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872: Scone Old Church, Scone, Perthshire, Scotland
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Scone Old Church, Scone, Perthshire, Scotland
Mystery Worshipper: Aileen.
The church: Scone Old Church, Scone, Perthshire, Scotland.
Denomination: Church of Scotland.
The building: This is an 18th century stone building with a little bellcote set in an ancient churchyard. It was moved, stone by stone, from Scone Palace to its present site in 1805. The interior of this t-shaped building was renovated 30 years ago, and pews, pulpit and celtic cross are all made of an elegant, light carved wood. Interesting minimalist steel organ pipes sit in arcs on the wall at the side. At the back of the church is a large, ancient, dark, carved wooden pew, the seat of the Earl of Mansfield and his family, on which Charles II sat he was crowned King in Scotland in 1651.
The church: The original church in the area was founded by St Ninian at about the end of the 4th century. Then, this would have been a Pictish church. The congregation now consists of local people, all ages, all spiritual descendants of that ancient Christianity.
The cast: Rev. J. Bruce Thomson, dressed in academic robes and a long red scarf, led the service and preached, and another man, in a black academic robe and a long blue scarf, read the lesson. They were preceded into the church by the Beadle, carrying the large Bible which he took up into the pulpit, and the elders carrying the collection plates which had been filled at the doors as the congregation entered.
What was the name of the service?
Morning Service at Pentecost.

How full was the building?
The church was about two-thirds full till the young people and their leaders went out for their own time, leaving the building about half-full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
They were very welcoming. The elders stood at the door, watching over the collection plates. One man smiled genuinely, wished us a welcoming, "Good morning", and gave us our hymn books. Then a woman who arrived about the same time as we did greeted us and took us into the building to share her family pew. After the service, several people talked to us spontaneously, continuing to welcome us.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. Smooth wood with a comfy long blue cushion and a place to put our hymnbooks.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was quiet but gently and happily chatty.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good Morning!" The congregation replied, "Good Morning!" Then the minister said, "It is Pentecost, so we're going to sing, 'Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me.'"

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Church Hymnary and Songs of God's People were the hymn books. Good News Bibles were on the pews, but some of the congregation brought their own Bibles.

What musical instruments were played?
The pipe organ.

Did anything distract you?
The contrast between old and new; all the angels fluttering around in the stained glass windows; the sunbeams...

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The organist was exceptionally good. she played each song in the appropriate style: a bouncy song for the children; a psalm played lingeringly in the minor key; a cheerful interlude as the children went out. The congregation sang softly and under-enthusiastically.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
There were two sermons. The children's one was 10 minutes and the adult one 14 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – It was a mixture of teaching and encouragement to live as Christians. He used Greek and Hebrew words and talked about Jewish festivals both to the children and the adults. He made it clear by doing this that Christianity is rooted in Judaism. He was also humorous.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Children: The church believes in wind-power, not the controversy about big wind-farms in Scotland, but pneuma and ruah. We don't need sails, but willing hearts. Adults: Some Christians say the birthday of the church is Easter, and some say some Pentecost. Easter reflects Passover, and Pentecost echoes God speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai. Wind, fire, tongues were there then, and are given for everyone throughout the world today. Everyone may experience the blessing of God's presence. God is with us always.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The solid teaching of the sermon which I found easy to understand.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
My partner got confused because he had a different hymn book and was rummaging for ages through the psalms, looking for the hymn that had been announced. I had to find the place for him and swop the books so that he just had the hymns. I was embarrassed at all his rustling.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Many people came and spoke to us, asking where we came from, talking about the history of the church, and directing us to the hall where coffee and tea was being served. They were all amazingly friendly.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Tea or coffee was served in dainty white cups and saucers. We all sat round tables in the hall and chatted. Biscuits, milk and sugar were on the tables. There was a chance to put down money to pay for it, but we were told we didn't need to.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – If I lived there, I would certainly be going and checking it out. It seems to be ''real".

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, definitely.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Putting our money into the collection plate at the door and seeing it brought in as an offering at the very beginning of the service – a powerful symbol of giving ourselves to God in worship and everyday life.
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