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3194: St Brelade, Jersey
St Brelade, Jersey (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Rorate.
The church: St Brelade, Jersey.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese of Canterbury.
The building: The first written mention of a church on this site dates from 1035, but St Brelade (also known as St Branwalader and sometimes mistakenly identified with St Brendan) is thought to have built a simple wooden chapel here sometime during the 6th century. Legend has it that the site originally chosen was populated by fairies, who moved the building materials and workers' tools piece by piece to the present location. It is more likely that the site was chosen due to its proximity to the communities to be served, although that explanation is not completely satisfactory. Many additions and alterations took place during the centuries. There was once a rood screen, which is long gone although the corbels on which it rested still remain. A major restoration to the church was carried out in the 1890s. The windows are the work of late 19th/early 20th century craftsman Henry Thomas Bodset, who was responsible for replacing many plain glass Reformation windows throughout England with fine stained glass. Directly next to the church is a chapel, called the Fishermen's Chapel, which is one of the few medieval chapels to have survived the destruction of monastic chapels during the Reformation.
The church: In 1984, St Brelade's formed an ecumenical partnership with the local Methodist and Roman Catholic churches. The clergy of all three churches meet regularly for breakfast and other activities, and conduct a number of joint services throughout the year. The New Life Christian Fellowship has now been included in this partnership. The church also supports the Guild of St Raphael, the Inclusive Church Mission Statement and Modern Churchpeople's Union. There seems to be a good local following, and the church is a very popular venue for weddings. They stream their services on their website, but a password is required to watch the stream.
The neighbourhood: The Bailiwick of Jersey, in the English Channel near the coast of Normandy, consists of a single inhabited island plus several smaller uninhabited outcroppings of rocks. Self-governing and not a part of the United Kingdom, it is nevertheless constitutionally dependent upon the UK for its defence. British cultural influence looms large, such as left-side driving, use of the British pound, popularity of British sports, and widespread use of English, although French and Jèrriais (a Romance language, sometimes called Norman French) are also spoken. The church sits in the southwestern part of Jersey on a cliff overlooking the beautiful beach at Saint Brélade. It is the only one of Jersey's twelve ancient parishes to have been built on the coast. The beach is noted for its soft sand, safe swimming, fine hotels, and popular seaside cafes and restaurants. During the holiday season the town's population swells, and possibly the pews as well.
The cast: The Revd Mark Bond, rector, was the organist /pianist and did the "clergy bits" of the service and preached. Laurie Dicker, lay minister, led the service and read the gospel. Ruth White, verger, performed her customary duties.
The date & time: Sunday, 2 July 2017, 10.30am.
Comment: We have received a comment on this report.

What was the name of the service?
Parish Communion.

How full was the building?
The main aisle pews were pretty much full, with a smattering of people in the side aisle. A television at the front of the side aisle showed what was going on in the main part of the church.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A gentleman outside asked if I was coming to join them for the service and pushed his number clicker when I replied in the affirmative. Once inside, I was handed what I needed for the service.

Was your pew comfortable?
Thankfully there was a nice thick cushion on the pew; otherwise it would have been mighty hard. There was very little leg room and I did move to a pew near a pillar so I could get my knees in. Plenty of kneelers, but I would never have made it down and up if I had used them.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The choir were rehearsing when I arrived, which was nice and peaceful. A little buzz of quiet chatter from the pews. But then – oh my! The canned music was turned up, which in my opinion was far too loud and not conducive to preparing to worship.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
The rector, who was already perched on the organ bench, said, "Good morning and welcome." This was followed by a little précis of what we could expect from the gospel reading. We were then up and singing the first hymn: "Be thou my vision."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Complete Anglican Hymns Old and New. There was also a booklet with the readings and notices, complete with Gargoyle cartoons on the back. Hospitality played a big part in this publication – a home produced service booklet with lots of pictures throughout.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ and piano.

Did anything distract you?
The rector's earring glinting as one of the spotlights kept hitting it as he played the organ. There was no Gloria, which I thought was a shame. And we got a hymn between the sermon and creed, which I thought a little unusual. The piped music at the start and also at the end.

St Brelade, Jersey (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Middle of the road Anglican worship, verging on the evangelical, with a bit of high church thrown in. The rector was very animated at the altar, with his arms flung wide and high.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
13 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The rector preached without notes, just reading from his papers when he was using quotes. He was really preaching to the congregation. He certainly managed to hold my attention.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He spoke about a number of topics: (1) Prophecy – the same today as it was in the past. We all love bad news and gossip, which is what the media (today's prophets) thrive on. (2) Hospitality – our treatment of foreigners and migrants may be wanting at times. (3) Love – Who sent Jesus? Answer: Love. As Albert Einstein once wrote to his daughter: humanity may have failed to use and control the forces of nature that now turn against us, but there is one universal force that science cannot explain: love. Love is power, love is light, love is God – and God is love. Love is the one and only answer.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The singing. All the congregation seemed to be in good voice and were helped along by the choice of some well known classic hymns. The choirs sang a medley of anthems/songs at communion, finishing with "The Lord bless you and keep you," which was really lovely.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Well, the already mentioned canned music. And the healing service that was announced in the Lady chapel. Mind you, I'm a great fan of healing ministry taking place in services, and when this was announced just before communion, I thought, "Oh goody!" But as I got up from the communion rail, I glanced into the Lady chapel to see blue notice boards that looked like a barricade, and a few ladies playing what looked like musical chairs. I had no idea if I would be welcome or not, so I didn't go.

St Brelade, Jersey (Chapel)

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The canned music started up again. We left to the strains of Handel's "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba," which was a tad incongruous but far better than what we had sat through earlier. A steward came over to me and said how pleased he was that I had come to the service. I had met him a few days before, when I had stopped by to enquire about service times, and was flattered that he remembered me.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Coffee was served in the hall, which was a lovely bright space with chairs and tables around the outside wall. The coffee was good proper coffee – no idea if it was fair trade or not. There were also biscuits. But I sat on a chair around the wall and drank my coffee in abject silence, after which I left. The only person who spoke to me was the lovely steward, and, briefly, the rector as I shook hands with him at the church door on the way out.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – Despite the cool reception, I did enjoy the worship. I think if I lived here and was a regular it would be totally different. But it seems as though the rector is the regular organist, and I would find this a bit off-putting.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, absolutely. Just singing the classic well known hymns was uplifting.

St Brelade, Jersey (Icon)

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The rector's remarks in his sermon about hospitality and the steward remembering me!

 
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