Mary and St David, Flint, Wales.
Church in Wales, Diocese
of St Asaph.
A town centre church of begrimed ashlared sandstone. The clock
tower is topped with a short spire. There is easy access from
the street up stone steps, with ramps for the disabled. By
contrast, the inside is light and spacious, spick and span
and well cared for. But the colourful décor of pink paint
did not quite go with the red carpet. The stained glass is
Victorian, with the west window depicting scenes from the
life of Christ. A wide chancel
leads up to the altar, with plain wooden paneling behind.
Wooden altar rails, wooden lectern with eagle about to take
flight, wooden pulpit. Indeed, a wooden sermon was preached
but I'm getting ahead of myself. There was an arrangement
of five white chrysanthemums near the altar. I know because
I counted them see below.
I was unable to discover what part, if any, this church plays
in the community. The only things mentioned on the parish
sheet were the weekly parents and toddlers club "Minnows"
and the Mothers Union that meets once a month.
Flint is a Welsh market town on the banks of the River Dee.
The ruins of Flint Castle, built by Edward I as part of the
English defence of this part of the coast, are found on a
grassy headland just above the shore line. The town maintains
a very Welsh feel: dripping grey slate roofs, Bethany chapels,
grey rain-laden clouds – you get the picture! There is, however,
a large Polish community; this is evident in the Polski
skleps (shops that sell Polish foods and merchandise
exclusively) in the town centre. The usual high street shops
abound: pubs on corners, a couple of fast-food outlets, charity
shops, post office, etc. and eight other places of worship.
The Revd Brian Harvey, rector, took the whole service.
The date & time:
Feast of the Epiphany, 8 January 2012, 11.00am.
What was the name of
How full was the building?
Not even a quarter full – thirty adults and five children.
Did anyone welcome you
As I made my way up the high street on a damp January morning,
I was aware of the muffled sound of a recording of church
bells emanating from the spired tower. On arrival, I noticed
two ladies adjusting the knobs on the sound system. "No,
that’s not right. Turn it the other way." "Yes,
that’s much better." A sideswoman greeted me with "Hello,
good morning, happy New Year" as she handed over the
books for the service.
Was your pew comfortable?
Despite the thickly padded red velveteen runner on the pew,
it was not comfortable, even when you sat up very straight
and pushed your bottom as far back as possible. The angle
was all wrong. The bench part was rather short and would have
cut off the blood circulation to the legs, but I fidgeted
about too much to experience that delight!
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
The south side, where I was seated, was quiet. Noisy chatter
from the other side, however, was suddenly overwhelmed by
a deep foghorn hooting from the organ, which jolted me from
my contemplation. It sounded like the Queen Mary
disembarking her berth in the ports of yesteryear.
What were the exact
opening words of the service?
"Good morning, and a very warm welcome to you all."
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
Complete Anglican Hymns Old and New and a printed
booklet: Order for the Holy Eucharist in the Seasons of
Christmas and Epiphany.
What musical instruments
Pipe organ, high on the wall of the north side of the chancel,
perched like an eagle’s nest. I could only see the top of
the organist’s head. But boy, could I hear him!
Did anything distract
I kept thinking of all the occasions in which the word "flint"
cropped up: Fred Flintstone. The Flint family I used to know.
A firm of estate agents, Flint Flint Flint and Associates.
Our Man Flint (1960s TV detective). My friend’s dog
Flint. And so on.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Middle of the road, and a tad dreary and uninspiring.
Exactly how long was
On a scale of 1-10,
how good was the preacher?
4 The rector preached from the pulpit using notes.
I found his style a trifle tedious and my attention wandered
from time to time. I went back to contemplating flint and
counting the chrysanthemums.
In a nutshell, what
was the sermon about?
Herod would not have been the sort of person to find a king
in the humble surroundings of Jesus’ birth. When those foreign
kings, the Magi, asked him where the new-born King was, Herod
did not know. But when the Magi found Jesus, they knew exactly
who and what he was. Rather like when we’re in the supermarket
when we can’t find what we’re looking for, we ask someone
who knows to show us the way.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
There were two little angels in matching red outfits with
red spotty tights twins aged about three or four
going up to the communion rail.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
Two huge ceiling decorations that looked like massive fire
sprinklers ready to douse me with holy water.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
I sat and listened to a rousing postlude, well played by the
organist. I sat, and sat, and nothing happened. People drifted
off and the organist concluded his piece. I eventually stood
up and walked toward the back. The rector was standing there
with only a few others. He spoke to me as I handed in my book.
He told me he was about to have a few days holiday in Spain
after the Christmas and New Year period. I wished him well
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
There was none on offer nor being served.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
1 I think there is a lot of potential at this church
just waiting to be tapped. As it is currently, they may be
looking at another church closure. In other words, nice but
Did the service make
you feel glad to be a Christian?
Not really. I felt rather disappointed and deflated. "Could
do better," as my old maths teacher used to say.
What one thing will
you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The five white chrysanthemums.