Hoo St Werburgh, Kent (Exterior)

Hoo St Werburgh Parish Church, Hoo St Werburgh, Kent, England


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Hoo St Werburgh Parish Church
Location: Hoo St Werburgh, Kent, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 18 August 2013, 10:00am

The building

The church is an ancient stone building with an impressive spire. It is battlemented along the south side, which some say indicates that invaders were expected to come from the Medway River. There is a fair amount of ancient glass, and some apparentaly original 12th century floor tiles. There are also several old memorial brasses and the foot of the font could be Norman.

The church

The church is dedicated to St Werburgh, who is said to have resurrected an eaten goose by praying over the picked clean bones, whereupon the bird came back to life. There are services of morning prayer held during the week, and occasional acitvities such as a craft club and a toddler group.

The neighborhood

Hoo St Werburgh is a lovely village/small town on a peninsula in North Kent overlooking the Medway, surrounded by lovely countryside with good views of the river. There is an active local campaign against proposals for a new London airport nearby in the Thames Estuary.

The cast

Lay reader Ron Bewsey led the service and preached. Mrs Muriel Bewsey led the prayers.

What was the name of the service?

Family Service

How full was the building?

About 20 per cent. Lots of people were on holiday, including the priest and curate and choir members.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

We were welcomed by the sidespeople and given our Pew View (a weekly newsletter with the readings for the day and the notices), an order of service, and Complete Anglican Hymns Old and New. It was a very warm welcome.

Was your pew comfortable?

The pews were some of the longest I have ever seen. Mr Bunny is a bit of an amateur woodworker and he was amazed that the pews were constructed from extremely long pieces of pine with no joins halfway along. They must have been very tall trees! But they were quite comfortable for the duration of the service.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

There was a gentle hum of chatter as people greeted each other and caught up with the news. There was no organist, so we had quiet piped music in the background. The atmosphere was very happy.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Good morning everybody."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

The order of service, Complete Anglican Hymns Old and New, and the Pew View.

What musical instruments were played?

Piped music, coming apparently from a CD recording.

Did anything distract you?

As the hymns were very modern, Mr Bunny and I only knew one of them. Verses were often repeated but not as written in the hymn book. I am a bit of a traditionalist and found it very distracting (and a bit annoying – but that is my problem and not the church's). Also we sat through the gospel reading, which runs quite contrary to what I am used to, but maybe is an indication of the age of the majority of the congregation.

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

Very relaxed and also very inclusive. I do get annoyed when I am preached and prayed "at", but Ron Bewsey, the lay reader taking the service, said "we" rather than "you" and his faith shone out like a beacon.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

15 minutes.

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

8 – Mr Bewsey read rather than used notes, which detracted from an otherwise excellent sermon. It did not feel like 15 minutes. I was quite surprised when I calculated the length.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Faith, based on the reading of the day from Hebrews 11.29-12.2 (the faith of other Israelite heroes). Faith gets stronger by experience – what we have experienced in our own lives will make our faith grow. God's hand in our lives may not be apparent at the time, but is clearly recognised in hindsight. Faith cannot be proven scientifically. God gave us free will either to believe or not.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The obvious faith of the lay reader and the warmth felt in the atmosphere of the church and congregation.

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

The piped music, which had rules all of its own!

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

There were coffee and tea and biscuits at the back of the church and most people stayed behind to partake. After that, they either went back to the pews with their drinks or clustered together. As I was returning our books, a very nice old gent offered to return them for me.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Our refreshments were served in lovely cups and saucers and the biscuits were chocolate! I don't know if they were fair trade or not as I did not see any packaging.

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

6 – I am a bit of a music traditionalist so not the best place for me.

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 faith and warmth of the service.

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