St Leonard, Ryton on Dunsmore

St Leonard's, Ryton on Dunsmore, Warwickshire, England


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St Leonard's
Location: Ryton on Dunsmore, Warwickshire, England
Date of visit: Saturday, 15 August 2015, 7:30pm

The building

Built of red sandstone, this is one of the oldest churches in Warwickshire, dating from about 1080. The tower is 15th century. Other parts have been rebuilt or patched over the years. One enters the porch, rebuilt in the 19th century, and passes through a fine Norman doorway to discover a 12th century lancet window (although the glass is of recent vintage), 15th century carved panels on the choir stalls, and a 17th century oak altar rail. The font is 12th century, the pulpit 17th century. Various memorial plaques can be seen.

The church

They call themselves "a lively and friendly congregation." There is a lunch club the second Wednesday of each month that serves a two-course meal plus coffee or tea and "good chat" for £4. Youth groups and gardening groups are also sponsored. At first glance they appear to be your average C of E parish – but they are actually quite exceptional ... read on!

The neighborhood

The village of Ryton on Dunsmore is located not far from Coventry, and the whole village is split in two by the A45 motorway. The church is located on the smaller northern side of this very busy road.

The cast

The Revd David Wintle, rector, and I presume his son, the Revd Tom Wintle. Rosemary King was the crucifer.

What was the name of the service?

Holy Communion.

How full was the building?

It is a small village church, so the 24 persons present seemed to half-fill it.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

I wandered in through the wrong door! You can access the church from either the church hall attached to one side, or through the porch on the other side. Even so, Mr Blanik and I both received a very nice welcome. During the peace, the whole church rotated and greeted everyone.

Was your pew comfortable?

It was a very pretty looking and very old wooden church pew that may have sat many generations of people. But alas, it wasn't comfortable. A pew cushion or runner would have greatly helped!

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Quiet and reflective, with some gentle organ music being played very well.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Let us go forth in peace."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

A printed order of service book and an orange hymn book. King James Bible readings.

What musical instruments were played?

Just an organ and some good singing from a choir called Musica Sacra.

Did anything distract you?

I think the church had been newly repainted, as the walls were as white as angels' wings. And you could still smell the fresh paint. I expect on a bright sunny day you may need your sunglasses.

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

Very Anglo-Catholic, but very friendly as well. The two priests wore full robes, with chasubles and birettas. Lots of incense and bowing. There was an acolyte swinging a thurible with great passion. The whole service was sung, with a sung psalm, an anthem, and sung responses. Whilst not cathedral standard, the singing was a good standard for such a small church.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

8 minutes.

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

9 – Father Tom is only a youngster and this was the first time I had heard him preach. I suspect he has picked up many tips from his father, as the sermon was well presented and flowed well.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Not surprising considering the day, it was all about Mother Mary and the role she has to play in our lives. A very Anglo-Catholic stance without being Roman Catholic!

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The whole service was marvellous. I'm not high church personally, but the reverence and excellent churchmanship was a pleasure to watch and observe throughout. There was a real sense of connection with God. Very special.

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

Personally there was slightly too much smoke for me. At one stage we couldn't see the front of the church for the incense. It would have been nice to see the choir robed, as in this particular service it would have fitted in nicely.

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

We were all led through to the church hall, and no chance of looking lost.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

There was white and red wine on offer, and some excellent home baked cheese scones. Orange juice was also available, but luckily Mr Blanik was driving! Very welcoming chatter afterwards, which was a nice balance to the reverence of the service.

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

9 – This was a special service, and I don't know if the normal Sunday services are conducted in the same way. Their website describes a variety of services. It would good to see more.

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

Yes! The lovely welcome, the excellent churchmanship, the reverence of the service, the lovely organ playing, and the good singing made this a truly heavenly place.

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

Walking back to the car after the service, I had a feeling that I had just partaken in something that was really very special.

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