St Margaret’s of Antioch, St Margaret’s at Cliffe, England


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St Margaret’s of Antioch
Location: St Margaret’s at Cliffe, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 21 April 2019, 10:00am

The building

A Grade 1 listed Norman church – a fine example of Early Norman architecture. This is the earliest example of a Norman aisle church, with aisles of unequal width. The west door stonework is among the finest in Kent. There is a stained glass window dedicated to the memory or three local men who died in the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster, a ferryboat accident that occurred in 1987. Some nautical graffiti can also be seen.

The church

They are part of a benefice that includes four churches. There is a special commitment to refugees and outreach.

The neighborhood

St Margaret's at Cliffe is a village situated just off the coast road in Kent, along the famous White Cliffs of Dover. The centre of the village is about three-quarters of a mile from the sea. For that reason, during the Second World War most of the population were moved out and guns with their attendant military personnel were moved in. History buffs are drawn to St Margaret’s Museum and to several commemorative war memorials and soldiers’ graves in the area. Sir Peter Ustinov lived in a house on the cliffs. At the other end of the beach there are cottages, two of which were owned by Noël Coward, one of which was rented by Ian Fleming.

The cast

The vicar led the service. Members of the congregation read and led prayers.

What was the name of the service?

Easter Sunday Communion.

How full was the building?

Mostly full – people had to share pews.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

I was given a handshake and handed a hymn book. Member of the congregation welcomed us in the pew. The vicar approached and spoke welcoming words to us. Another member asked about communion. Various members spoke to us at the peace and later during coffee.

Was your pew comfortable?

Lot of standing! The pew was of solid wood. Canvas cushions were available but not needed for youth. The kneelers seemed a bit awkward and got in way of one’s feet.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Good atmosphere. The organist played a medley ranging from Haydn’s ‘Trumpet Voluntary’ to Fats Waller’s ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’’ – and all very well. There were children present but they didn’t make noise.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

‘Praise and happy Easter to you all, alleluia! Alleluia! He is risen indeed!’

What books did the congregation use during the service?

The Book of Common Prayer and a hymn sheet.

What musical instruments were played?

Organ and piano.

Did anything distract you?

A few servers wandered about at various points. One greeter had a clicker to count numbers – he did this just as the vicar began speaking. Grr! Do a silent count and add it up later!

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

A mixture of Common Worship text. There was a song composed by the organist and sung by a young member of the congregation aged 8-10ish, accompanied by an obviously proud choir in their blue robes with felt daffodils at their lapels.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

8 minutes.

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

8 — Good use of tone and turn of phrase, e.g. ‘Mary gossiped the gospel.’ It was challenging and uplifting if a bit sibilant at times. A clear message.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Be a witness to the Resurrection. Seek and find Jesus in places where we expect sadness or suffering.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The vicar’s greeting and the sermon.

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

A prayer led by one member of the congregation was a bit yawn-inducing. And we had to wait until after the choir received communion before we were invited to come forward.

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

The person in pew behind chatted with me and advised us that I was a great singer. A different person chatted at coffee. I placed a donation in the coffee tub and was told that it was not needed as part of their outreach but was graciously accepted. As I left, someone invited me to the exhibition at Eastbridge Hospital, Canterbury.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Basic cups and saucers, an array of bite sized biscuits. All served with integrity and grace but somewhat unstable hands by the elderly serving crew.

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

8 — Should I return, I would like to hear a children’s address, which was missing today.

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

In parts.

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

Seeking Jesus in the sadness and witnessing new life or beginnings.

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