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|2022: All Saints, Gurnard, Isle of Wight
All Saints, Gurnard, Isle of Wight.
Church of England, Diocese
A yellow brick edifice picked out in red brick, dating from
the 1890s. Its architect was EP Loftus Brock, noted for his
interest in the history of ecclesiastical architecture. There
is a brass plaque detailing over 50 local men killed in the
Great War. A much smaller plaque beneath gives only eight
names of World War II casualties. There are wooden pews, a
chancel organ, and choir seating. I think the church must
at one time have been fairly high there was a statue
of the Sacred Heart and sepia photos of the stations of the
cross. There is a garden of remembrance tucked in amongst
the flowering fuchsia bushes, and a new wooden community hall
with a rather nice multicoloured mosaic cross inside.
The notice board sported everything from a rather outdated
swine flu poster to notices of links with African missions,
community transportation, the Church Housing Trust, the Bereaved
Suicide Support Group, and the Isle of Wight Older Voices
Circle. There were also diocesan newsletters and informational
leaflets about the Bethany Sisters, a local order of nuns.
The Isle of Wight is a large island in the English Channel
known for its outstanding natural beauty. Queen Victoria maintained
her summer home there, and Charles Dickens penned most of
David Copperfield while in residence on the Isle
of Wight. In 1897 Guglielmo Marconi established the world's
first radio station at the Needles, an outcropping of chalk
rocks at the westernmost end of the island. The village of
Gurnard is on the island's northern coast and is known for
its strong tides, making challenging conditions for first-class
sailboating. There was no hint of any world famous boat race
today. The church is out of immediate sight of the sea, in
a sunny, green residential area, with a pub over the road.
The service was led by Ian and Sue, a married couple.
The date & time:
11 July 2010, 6.00pm.
What was the name of
Informal Service (according to the banner on the fence). These
services are held once a month, and some people attending
are regulars at other churches. As I understood it, each leader
constructs the service round the loose framework of activity,
readings and prayer.
How full was the building?
We were nine in total.
Did anyone welcome you
I arrived half an hour early, and Sue and Ian both welcomed
me warmly. They asked how I had found out about the service.
I explained that I had asked around but had also spotted the
banner. I had earlier tracked down a rather impressive church
tower in Newport, the island capital, only to find that the
church was now the Temptation Night Club (having first been
deconsecrated, one hopes!).
Was your pew comfortable?
There was a circle of upholstered chairs set out round a coffee
table with a candle on it. These were very comfortable. The
wooden pews for regular services had the usual embroidered
hassocks and thin embroidered cloths to temper their hardness.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
Sue offered me a drink from the hot and cold selection laid
out, and suggested that as I was early, I might want to explore
the garden and the new community building. When I returned,
just before 6.00, there were more people gathered, chatting
What were the exact
opening words of the service?
We morphed almost imperceptibly from standing with drinks
to sitting in a circle. At length Sue said, "We'd better
begin," and welcomed us all by name (including me).
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
Sue had her notes, a book of meditations, and two translations
of the Bible: the Youth Bible and a relatively new
one, The Message.
What musical instruments
None. There was a CD player with Graham Kendrick songs, and
a gentle version of Shine Jesus Shine preceded the
service. The CD also played during the meditation. I'll mention
Graham Kendrick again in a moment.
Did anything distract
My first thought on seeing the arrangement was that it would
be impossible to write anything during the service, so I concentrated
on trying to remember the events in order. Once it began,
I found myself enjoying it, and had to remember to remember!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Sue had earlier described the service as involving activities,
prayer and discussion, and had remarked rather ruefully that
some older members of the congregation were not comfortable
with this format. Our first activity was to play a game of
Jenga: wooden rectangular pieces are piled three across, alternate
layers crosswise to the previous one, to make a tower. The
trick is to remove a piece without toppling the tower. As
each player removed a piece, he or she had to name something
enjoyable. When the tower finally collapsed, Sue noted that
lives without a firm foundation are unstable. Next, we read
the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:16-34), or the fool
and his money (Sue's description), from each of the two Bible
versions. It was noted that the Message version was
rather pointed in its references to bankers. Ian, Sue's husband,
is a banker. We discussed the application of the idea of trust
in God rather than concern to amass goods. The third activity
was a meditation. We were each invited to pick a flower from
a bunch, and to consider them in detail, noting their qualities
of strength, fragility and beauty, and thanking God for them.
The final stage in the service was for each of us to write
a worry or concern we might have on paper and to consign them
individually to the Water of Life in this case a jug
of water. The process was neatly managed so that our concerns
were private if we wished to keep them so. We closed with
the Lord's Prayer.
Exactly how long was
There was no sermon as such.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The welcome was outstanding, helped by a glorious summer evening,
with a church filled with sunset light.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
I could just about live with subdued Kendrick at two points
in the service. The initial feeling of being exposed, so common
when Mystery Worshipping, lessened as I joined in the party.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
We simply moved across to the cheese, grapes, biscuits and
drinks. I said that I had come to the Isle of Wight for the
folk festival, and the lady who had been sitting next me turned
out to have been a morris dancer in earlier days. Ian gave
me a farewell hug and kiss!
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
Tea, coffee, elderflower cordial, various fruit juices, oat
cakes, cheese and fruit. Very pleasant. I left before the
rest, to give myself time to deposit the calling card and
a small contribution in the plate by the door.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
5 This service was an unusual one . It attracts people
from other churches, and is for some an addition to their
usual attendance. On that basis, I could enjoy it, though
for weekly observance I prefer the liturgy of my home church.
Did the service make
you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will
you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Waiting for the inevitable toppling of the Jenga tower.
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