The current church was built in 1853 to a design by the 19th century British architect Anthony Salvin, replacing an earlier chapel from around 1600, though there is reference to an even earlier building as far back as 1348. It is set a little way back from the main road and is well disguised by some trees, making it is easy to miss if you are coming from a northward direction. Its a single storey building, albeit with a high ceiling, and has a modern extension to one side. The nave, though it has seen better days, is dotted with some embroideries by Ann Macbeth, who lived in Patterdale and is noted for her several books on the art of embroidery. There are some nice stained glass windows too.
The church has an unusual arrangement, where, since 1994, the one congregation is both Anglican and Methodist. The Methodist service takes place on the fourth Sunday of every month, while the Anglicans get all the others. This means that they have two incumbent ministers, neither of whom was present on the day I visited. The church is in possession of a first edition King James Bible from 1611, though it is deemed too valuable to be put on permanent display. It was in use until 1840 and such heavy usage has taken its toll, with a few pages now missing and the original covers having had to be replaced.
The church is in the small village of Patterdale, at the south end of Ullswater, the second largest lake in the English Lake District. The Lake District was recently made a UNESCO world heritage site. It is home to the Patterdale Mountain Rescue team, who regularly rescue walkers lost or injured on the mountains in particular Helvellyn, England's third highest mountain, the path to which starts near Patterdale and which claims an average of one death per year. The area was hit hard by flooding in late 2015, which resulted in the church's carpet having to be replaced. Local tradition has it that Patterdale is a corruption of Patrick's Dale and is named after St Patrick, to whom the church is dedicated, and who visited the area in the early 5th century.
The service was led by a visiting minster from Penrith whose name was given only as Lois. There was another guest, but his name was never given.
What was the name of the service?Methodist Morning Worship.
How full was the building?
It was a quarter full, with about 20 people present, of which the three of us who were visiting appeared to be the only ones under the age of 60.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Smeone who was fully engaged in conversation with someone else handed me a notice book as I came in. After I took my seat, the only person who spoke to me was a fellow visitor who was sat behind me.
Was your pew comfortable?
There was a very thin pew cushion, which added little comfort.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The organist was playing quietly and few hushed conversations took place. Most people took their seats and faced forwards, with little interaction.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning to you. Welcome to worship at St Patrick's."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
We sang from Mission Praise. Inside this was tucked a leaflet with extracts from the Anglican book, Common Worship, with selected bits of liturgy on it and the readings for the Church of England for that week. However, as it was the Methodist service, this sheet was pretty much ignored, with different readings entirely.
What musical instruments were played?
An organ, a William Hill instrument dating from 1891, rebuilt in 1906 and again in 2013.
Did anything distract you?
On the floor just in front of me was a 20p coin that seemed to be guarded by a spider that was not inconsiderable in size. I tentatively tried to shoo the spider away so that the coin could be picked up and added to the offering, but there was no way I was going to put my hand anywhere near so fearsome an arachnid.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The sung worship was surprisingly happy clappy. We sang a number of Graham Kendrick songs from the early 1980s, though they weren't in the order that was put on the hymn board. The rest of the service, though, was much more what one might expect from moderate Methodism. It was well broken up into sung worship, notices, a sermon and prayers.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Lois spoke confidently and clearly, with a reasonably well structured sermon, peppered with humourous and humane anecdotes.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It was on the topic of "never too late." Lois, before she became a minister, was a tax accountant and regularly used to get clients giving her lots of work to do in a few days running up to the deadline of self-assessment. This was then linked to the parable of the workers in the vineyard, where those who started latest in the day were paid the same as those who had worked all day. If this happened today, people would say, "It's not fair!" and the trade unions would be up in arms. Yet it wasn't up to the workers to determine how much the master should pay. The kingdom of heaven, which Jesus invited us to, is drastically different from the kingdom of the world it's available to all. Those who become Christians when young have a lifetime of service ahead of them, but even the thief dying on the cross was welcomed into the kingdom late in the day.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
A special word has to be said for Mike the organist. He was very competent and thorough in a few little flourishes now and then. His playing was a great source of joy, the only blemish being that he finished one song when there was still a verse to go.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
After the sermon, there was a second guest speaker introduced, though his name was never used. His entire talk was based around the theme of "Where do I come from?" to which he gave various clues. It turned out he was from Silverstone, in Northamptonshire. However, it was just utterly perplexing as to what purpose this talk served or how it helped to bring the congregation closer to God.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I had a pleasant chat with the couple sat behind me, who were also visitors, celebrating their wedding anniversary.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I didn't try it. In a side room there were laid a number of well presented cups and saucers. However, all the coffee and tea had been made, all with milk added already. There was no option for my preference: black coffee.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 – There was nothing particularly off-putting and it might be better to have gone to a service led by the regular clergy, but there was little here that was particularly enticing or inspiring.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The bizarre game of "Guess where I live."