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2520: Morestead Church, nr Winchester, England
Morehead Church
Mystery Worshipper: Polypheme.
The church: Morestead Church, nr Winchester, England.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese of Winchester.
he building: No dedication is known for this Norman church, the nave of which dates from around the 12th century. The bell bears the date 1616. A room, now a vestry, was built as a schoolroom in 1833. The chancel was built in 1873. All the windows are modern. The overall decorating scheme and all the pitch pine furniture seem likewise to date from the 1870s, although the font is of a type common in the late 12th century. Two candles burned brightly on the altar on either side of a brightly-polished brass altar cross.
The church: The combined benefice includes the very active parish community in Twyford. The area is some three to five miles from Winchester.
The neighbourhood: Morestead is a tiny "populated place" southeast of Winchester consisting of hardly more than a few cottages. The church is on a hill behind a hedge on the rather busy Morestead Road; it is not likely that the chicken ever successfully crossed Morestead Road twice. There is no parking for the church. A property owner with a generous driveway and a generous heart allows churchgoers to park.
The cast: The service was taken by the vicar, the Revd Jonah Watts. He was vested in suit and collar, with black overcoat.
The date & time: Monday in Holy Week, 25 March 2013, 7.30pm.

What was the name of the service?
Evening Prayer.

How full was the building?
The tiny building seats only around 40 people. It was about one-third full, that is to say, 13 people and the priest.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
We walked from our car with the very genial priest. Other than that, although no one spoke to me, everyone made it quite clear that they were glad I was there.

Was your pew comfortable?
It was an uncushioned pitch pine pew, no more, no less. It has been serving well for over a century.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I arrived just as the lights were being turned on and the heaters were being trundled out with a bit of genial bustle. The portable heaters were not turned on until about ten minutes before the service. It was bitterly cold in the church. Then everyone fell silent until the service began.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"O God, make speed to help us."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
An Order for Evening Prayer in Passiontide, a leaflet copyright by the Central Board of Finance of the Church of England, eight pages A5. Text apparently from Common Worship.

What musical instruments were played?
None.

Did anything distract you?
Everyone was feeling the cold.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was simple/reverent. There was a fair amount of stumbling over the language, so near and yet so far from the BCP. Had the text been straight BCP, everyone there could have responded from memory with a will.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
No sermon.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Morestead Church is dear and unpretentious. The almost familiar language was comforting. The knowledge that we all were there very intentionally bound us together. The stark old stone building spoke with ancient authority.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Golly, oh molly, it was cold!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Are you kidding? We could see our breath inside the church. Nobody hung around. I believe everyone was thinking of home, fire, and a cup of tea. It was lovely ... and time to go. The sidespeople stayed long enough for the priest to fill out the book; it doesn't take long for 13 people to disperse into the darkness and completely disappear.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
None, and none needed.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – If I lived within walking distance, I could easily make this my church home.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Oh yes! And glad to be a part of this long-running branch of the church.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
"O God, make speed to help us" – the determination of these people intentionally to bind together in common worship in this place.
 
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