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|1903: St Paul's
Methodist Centre, Aberystwyth, Wales
Paul's Methodist Centre, Aberystwyth, Wales.
Church of Great Britain, Wales
Synod and Synod
This is a new building designed by the firm of Cornfield, Crook
& Walsh, West Bromwich, Staffordshire. It was opened in
1992, replacing the Victorian Gothic church of the 1860s. It
is a large brick box typical of its date, but with a distinctive
octagonal entrance block. There is an upper chapel in the octagon
used by the Welsh language congregation; the English speaking
congregation meets downstairs.
The church serves a large seaside town as well as a university
and has some very healthy sized congregations. It is one of
several churches in the circuit, several of which have been
rebuilt. The church is unusual in having two congregations combined
in one building. They sponsor friendship groups, Bible study,
and a special group for families with twins. They also run a
coffee bar that is open during the week and has a large following
of regulars. There are four services each Sunday in Welsh and
English, with crèche and junior church available. The
evening service is traditional Methodist.
Aberystwyth is a wonderful seafront town that in winter catches
huge fine waves. There are some good shops, although the town
is being hit by the could-be-anywhere brands and coffee shops.
Some Welsh speaking could be heard, which was good.
The Revd David Easton, superintendent minister, and the Revd
Ian Girlingand, vicar of Holy Trinity Church nearby, who preached
the sermon. They have a shared service with Holy Trinity in
either venue on alternate months. Mr Easton is, of course, one
of the moderators of the British television documentary An
Island Parish, the third series of which examins the work
of the Methodist Church in the British Isles. I pretended not
to recognise him.
The date & time:
24 January 2010, 6.00pm.
What was the name of the service?
Traditional Service. The person on the door seemed to think
I wanted the contemporary service that was taking place downstairs
at the same time.
How full was the building?
Only about 12 people, although the contemporary service going
on downstairs sounded very full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
The greeters downstairs told me to go upstairs after I convinced
them I wanted the traditional service. The elderly organist
made conversation and seemed very friendly.
Was your pew comfortable?
A modern padded chair.
How would you describe the pre-service
Quite reflective, although everybody else turned up with a minute
to spare. The organist played some rather scary music before
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good evening, all of you who made it up the stairs this
evening and still have breath!"
What books did the congregation use during the
The usual Hymns and Psalms found in every Methodist
What musical instruments
An electronic computerised organ made by Wyvern Organ Builders
Ltd of Surrey. They are OK in my opinion as an organist, but
to be honest they don't sound much like a pipe organ and always
have something of the crematorium about them! A small chamber
pipe organ would be far better!
Did anything distract
I had just watched an installment of An Island Parish
on the telly a few nights ago, with Mr Easton speaking from
the Isles of Scilly, and here he was now in Wales! I wondered
if he ever gets fed up with people recognising him. Also, the
octagonal shape of the building lent itself well to worship,
although some things could have been better hidden, e.g. a broom
cupboard thing at one end.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
It was a traditional hymn sandwich, Methodist style. The hymns
were a good cross-section of Methodist hymnody, but there was
one that no one apparently knew – including the minister!
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
7 Mr Girlingand couldn't hold my attention, I'm afraid.
It wasn't his fault – but mine! I had my thoughts on higher
things, like my tea, and whether I would be able to get a hotel
room for the night (foolishly I hadn't booked one beforehand).
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
Jeremiah and judgment. He drew parallels between biblical judgment
and events in our own time. Apparently he had been part of a
jury years ago. As a liberal, I found some of what he said hard
Which part of the service was like being in
The music from the contemporary service downstairs! It was also
heavenly, I thought, to see Mr Easton in person. Many people
have said that on his programme he comes across as caring and
interested in people in a way that other church officials don't
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The creepy organ music before. The organist was clearly an accomplished
musician, but the electronic instrument sounded too funereal
in my opinion.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
For some reason I picked up a vibe of "What's he doin'
'ere, then?" from what I could hear of the regulars' conversation.
So I just made my way out with as much dignity as I could muster.
However, Mr Easton caught me and engaged me in a friendly conversation.
It turns out we are both Lampeter graduates, although his programme
on the telly gives the impression that Wales is completely new
How would you describe the after-service
Once I arrived downstairs, an elderly gent asked me if I'd like
some coffee. But except for Mr Easton, everybody kept to their
own holy huddle. Were it not for him, I would have left the
building without having spoken to anyone.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 I would love to live in Aberystwyth with the dramatic
scenery and lively goings on – however, it would be nice
to have some conversation.
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, but a bit of a lonely one, though. Granted I was just visiting,
but why couldn't the regulars have made an effort to talk to
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Meeting Mr Easton after having seen him on An Island Parish.
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