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2626: St Anne's, St Annes on Sea, England
St Anne's, Heyhouses
Mystery Worshipper: Chris Teean.
The church: St Anne's, St Annes on Sea, England.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese of Blackburn.
The building: Built in the style of the Queen Anne period, this large church was dedicated in 1873, in an area known as the hamlet of Heyhouses. The interior is quite striking. The eye is drawn to the high altar and reredos carved in French Caen stone, with side panels on which the Creed, the Lordís Prayer and the Ten Commandments are inscribed. The magnificent east window depicts scenes from Christís nativity, passion and resurrection. There are many other beautiful stained glass windows around the church, depicting saints and biblical scenes. Memorial plaques and the Stations of the Cross are mounted on the walls.
The church: Services are held every day, with three every Sunday. This thriving church has many clubs and societies, including a choir, bell ringers, Mothersí Union and Menís Fellowship. Full details can be found on their website.
The neighbourhood: St Annes on Sea is a genteel neighbour to the south of Blackpool in north-west England. The town, situated nearer the coast, was built after the church and was named after it. The church, together with the adjacent infant and junior schools, is situated in what is now a rather leafy area of St Annes where there are many large detached houses.
The cast: The Very Revd Christopher Armstrong, Dean of Blackburn, welcomed the Battalion, led the concluding prayers and gave the blessing. The Revd David Lyon, vicar of St Anneís, led the service. The Revd Philip Burrows CF, Padre 2LANCS, read the Duke of Lancasterís Regimental Collect, gave the address, and led the Act of Remembrance. The Worshipful, the Mayor of Fylde, Councillor Linda Nulty, read the poem "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace." The second in command, Major Garry Pinchen, read Psalm 121. The regimental sergeant major, Warrant Officer Class 1 Stephen McDermott, recited the Kohima Epitaph, penned by English classicist John Maxwell Edmonds in 1916. The epitaph, considered by many to be the most moving words every written about wartime veterans, was inscribed on a marker in a cemetery at Kohima, the capital of India's north-eastern border state of Nagaland and the site of a decisive World War II battle against the Japanese. It is found today inscribed on hundreds of monuments throughout the world.
The date & time: Wednesday, 27 November 2013, 11.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Service of Thanksgiving and Remembrance for the 2nd Battalion, the Duke of Lancasterís Regiment, on return from Afghanistan.

How full was the building?
Absolutely packed. I believe the service was broadcast outside as well.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. There were quite a few stewards who directed people to their seats.

Was your pew comfortable?
It was a standard oak pew with a strip of carpet to give a tiny amount of padding.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was a quiet murmur of conversation whilst the brass band played suitable music.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"We come to worship God as we celebrate the successful completion of the Battalionís tour in Afghanistan, as they return to duties and lives that await them here at home."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
We were given a programme that contained everything in terms of readings, prayers, and hymns.

What musical instruments were played?
The band of the Kingís Division, under the Director of Music Captain James Marshall, played the introductory music before and during the service. Alistair MacKensie presided over the rather splendid looking organ. The Alexander Young Organ of 1886 was rebuilt by Rushworth and Dreaper in 1954 and restored by David Wells in 1999.

Did anything distract you?
Before the service started I noticed a group of ladies, all dressed in black, sitting in the choir stalls. It turned out they were members of the Weeton Military Wives Choir. Weeton Barracks is an army base not far from St Annes. They later sang two beautiful arrangements during the service, entitled "Wherever you are" and "Make you feel my love." Their performance was very moving and the appreciative congregation applauded them. It struck me that they must have gone through a very stressful and difficult time when they watched and waited for the safe return of their loved ones from Afghanistan.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
There were civic and military processions. The regimental colours and the Queenís Colours were borne to and from the altar with great ceremony by splendidly dressed soldiers accompanied by others carrying guns. In the Act of Remembrance, the fallen soldiers who had made the ultimate sacrifice for their country were gently and reverently named. The Last Post was played, two minutes' respectful silence was kept, and then the Reveille was sounded. It was all very moving.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
9 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – Padre Philip Burrows addressed the soldiers who had just returned from deployment in Afghanistan. He had a reassuring and pleasant manner, making jokes with them, and saying how relieved they were to be here rather than being shot at by the Taliban.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The Battalion is thankful for the prayers and support they have received. Their safe return and good fortune was due to good drills, good decisions and good luck. But how many times do you need to be lucky before you thank God? "God doesnít sleep on STAG [military slang for guard duty]." He referred to Psalm 121 ("I lift up my eyes to the hills"). Was that being constantly vigilant, watching for a sniper? He remembered his love of the Lake District, when he climbed Skiddaw and found solitude when viewing other peaks. Sadly some of us have lost friends and colleagues, but we must thank God for his presence in the darkness. Our lives are in the hands of God, who always watches over us.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I think I had the biggest lump in my throat when we sang ďAnd did those feet in ancient times."

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Those soldiers were so young. They had been to a terrible place and had seen terrible things. It deeply grieved me that many must have witnessed comrades being killed or maimed, and that many must have nightmares about events they have seen.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
It took a long time to find my way out of the church because of the enormous numbers. After the service, the Battalion marched into the town, where the crowds applauded them and waved Union Jacks.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Not available on this day!

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – I did worship here a long time ago when I lived in the area for a short time. At that time the style of worship was very traditional, which suited me. Itís quite a way from where I presently live now, though.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Definitely. In our increasingly secular society, it was heartening and pleasing to listen to the words of comfort in this service.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
It will probably be the address. Padre Philip Burrows spoke gently and made jokes to the soldiers. He came across as a very caring and sensitive man.
 
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