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3234: St Mary's, Tenby, Wales
St Mary's, Tenby, Wales
Mystery Worshipper: Mr Kipling.
The church: St Mary's, Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales.
Denomination: Church in Wales, Diocese of St Davids.
The building: Most of the building dates back to the 15th century with aspects dating from the 13th century. Renovations were made in Victorian times and again in the 1960s. There is a wall tablet in memory of Robert Recorde, the Elizabethan Welsh mathematician, a native of Tenby, who advocated the use of the plus sign and invented the equals sign. The churchyard contains the remains of what is thought to be a 15th century choir school.
The church: The church is part of the Rectorial Benefice of Tenby, which comprises several churches in surrounding villages. Quoting from their website: "We have a strong commitment to children and young people, to pastoral care, to lay ministry and to our strong musical tradition." They have a Bible study group and a youth club. There are said and sung eucharists each Sunday, with said eucharist on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.
The neighbourhood: Tenby (or Dinbych-y-Pysgod) is a small fishing town in Pembrokeshire in the bottom left hand corner of Wales. Nowadays it is it is known predominantly as a holiday destination and, as such, the population of the town doubles in the summer months. The Coach & Horses pub has the claim to fame that Dylan Thomas got drunk in there one evening and consequently left the original manuscript of his 1954 radio drama Under Milk Wood on one of the bar stools.
The cast: No names were given.
The date & time: Sunday, 17 September 2017, 10.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Sung Eucharist.

How full was the building?
At a guess, around 100 people, who nearly filled the building. I was aware that there were no children around, but it would seem a Junior Church was taking place elsewhere, which hadn't been announced or obviously advertised.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. A gentleman smiled and said "Good morning" as he handed me what I needed for the service.

Was your pew comfortable?
Comfortable enough.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
By and large, a respectful silence was observed.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Please be seated." This was after the opening hymn and notices then followed.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Church in Wales Holy Communion booklet, Hymns Old and New hymn book, and a pew leaflet containing the day's readings, collect and notices for the week.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ and a very good robed choir.

Did anything distract you?
The Church in Wales liturgy is ever so slightly different from the Church of England liturgy I'm used to, so when saying familiar prayers I'd occasionally trip up as I discovered that one word may be different from what I'd been expecting.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Dignified without being stuffy. The celebrant wore a green chasuble and the preacher a cassock alb and green stole. There were two servers – crucifer and book bearer – and a verger. Hymns were well known traditional hymns. Most of the service was conducted from a nave altar and communion was distributed from the high altar at the east end of the church. The children from Junior Church all came in during the distribution of communion. Curiously, none of them went to the altar for a blessing, but instead went straight to their seats in the front pew. At the end of the service, they shared what they'd been doing in their class.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
10 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – The preacher spoke clearly and enthusiastically. It's a shame he wasn't named in any of the leaflets as I can't give him the credit he deserves.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The Old Testament reading was from Genesis, where Joseph forgave his brothers. The sermon spoke of how we must forgive others and show compassion to our fellow human beings, whoever they are.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I very rarely say this, but it would have to be the sermon. It was uplifting, thought provoking, and delivered with humour and passion.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
This is a particular bugbear of mine, but there was a lot of chatter during the distribution of communion, which I find disrespectful. Come on, guys! The service is nearly finished at this point. Surely you can hang on for a few more minutes before chatting to your friends.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Not much. People seemed in a hurry to leave. One person apologised to me after accidentally treading on my toe.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Surprisingly and disappointingly, there didn't appear to be any. If there was, they kept very quiet about it.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – I felt comfortable worshipping there and their weekday activities look interesting.

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 sermon.
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