building

A beautiful construction in its own unique way, made of stone blocks with insets of Kentish ragstone. A tower was added in 1862 but declared unsafe and dismantled in 1924. The original building had no stained glass, but windows were installed in the early 1870s. The interior was extensively reordered in 1925. The Lady chapel was again reordered in 1980, and major cleaning and restoration work were done in 2011. There's a large crucifix on the main wall outside, indicating the church's Catholic style. There are steps to the main entrance, but there's also a fixed sign stating "Easier Access" with an arrow pointing round the corner – that's a well-kept pathway that leads to the door into the north aisle (the door itself being marked "Easier Access"). Inside, the building was clean, clear, with Victorian pews filling only half of the nave and with both side aisles being free-form. The south aisle has a small counter/kitchen area, and there are tables and chairs set out there. We learned that the building was completely rewired about four years ago, and the lighting and sound systems are easy to operate and can produce a variety of effects. They have a loop system that is regularly checked for "black spots" and proper overall operation.

The church

Holy Trinity is self-styled as inclusive, and there are clear indications that they care greatly about making sure that everyone is part of the family. There are services on a very regular schedule: 10.00am every Sunday, with a junior church every other week at the moment, and an evening service at 6.30 each week that varies in style. There are other events and groups happening in the church, the hall, and the wider community. There are also regular concerts held. June's mission collection is for Porchlight, Kent's leading charity that ministers to the homeless. At the back of the church is a large display area with other charities and causes they support, including Christian Aid and a debt charity.

The neighborhood

Broadstairs is a small coastal town. As you can imagine, there are the usual restaurants, pubs, cafes, chip shops, ice cream parlours, etc.; but most of the shops are small (as are the roads). The beach is small, but enclosed with cliffs that have steps built into the cliff faces. There is actual sand (lots of Kent beaches are pebbles). The church is right at the edge of the pavement on a main road, only a short walk from the beach.

The cast

The priest-in-charge is the Revd Dominic Fenton, who preached. The celebrant was the Revd Arthur Skinner, associate priest. Prayers were led by Ted Keeping.

What was the name of the service?


How full was the building?

There were over 110 people at the service, but the church is massive. A plaque in the toilet says it will seat 616 (the church, that is, not the toilet) so it wasn't even half full. People were spread out, so it did look well-attended.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Yes. A sidesman at the door welcomed us and said hello. We asked where the Sunday school was and were directed to it. The peace was shared with handshakes from immediate neighbours.

Was your pew comfortable?

Yes. Half of the nave had pews, which were very long and had padded cushions along the length. The back half had seats, which looked like standard seats.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Unfortunately, we didn't get to note this, as we went over to the hall to drop Child off at Sunday school. We could see that most people were getting seated, and it wasn't at all rushed.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

The service started with a hymn and no announcement (this is normal for Catholic style services). Then: "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." (Response: "Amen.")

What books did the congregation use during the service?

When I got back from dropping Child off, the sidesman had disappeared. And a table was laid with five separate piles containing Ancient and Modern: Hymns and Songs for Refreshing Worship; a printed service book (Common Worship); and a notice sheet with readings. The service book stated that the readings were New Standard Version. I noted that there was also a stand with hymn books inside the entrance, which also contained large print copies.

What musical instruments were played?

Organ and choir. For the size of the building, the organ is very quiet. I gather that most of the organ's pipes are hidden, or at least speaking into a wall, rather than into the building. During the first and last hymn, the congregation sang with gusto, which was great. However, when faced with a middle hymn that not many people knew, they didn't get enough support from organ to help them. The choir sang Tchaikovsky's Hymn to the Trinity during communion, which was lovely.

Did anything distract you?

I actually had to try hard to find things to distract me! I was engaged in the service. Somewhat of a distraction, but lovely, were the three-dimensional Stations of the Cross. And there was lots of incense!

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

Stiff-upper-lip. It was bells and smells, so full-on Catholic tradition. However, the priest likes to make sure the service doesn't drag, so there was nothing too "extra," just straightforward throughout. It seemed extremely efficient, hence no distractions, which is just the way I like it.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

7 minutes.

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

9 – The Revd Dominic Fenton spoke from the pulpit, was easy to hear, and spoke well without mumbling or stumbling.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The sermon began with a quote from legendary pianist Alfred Brendel: "Great music is music that can never be played." The various parts of a church service – the words, the liturgy, the sermon – are all a score that we learn and perform. It's how the performance goes that makes all the difference. Music points beyond itself to that which is greater than perfect. But there is nothing that can be said that can ever be greater than God. The Trinity is love – neighbours, community – there must be contemplation and action together. God in our midst is present with us forever as grace and truth.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The fact that there is so much obviously being done to ensure everyone is included. One of the priests administered communion to the congregation at the high altar, whilst the other stood at a side altar to administer to people who couldn't make the steps (although this wasn't announced or listed anywhere). The way the service ran very smoothly without constant reminders to everyone what was happening.

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

The abandonment of the sidesman post once the service had started (no good for latecomers). But the most confusing and jarring thing happened at the end of the service. The crucifer and choir exited directly to the vestry, but the clergy and the rest of the altar party all processed back up the church, around and down to the vestry. I couldn't work out who to watch – I'm drilled to follow the cross, but that disappeared! The public car park right opposite the church extorted £6 out of us to park for two hours! We didn't have time to look for anywhere else to park. It would have been nice to have a section on the website about parking availability.

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

We didn't get to stand looking lost. We had already met the Sunday school leaders, so they came over to chat. As we went over to refreshments, other people made small talk with us. The only time really that we were alone was when we were chatting to each other looking at the notice boards.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Wine was served. We were told they serve wine or sherry on special occasions, this one being an 18th birthday. There was also a cake, and of course tea, coffee and juice.

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

9 – We felt welcomed, and we like this style of service.

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

Yes, it was very uplifting.

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

The inclusivity and willingness to make everyone feel welcome. And the lighting system – it was awesome.

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