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Valley Community Church, Cheddar, Somerset, England
Valley Community Church, Cheddar, Somerset, England.
They meet in the main hall of the Kings of Wessex School, a
Church of England Foundation upper school. The building is a
nondescript contemporary structure in the middle of a conservation
area. A bog standard school with lots of windows. The hall has
a bright and airy feel to it. There are some school-type pictures
on the walls.
They run an outreach cafe during the week and a flat for Christian
ministers on retreat. They also have a church centre in the
town with a number of different activities during the week.
They are heavily involved in mission work around the world and
in the local area, and work extensively with other local churches.
Cheddar is a village in southwest England that is very much
a tourist town, with its spectacular gorge and caves just a
short walk away from the town centre. The village gave its name
to the famous cheese that is now produced worldwide, with only
one producer remaining in Cheddar itself. The village is also
noted for its strawberries and its local beer. There is a very
popular car boot sale on Sundays, which we were told draws hundreds
of people from many miles away. The school grounds and the immediate
surrounding area contain some very old ruins, undamaged by graffiti
and untouched by boundary fences between the main gate and the
main entrance. They were very useful for a game of hide and
seek before we noticed the "Please keep off the grass" signs.
John Reynard, the lead minister, conducted the worship and preached.
There were also contributions from Colin and Heather (no surnames
or indication of their positions at the church) and some others
whose names we didn't get.
The date & time:
Sunday, 30 May 2010, 10.30am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
The hall was quite large, so the 50 people or so didn't exactly
fill it. As the chairs were placed only in one half of the room,
the room felt spacious without feeling like a barn.
Most people were middle aged or older but we were told that
most of the younger age groups were in Wales or France.
Did anyone welcome you
Yes indeed! Three people took it in turns to welcome us as we
entered the reception area. We received news sheets from two
of them, and the third led us into the hall and showed us where
to get coffee and where to find the conveniences should we need
them. Once we were seated, a very smiley lady named Kat came
over to say hello to us. She explained the situation regarding
children's work and asked what would be best for us and our
Was your pew comfortable?
Orange plastic chairs, no cushion but not uncomfortable. Unlike
some school chairs, there was enough room for those with slightly
larger bottoms. There was also a lot of space between the rows.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
Chatty. People were engaging with each other and looking around
to talk to others who were on their own. The worship group were
playing a song that was clearly new to the congregation, but
one that everyone there would definitely know by the end of
the morning! (I'll have more to say about this directly.)
What were the exact opening words of the
There wasn't really a specific opening to the service. It seemed
to start with the singing of a few worship songs.
What books did the congregation use during the
None. All lyrics were on the screen. Various Bible texts were
used depending on which Bible they brought to the front.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, 12 string guitar and violin. There was also a lady
Did anything distract you?
In the top corner of the room was a projector running information
about activities in Uganda, Turkey and France as well as the
UK. It ran during the sung worship and was quite interesting,
although I couldn't make everything out as the font was quite
small. It did not help people sing, though. I was also interested
in (distracted by) the big board in front of us that listed
the names of all the head boys and girls of the school. I was
particularly looking for names of people I might recognise (but
I didn't find anyone).
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
It was happy-clappy in theory, but the congregation really didn't
seem to engage with the music as they might have done. We were
told that the music group were put together at the last minute.
The singing certainly missed someone actually leading it. But
otherwise, the church really felt like a community. I have not
been to a church with that same feel for quite some time. Many
of the congregation felt comfortable to come to the front during
the meeting with a prayer request or notice, or just to share
what God had been saying to them. One spoke about a conference
he had attended; another about climbing a hill and looking down
at the town. One man named John brought with him half a dead
bird mounted on a card. He explained that he had found it in
the church garden and that it reminded him of Malachi 4:2, which
speaks of healing.
Exactly how long was the
13 minutes, although we were told that it was going to last
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
5 I liked what John Reynard was saying, but he didn't
mention any practical ways to carry his message forward into
our lives. He spoke for some time about his recent trip to Turkey
and his encouragement to the small church out there. He was
quite apologetic, saying he was still rather tired from his
trip and not quite ready to lead the meeting and the worship
and to manage all those coming forward to say something.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
His text was Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the talents, although
the whole text was not read out. Rather, it was referred to
often. His message was that the Kingdom is in our hands. He
did not really share any specific stories but did mention someone
called Bill Johnson from California quite a lot. He might have
been referring to the Bill Johnson Ministries, a charismatic
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
We really felt welcomed and loved without being swamped. Also,
I liked the fact that the congregation seemed eager to stand
up and talk to one another. Coming from a church where it is
often hard to get anyone not in leadership to say anything,
we felt that this was refreshing and heaven-like. We are all
part of the body, after all, and God has given us all a unique
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The new song that the worship group had earlier played over
and over was played again as the meeting was gradually closing.
We had heard quite enough of it by then! The people in front
of us apparently thought so too, as they left just as the band
began to play it. We wondered if they may have been visitors
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
People came and talked to us. The people next to us, the people
from the other side of the room, the main leader and his wife
– it felt like everybody! A lady offered to bring us a drink,
but she then got distracted so it took a while coming.
How would you describe the after-service
Tea, fresh coffee and squash, with a selection of biscuits.
It felt quite haphazard but homely. I'm sorry, I have no idea
whether it was fairly traded or not, although the tea was rather
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 If we lived in the area we would certainly go back
to this church. It would be good to experience a meeting when
the members of the church who were in Wales and France were
back. The church feels like a church where the whole body of
Christ is welcomed to minister to each other, and I like that.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes. Many people were genuinely pleased to meet us and have
us there, even when they realised we were only in the area on
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
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