|938: Anglican Church, Old Monastery, Ayia Napa, Cyprus|
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Mystery Worshipper: Five Pints.
The church: Anglican Church, Old Monastery, Ayia Napa, Cyprus.
The building: The church meets in the gatehouse chapel of a 14th century monastery, enclosed by a high wall in the centre of the town. This Sunday, so many people turned up, they had to relocate to the cloisters and find extra chairs to accommodate worshippers.
The church: The church's "base" is the chaplaincy house in the nearby town of Paralimni. It is largely ex-patriate English-speaking, and is clearly a caring community where people are committed to one another. One retired Briton, who lives with his wife in Cyprus for half the year, described the core membership as "active oldies". A midweek prayer hour on Thursdays is followed by a fellowship and Bible study meeting this month using Jeff Lucas's study on the book of Jonah. Regular coffee mornings are held "to introduce those outside the Church to Christians". The chaplaincy funds a free bus service to bring people to church every Sunday from the surrounding towns and resorts. I was told that the chaplain's salary is funded through the huge numbers of weddings he takes: up to 10 (mainly Brits) a week.
The neighbourhood: Holiness in the midst of hedonism? The monastery sticks out like an ancient relic in the middle of a town renowned around the world for its nightclubs, sun, sand, sea and sex.
The cast: The chaplain, Rev. Robin K Brookes.
What was the name of the service?
Sunday worship in English.
How full was the building?
I calculated about 100 people. Because so many turned up, the service was moved at the last minute from the gatehouse chapel into the monastery cloisters, where we were sat in an L-formation, down two cloisters, facing an altar and lectern at one corner (see photo above).
Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were welcomed by congregation members milling around the fountain and cloisters before the service.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was a plastic chair which wobbled on the cobbles whenever I moved.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was friendly and relaxed, but probably a little more frantic than usual, because a group of men were hurriedly carrying piles of chairs from the chapel and setting them out.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, welcome to church this morning. Sshh, girls, hush." (The second sentence was directed at a gaggle of excited Filipina women chattering in the front row.)
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Rather too many books to handle comfortably: Holy Eucharist service booklet; Church Family Praise (a home-grown compilation), plus Mission Praise 1 and 2.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
The swallows (or were they house martins?) swooping in and out of the cloisters and trees, and the odd group of tourists wandering through the monastery grounds, peering inquisitively at the service.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Hearty and sincere. The guitarist led us in an assured and confident style. During communion, a group of Filipina women sang most sensitively.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Mr Brookes was an enthusiastic preacher who communicated well with his congregation. He used lots of relevant up-to-date examples, and humour as well.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Based on the lectionary readings, Revelation 21:1-6 and John 13:31-35, this was a gospel sermon, addressed as much to the ex-pats as the young wedding couples. It focused on Jesus' sacrificial love for us, in his death and resurrection, and asked us: "We are eternal beings; where will you spend eternity?"
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Worshipping in the open air was a real tonic. Not least because it was warm, we were in the shade, out of the direct sunlight, enjoying the breeze, the birds, the gorgeous flowers and the greenery around the cloister garden.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Occasional piercing shrieks of feedback when the mic came too close to the loudspeakers were neither a joy to the ears, nor calming to the spirit.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
It took a while before one of the regulars came over to where people were gathering at the fountain and spoke to us, but they proved very friendly and even offered us a lift back to our accommodation.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
A welcome drink of cold juice, served in a plastic cup, with biscuits. After the service, people were invited to stay for a shared lunch and then join a prayer walk around Ayia Napa, "to push back the powers of darkness" and prepare for a 24-7 mission to clubbers later in the summer.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 I was surprised by the vibrancy and genuine care apparent in this congregation. If revival is going to break out, perhaps it might begin with these "active oldies", and who knows, Cyprus could be the start of it!
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 vitality of the church community in a place where I had not expected to find one.