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|2172: The Town
Church, St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands
Town Church, St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands.
of England, Diocese
The Town Church, officially St Helier's Parish Church, is centrally
located in the town that bears its name and is not far from
the harbour. There's been a church on the present site for over
a thousand years. The quire and part of the nave retain 10th
or 11th century Norman elements. The transepts and tower date
from the 13th century, and the south aisle and chapel from the
century following. The church was extensively reordered during
the Reformation. The English Civil War and the Battle of Jersey
brought heavy damage, and the building had become so dilapidated
by the early 19th century that it was in danger of being demolished.
Instead, extensive restoration took place. Restoration is again
under way today, and I could not see much of the church inside
as it is being renovated. The service I attended was in the
south aisle, which is also the Lady chapel. Though only in temporary
use for regular worship, the area has been prepared with some
care, including an electronic organ of good quality and a children’s
worship area at the back. It was brightly lit.
Among their ministries is a Business and Professional group
that addresses issues of faith in the workplace. They support
Insight, an ecumenical gathering where (quoting from their website)
one can "meet new people over a drink and doughnut"
and share "insights into the most important questions in
About one-third the population of Jersey live in St Helier,
the island's capital. The town is named after Helier, a 6th
century ascetic hermit martyred on the island. Legend has it
that after Helier was beheaded, he picked up his head and walked
off along the beach. When his body was later found still clutching
the head, it was placed in a boat and set adrift. The boat made
its way to Normandy, where a spring arose from the spot at which
the boat landed. Water from the spring is said to have effected
miracle cures and still attracts pilgrims to this day. The area
around the Town Church is mostly shops and office buildings,
with some hotels and residential properties.
The Revd Canon Tim Neill, dean's vicar, led the service. Canon
Neill was assisted by an unnamed woman who administered the
chalice at communion. The intercessor was listed as one Jill
Bartholomew, but inasmuch as a gentleman led the prayers "for
the island, the church and the world", this must have been
The date & time:
Sunday, 1 May 2011, 10.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
About half full. Most worshippers live in Jersey but they are
obviously used to welcoming visitors, as tourism is one of the
Did anyone welcome you
A regular worshipper greeted me outside and explained about
the church’s renovation and which door to use to get inside.
She asked where I was from. Inside, a sidesperson greeted me
and handed me the books. Everyone smiled!
Was your pew comfortable?
Temporary chairs, obviously new. Fairly comfortable, but no provision for kneeling (and there wasn't really room between rows to kneel).
How would you describe the pre-service
Fairly quiet, but people greeted each other as they entered.
What were the exact opening words of the
‘"Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Town Church, and
a special welcome to any visitors."
What books did the congregation use during the
Mission Praise, plus a sheet with the full order of
service and a weekly news sheet.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract
A small child in the family area at the back was occasionally
noisy, but not too distracting. No one seemed to have a problem
with this noise. The flowers round the Easter candle were beautiful.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
An interesting mixture. The service was fairly traditional Anglican,
and not in the most recent fashion of service. For instance,
the creed began, "I believe" rather than "We believe"',
which seemed a little old-fashioned. However, the celebrant
was informal and made occasional humourous asides in the sermon.
As he gave the final blessing, he sounded more like a revivalist
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 Informal, with occasional lighter comments, but sincere.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Based on the day’s gospel (John 21 – the risen Jesus appears
to the disciples, who harvest a miraculous catch of fish). He
explained that ‘"the disciple whom Jesus loved" was
not Jesus' favourite disciple, but one who knew that Jesus loved
him personally. Peter was not so sure of being loved, because
he had betrayed Jesus. He may have been confused, expecting
Jesus to rebuke him rather than talk about love. Many Christians
also find it hard to grasp that God does not just love everybody
in an abstract way, but actually loves each of us individually.
Peter was caught up in the magic of being with Jesus, as Jesus
had to ask him three times: "Do you love me?" Jesus
starts out asking if Peter loves him as a friend, then keeps
asking until Peter understands the boundless love he's really
talking about. This is the question God also asks of us, and
on this hangs the judgement of our souls. The sermon ended with
extended invocational prayer for Jesus' love to transform lives.
Which part of the service was like being in
The intercessions were clearly heartfelt and thoughtful, giving
thanks among other things for the Christian example of the Royal
Wedding (two days previously) which had drawn the eyes of many
around the world to a church service, and to the sanctity of
marriage. Also the enthusiastic hymn singing. The choir led
this skillfully but the congregation joined in heartily as well.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I cannot think of anything. Nothing grated. If forced, I might
mention the fact that I could not see much of the church because
of the renovations in progress.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
This is not a church where looking lost is possible. The service
sheet set the tone. It gave the clear invitation: "We would
love to meet you after the service in the church house for a
cup of tea or coffee." Two people explained the way to
How would you describe the after-service
Very good. Real coffee, apparently a blend chosen with some
care from among fair trade options they have tried. And some
very classy biscuits!
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 The welcome, and the breadth of activities listed in the weekly news sheet, make it clear this is an active church with plenty of lay involvement. I could feel at home here.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The friendly welcome. Everyone was very welcoming, with lots
of chat at coffee afterwards. When I was ready to leave, the
regulars were showing no signs of departing. They seem to enjoy
each others’ company.
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