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2516: St Levan's, St Levan, Cornwall, England
St Levan, Cornwall
Mystery Worshipper: Wes Charles.
The church: St Levan's, St Levan, Cornwall, England.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese of Truro.
The building: A beautiful old building of local granite, apparently dating back to the 12th century. The double nave with granite pillars down the centre is very unusual. The church was most likely built over a period of time, as some walls are smooth, others very lumpy as if built a very long time ago of granite blocks. The building is whitewashed inside with wooden beams in the roof.
The church: There wasnít much information about their activities, but the church seems to be involved in raising money for Great Ormond Street Hospital. There are also various fundraising events, for example on the afternoon of our visit a local garden was open to raise money for church funds. Unfortunately, we had to leave quickly after the service for another appointment and didnít have time to look around properly.
The neighbourhood: St Levan is a dispersed village right at the tip of Cornwall, a short distance from Lands End. I understand the population is about 500 people, which means that the number who attended the service made up a good percentage of the population. The scenery is stunning and the area in general is a popular tourist destination, although the long narrow road to the church may put tourists off attending.
The cast: The Revd Brigitte Guzek, a part-time priest. She shares the benefice of three churches along with three other priests, all retired.
The date & time: Easter Sunday, 31 March 2013, 9.30am.

What was the name of the service?
I didnít see anything special written up for Easter Sunday, so I guess it was called "Holy Communion" or something similar.

How full was the building?
Bursting at the seams. The pews were full and they had extra plastic chairs down the side. The church isnít big and Iíd estimate the number was about 80-90. Apparently the usual congregation is 20-30.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, with a cheery "Happy Easter!"

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, it was a comfortable pew. Due to the cold weather, I had come well-padded with a shirt, jumper and thick coat, so I guess I wasnít as close to the wood as usual. The pews were interesting due to their intricately carved pew ends.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Chatty and lively. Everyone seemed to know everyone else, and went out of their way to greet each other. Perhaps as there were 60 people there who donít usually go. They were extra-enthusiastic!

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Weíll begin with our first hymn." I didnít quite understand what was happening, as we didnít start from the beginning of the service book. This was probably due to there having been a vigil over the weekend. We went in on the second page, around the confession.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A specially-printed service book for the benefice and a hymn book called The Complete Anglican or something like that by Kevin Mayhew. He has a terrible habit of fiddling with the words of traditional hymns, and today was no exception, as he messed up the verb conjugations in "Thine be the glory." Please, Mr Mayhew, if youíre reading this, could you leave our traditional hymns alone? Thank you so much.

What musical instruments were played?
An organ, played very well by a former organist from Bath Abbey. The organ was a recent addition to the church, having been purchased second-hand and then reconditioned. Previously theyíd had a chamber organ.

Did anything distract you?
Nothing particularly distracted me. It was more of a disappointment that despite having a good organist, the service was a spoken one apart from the hymns. It would have been nice to have sung the Gloria at least, and some other parts too. But we didnít, and this distracted me from an otherwise beautiful service.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Quite formal. The priest seemed quite serious (but very good) and although it was a happy atmosphere, the service itself was nicely traditional.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
8 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – I liked the Revd Mrs Guzek very much. She delivered a great sermon in a conversational yet reverent way. It was a very good sermon, which kept me engaged throughout.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
First she retold the gospel story in very colloquial English, which I guess brought it more down to earth for everyone, especially as there were several kids and teenagers in the congregation. She then highlighted that Jesusí time on earth had begun with something unbelievable (the virgin birth) and ended with something unbelievable (the Resurrection). Yet we can be confident that both of these events really happened, showing that nothing is impossible for God.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I love the way that most Easter mornings seem to be sunny Ė it really makes me feel that God is there, and today was no exception. We were sat near the back in this lovely little church. Watching the half-sunlight shine in through the stained glass was magical.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
In contrast, before going in, we sat in the car for a few minutes in gale-force winds, watching the trees being blown violently around, with grey clouds overhead and huge waves breaking on the rocks below. This felt very much like "the other place!" And usually someone is available to direct people up to communion, but here everyone kind-of went together, reminding me of a TV programme I once watched about the science of crowd control! The people in our pew didnít join the rush and waited so long that I began to wonder whether weíd miss out completely. I did, however, get my bread and wine eventually.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Unfortunately we were unable to hang around due to another engagement. Some of the kids were bringing round Easter biscuits for everyone. We were given a mini chocolate egg as we left, which was very welcome. We did speak briefly with some people as we filed out, and they were very friendly.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was some, but we couldnít go.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – If I were lucky enough to live in this part of the world, Iíd gladly make this my regular, although the long winding lane to get there would irritate me and I might end up alternating with somewhere more accessible. Or Iíd go by moped!

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, very much so.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
It will be the shambolic way in which everyone went up for communion! OK, so I exaggerate, but it was quite strange and a little confusing.
 
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