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|2526: St Andrew's
Chapel at Royal Marines Poole, Dorset, England
St Andrew's Chapel at Royal Marines Poole, Dorset, England.
The service I attended was Church of England. I was not able
to determine whether the chapel is used for services for other
denominations as well.
It is a low, one-storey, one-room building, with a new annex
with toilets, a kitchen and offices. The space is carpeted.
On the liturgical east wall there is a cross that appears to
be lighted by a skylight. There is a retable, a shelf on the
wall, with five or six fat candles. A large oval altar stands
clear of the east wall, with two more fat candles. There is
a also a stand with votive candles burning. About 30 chairs
were arranged in an oval with the altar at one of the tight
axes. At the other end of the oval there were five or six rows
of chairs arranged facing the altar in a more "churchlike" way.
The base of the font, a large round structure like the oval
altar, was circled with children's toy cars and trucks. (There
would be a baptism later on that day my son-in-law's
first cousin's child.)
The chapel is within the Royal Marines base and is for the private
use of those stationed there as well as their families. I was
able to be admitted only as part of my family's christening
party. Passports had to be shown.
Poole, in Dorset on England's southwest coast, is blessed with
a large natural harbour and so the port is quite busy
in addition to being home to the Royal Marines base, Poole also
hosts the Royal National Lifeboat Institution plus cross-channel
freight and passenger ferries. During the Second World War,
the town was one of the main departing points for the D-Day
landings of the Normandy Invasion. The base, originally established
in 1942 as Royal Air Force Camp Hamworthy, was taken over by
the Marines in 1954.
The service was taken by the Revd Michael Hills, MBE, a Royal
The date & time:
Easter Sunday, 31 March 2013, 10.30am.
What was the name of the
How full was the building?
Standing room only at about 50 people, of whom about 15 were
Did anyone welcome you
When I got out of the car with my camera around my neck, a number
of well-meaning people (none of them Marines or officially associated
with the RM) told me I'd better not take any pictures or "the
man with the gun" would get me! The padre, vested in alb
and cincture, was shaking hands at the door. Several parishioners
were handing out service leaflets. All were welcoming.
Was your pew comfortable?
The usual wooden church chairs.
How would you describe the pre-service
Loving pandemonium of parents chattering and children running
around, encouraged by Father Hills, who said, more than once,
"We don't restrain the children too much here."
What were the exact opening words of the
At service time, Father Hills came forward and said, "We usually
have some pre-service music while everyone quietens down."
He then started a CD of a movement from one of Bach's suites
for unaccompanied cello. While this was playing, he put on his
chasuble. After the music ended, there was a pause, and then:
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
A leaflet containing one of the eucharistic services from Common
Worship. There was also a hymnal with lots of both traditional
and modern hymns. I can't be more specific, as at the singing
of the first hymn, Donald Fishel's "Alleluia, Alleluia,
Give Thanks to the Risen Lord", I lost it emotionally because
(1) it was Easter; (2) all the wonderful children were swirling
around my feet; and (3) I'd had a sinus infection for a week
and was running on codeine!
What musical instruments
The hymn was accompanied on an electronic organ by a volunteer.
Bless her, she was doing the best she could.
Did anything distract you?
When my daughter had proposed that I come to England for Easter,
I got all excited about traditional C of E worship on Easter.
Then my daughter dropped the bomb: "We'll be worshipping at
the Marine chapel. Maybe you'd like to arrange the schedule
so you can worship at home." As my home church is a place I
can easily miss, I hesitated. In the end, she hooked me with,
"When we were there last Easter, I had the most spiritual experience
in church I've ever had." So I was pretty much distraction-proof;
I had made my mind up to give this a try.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
The worship was family-style, informal, happy: no nonsense,
no foolishness, no choir, no smells or bells. Any problems were
of our making, not the church's. Father Hills followed the book
with a rigour and precision that would have brightened the heart
of Percy Dearmer. At the same time, everything was warm and
friendly. Father Hills is what we would call in the American
South a "football priest": a powerful manly man with
the build of a football player and no suggestion of sissiness,
yet his hand gestures throughout the eucharist were delicate
and dear and beautiful. He was poetry to watch!
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 Father Hills walked the room and talked to us, with
only an occasional glimpse at a note card in the palm of his
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
His text was Luke 24:4 (two men in shining garments greet the
women at Jesus' tomb). Following Jesus is one surprise after
another; things are never what we expect. (Whereupon he pulled
up his alb to reveal a pair of drawstring, rainbow-striped floppy
trousers! He had the children's attention from then on.)
Which part of the service was like being in
Crying with joy. Seeing so many children in church.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The choice of stops on the electronic organ. It would almost
have been better to have the singing nuns with their guitars
from the 1960s folk mass.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The whole congregation were eager that my family should come
and have biscuits and tea in the other building. And not only
did they bring it to us, but they brought the pot around offering
How would you describe the after-service
Supermarket real brewed tea in china cups, and supermarket biscuits.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 If I could be assured of getting past the man with
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
All the little children, the hope of the world and the church.
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