The church was completed in 1888 to replace an earlier one, and the steeple was added in 1914. It is easily spotted from the surrounding countryside. The first thing to notice when entering the church is the resplendent high altar. The oak communion table is backed by a gold and ivory reredos in the form of a triptych depicting part of the Last Supper, with attendant angels on either side. Above it is a splendid east window showing the crucifixion. Interesting stained glass windows and icons depicting saints and biblical scenes line both sides of the nave.
The Revd Nicholas Davis is priest-in-charge to both Holy Trinity and St Mary in the nearby village of Rufford, and he manages regular services of the eucharist at both churches several times every Sunday and also at other times during the week. Societies include bell ringing and a Mothers' Union, and a social committee has organised events such as bowling, a treasure hunt and a harvest quiz. They are looking forward to hosting a concert by Preston Opera next month.
Originally a small rural village in the middle of the rich agricultural lands of west Lancashire, Tarleton is now swamped with modern housing developments whose inhabitants commute to the towns of Southport, Preston and Chorley. The immediate neighbours of the church are a primary school, a row of small shops, a bank, a supermarket, some cafes, pubs, and residential houses.
The Rt Revd John Goddard, Bishop of Burnley, was the celebrant and preacher. He was assisted by the Revd Nicholas Davis. Bishop John is a member of SSC (Societas Sanctae Crucis or The Society of the Holy Cross) and the clergy in attendance were also SSC members.
What was the name of the service?Festal Eucharist of the Holy Cross on the Fortieth Anniversary of the Ordination to the Sacred Priesthood of John Goddard, Bishop of Burnley
How full was the building?
Quite full, with well over 200 people in the congregation.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. The bishop welcomed everyone as soon as they stepped inside the door, and the sidesmen were also very welcoming.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was as comfortable as you would expect. A piece of carpet laid along the pew was meant to enhance the feeling of comfort!
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Fairly quiet and expectant. The weather outside was blustery, as we were experiencing the remnants of Hurricane Katia, and the interior of the church was a welcome respite from the storm, as they say.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
A specially prepared service leaflet had everything in it.
What musical instruments were played?
A gentleman apparently called Jordan played a large and impressive looking pipe organ. When I had a look around the church prior to the service, the organ was being tuned and put through its paces by technicians from the Liverpool firm of David Wells Organ Builders Ltd.
Did anything distract you?
Several stained glass windows depicted saints and the one nearest to me showed St Barnabas. I kept wondering what the significance was to this church.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
There seemed to be something for everyone in this service. The thurifer, crucifer and acolytes preceded the immaculately vested clergy and bishop as they processed into the nave. Bishop John censed the altar with gusto and was obviously enjoying his special service. There was much bowing and genuflecting, and incense and bells were used wherever appropriate. A gentleman and a lady took it in turns to act as cantor in chanting the liturgy, although quite a few melodies were unfamiliar to me. The hymn tunes were a mixture of traditional and modern, some of the latter tending toward the happy-clappy in my opinion.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8– Bishop John stood at the foot of the chancel steps and spoke fervently without using notes. He told us that he had always wanted to be a parish priest and peppered his homily with references to his childhood and family. He also spoke about his membership in the Society of the Holy Cross and his desire to bear witness to the Cross of Christ.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It was about the great honour of priesthood. God has given us the ordained ministry of deacon, priest and bishop, but we are all part of the royal priesthood of Christ. We know that we are eternally loved and by following the Cross of Christ we can rejoice in our Christian lives.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I was in heaven throughout most of the service, taking place in such a beautiful setting. The gold and ivory of the altar, complemented by the matching red and cream vestments, and even the red carpet, made the whole chancel look absolutely glorious. Bishop John looked resplendent in his episcopal vestments. The congregation sang the responses joyously and everyone sang the hymns enthusiastically.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The only thing that was a source of disappointment to me was the tune chosen for the recessional hymn: "Stand up, stand up for Jesus." Being a traditionalist at heart, I thought the chosen modern version sounded like something straight out of a fairground!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
It was difficult to move because the church was so full, so most people stayed where they were and chatted with friends.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was a choice of wine and soft drinks as well as a lovely selection of cheese and biscuits.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9– The ornate altar with six large candles, the Lady chapel, the Stations of the Cross, the icons and statues around the church, the warm and friendly welcome, all helped me feel at home in this church that was obviously following the Anglo-Catholic tradition. I would be happy to worship here regularly if I lived in the vicinity.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I found Bishop John's sermon thought-provoking and it certainly helped to consolidate my Christian being.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Entering the church after being buffeted and blown about outside was like entering a magnificent palace, a haven of peace, glory and magnificence.