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|2250: St Stephen's
and St Tathan’s, Caerwent, Monmouthshire, Wales
Worshipper: Chris Churchcrawler.
Stephen's and St Tathan’s, Caerwent Monmouthshire,
Church in Wales, Diocese
A medieval church situated within some tall Roman walls and
villas a small Roman town. The church has a fine medieval
tower. The oldest part of the church is the 13th century chancel
with fittings by the 20th century English ecclesiastical architect
George Pace, noted for his maintenance and restoration work
on historic churches. There are Roman bits and pieces nearby,
although the church has a severe Victorian south aisle.
They are one of four churches in the Caerwent parish group.
They appear lively and are very much a local Monmouthshire church.
Attendance is low but vibrant. The church is open every day
for prayer, rest and meditation. One mass is celebrated each
Sunday, with one Sunday each month set aside for family worship.
Evening communion is also held one Sunday (and sometimes two)
each month. Their website includes a link to the Ship of Fools
under the caption "Have a sense of humour; Jesus did."
Caerwent was once a Roman city called Venta Silarium. Many Roman
ruins can still be seen, including houses and shops, the forum,
and a temple. Much of the modern town was built from stones
taken from the Roman remains. Also nearby are a sad derelict
house and several ruined churches at Sudbrook and Runston where
communities have disappeared.
The Revd William Ingle-Gillis, vicar.
The date & time:
25 September 2011, 6.00pm.
What was the name of the
It should have been Evening Communion. However, the service
started as evensong, at the conclusion of which the churchwarden
reminded the vicar that it should have been communion
whereupon a communion service was hastily tacked on!
How full was the building?
The chancel was surprisingly full, with 16 people present. Given
that the nearby evangelical Baptist church was busy, this seemed
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I more or less welcomed myself. I had been sight-seeing in the
area and wandered in simply to get out of the rain that was
falling, and to look around and enjoy the quiet as I sometimes
do. I noticed that preparations were being made for the start
of a service. I was given to understand that they needed an
organist, and so I sat down at the console and improvised a
bit. No music copies of the hymn book were available, however,
so I went back to my chair in the chancel.
Was your pew comfortable?
A nice modern chair in a 13th century chancel. Probably far
more comfortable than the original Victorian choir stalls that
must have been here.
How would you describe the pre-service
I was all by myself at first. Later, 15 or so people found their
chairs. Several people welcomed me and said how nice it was
that it had stopped raining outside.
What were the exact opening words of the
"What hymns would you like to sing, folks?" This by
the vicar, who took requests.
What books did the congregation use during the
The Book of Common Prayer for The Church in Wales;
Hymns for Today; and their own service sheet. There
were also Welsh language service books available, but I understand
that Welsh is rarely spoken here. The nearest Welsh speaking
congregation is Capel Mynydd Seion in Newport.
What musical instruments were played?
As mentioned previously, I had offered my organ playing services
but there wasn't a music copy available! The small organ was
built as a war memorial and was recently restored. I would have
liked to have played it some more!
Did anything distract
Father Will came to Wales from the United States in 1996 and
speaks with a strong Texas accent! The Roman artifacts and medieval
architecture in the church kept my mind wandering back and thinking
of how the same message has been proclaimed from this site for
over a thousand years. George Pace's chancel fittings gave it
a certain Celtic feel.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Despite the rather Puritan looking 17th century pulpit, the
service was a curious mix of Anglo-Catholic with some more contemporary
styles. It was characteristically evensong, yet the congregation
seemed as happy with "I the Lord, the sea and sky"
as with "All creatures of our God and King." All hymns
were sung without instrument. There was some bowing but no incense.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 It took a little while to get used to the vicar's style,
but once I had, I enjoyed it! Every now and again he would refer
to one of the congregants, and it appeared clear that he knew
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The vicar talked about harvest and how God's vineyard was wider
than the church building and congregation. He compared his own
poor gardening skills with those of his parishioners, who apparently
have some of the best kept gardens in the country! He also said
that whilst a personal relationship with God was great, it need
not be as cheesy as the televangelist pitch to "know God
as your personal God and Saviour." There are other ways
of knowing God too.
Which part of the service was like being in
The peace of evening worship and even some of the informality
of choosing the hymns and switching to communion. However, it
was the thought of being in a place where worship has been held
for over a thousand years. Having been to the nearby ruined
churches of Runston and Sudbrook, I couldn't help but feel that
it would be good to celebrate in those places once again too.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The fact that I had forgotten to bring some change for the collection!
However, nobody noticed.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
Father Will shook hands and said he had seen me before. He was
right. I had met him after a service at his other church at
Eglwys Newydd a year ago when I wanted to look around there.
He had said that it would be nice if I would come to a service
so this time I did!
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
There was none.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 This is a pleasant local church, but I'm not sure whether
it would work in a "gathered" kind of way. I enjoyed
the quiet service. However, it was sad to see there were no
other younger people.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes, it did, in a quiet and reassuring kind of way. I think
people are crying out for a more thoughtful Christianity with
continuity with the past. It is getting them through the door
that is so difficult!
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Not being able to play the organ for want of music books.
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