|336: Holy Trinity, Combe Down, Bath, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Heidi Vodka.
The church: Holy Trinity, Combe Down, Bath, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Small, old, country-type church. Baby steeple with blue clockface. Painted white inside, with quite the mpost flagrantly 70s lightshades I've seen outside IKEA. Lovely grounds, full of trees.
The neighbourhood: Very quiet, beautiful area. I arrived with clenched teeth having thought I was late (2 Kings 9:20 "and the driving is like the driving of Jehu, son of Nimshi, for he drives furiously") but was very soon soothed by the peace and greenness and cooing of wood-pigeons. Mmmm.
The cast: Not sure. Tall, greying chap. Possibly the vicar, Paul Langham. The preacher was Mandy Coutts.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Fourteen people, including me. Not including the two kids that were conducting a fitness test in one of the aisles.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was the first one there (having thought it started at 6.30pm). The exact words after "hello" were "take a pew". Har har har.
Was your pew comfortable?
Wooden, cushionless... what do you think?
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The three musicians were practising and it was very peaceful, as churches often are when there's virtually nobody in them.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Well, welcome everybody, to the evening service."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Bible. Think it was the Never Inflammatory Version.
What musical instruments were played?
Clavinova and guitar.
Did anything distract you?
As mentioned, the children with FAR too much energy. Also, I'd set my mobile to silent vibrate instead of turning it off (fool) and a friend decided to ring as the preacher opened in prayer. Anywhere else it would have been fine, but the velvety hush was punctuated by an insistent gentle bleating coming from my handbag. Heaven only knows what they thought it was.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was, like everything else in the service, unpretentious, simple and heartfelt. With so few people there, it could have been awful and strained, but it was beautiful. Songs like "I will offer up my life in spirit and truth". Brief prayers in between the songs.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 The preacher spoke with conviction and had obviously cared enough about the subject to do a considerable amount of background reading, coming up with interesting issues and facts that even this jaded old C of E hack hadn't heard before.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
On the subject of covenant, related to Psalm 18. This is where David sings of God hearing his distress call and his confidence that God will come to save him, as per the covenant. About how God's covenant with us makes us one, and we can rely on his promises. "Circumcision of the heart". Ouch.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
There were several points in the service where everyone had the opportunity to pray or comment or tell others about something that had touched them. I'm not sure we get it right a lot of the time in the church, all in rows, looking at the backs of people's heads, listening in silence. But this was different, and how I think Jesus would like it.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
It was a bit of a scary thing there being only 14 people. I had a terrible thought that maybe one day this is what it'll be like everywhere. Was only marginally reassured to hear that "it's packed in the mornings!"
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A lovely girl came and talked to me after the service. I felt very welcomed and she seemed genuinely interested in me. This was representative of the overall feel of the place, actually friendly and sincere, and not pretending to be something it isn't.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Obviously not enough people to warrant turning the urn on for.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 Definitely tempted. Would have to see what it's like in the mornings. Have a feeling it's a bit oriented towards what Bridget Jones would call "smug-marrieds" with kids, but should really reserve judgment until the I've seen the congregation when it's slightly bigger than one side of a football team.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Emphatically yes. It just goes to show: "where two or three are gathered in my name". God was really there. It sounds like a truism, but when something is real, it doesn't need an 18-piece band or a fancy PA system to show itself. Though those things are nice, too, it's good to remember that.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The quietness and the feeling of truly meeting with God.