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2180: St Catherine's, Criccieth, Gwynedd, North Wales
St Catherine Criccieth
Mystery Worshipper: Wes Charles.
The church: St Catherine's, Criccieth, Gwynedd, North Wales.
Denomination: The Church in Wales.
The building: The church is built of grey stone blocks and is quite small, with a dual nave with pillars down the centre. Inside, the church is plastered and painted white, although the half of the east wall behind the altar is of exposed stone, which looks very nice. Apparently, this is temporary as they had a damp problem and are trying to dry out the wall. It seems some of the congregation would like to keep the wall bare, showing the nice old stone blocks, but the Church In Wales' architect says it has to be re-plastered as it doesn't fit with the style. The altar is on the right half of the nave, so sitting on the left could obscure your view of what's going on. There is an organ at the back with nice painting on the pipes. The church was built in 1301 and there is a list of previous vicars. One name is missing, just a question mark, and one of the congregation said she wonders what he did wrong to be blotted out from the history of the church!
The church: In terms of outreach programmes, I didn't notice much, although I didn't get much chance to look. Apparently, the previous vicar, who retired at the end of last year, re-started the Sunday school to accommodate her grandchildren. The Sunday school has since grown to a group of 12 children.
The neighbourhood: Criccieth is a small seaside town on the Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales. With the sea to the south and Snowdonia to the northeast, and a ruined castle in the sea, Criccieth is a picture-postcard seaside town.
The cast: There is no permanent vicar at the moment, so the service was led by the Revd Kim Williams from St John's Church in the neighbouring town of Porthmadog.
The date & time: Easter Sunday, 24 April 2011, 11.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Holy Communion.

How full was the building?
About two-thirds full, but the way people were spaced out made the building feel pretty full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. We were wished a happy Easter by a gentleman outside, and again as I was handed my service sheet.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. It was a nice old pew in keeping with the character of the church.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quietly chatty, with the organ playing quietly.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
I forgot to note it down properly, but it was something like "Happy Easter and what a fabulous morning it is!" Indeed, the weather was fabulous that morning.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
An Order for the Holy Eucharist The Church In Wales and a photocopied service sheet.

What musical instruments were played?
An organ.

Did anything distract you?
The lovely manner of the vicar. She was very down-to-earth and spoke in a very informal way, more like she was having a friendly conversation with the congregation than taking a church service. This was really nice and a refreshing change from the church we normally go to.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The vicar's style was very friendly and conversational, although in a reverent and traditional way. When the Sanctus was due to be sung, there was a slight delay before the organist started playing. There was a visible look of relief on the vicar's face when he started playing!

Exactly how long was the sermon?
6 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The Revd Kim Williams had a lovely friendly manner. She is quite young (I guess early 30s) and I felt she was someone I could really relate to it was nice to have someone of my own sort-of age leading a service.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
She pointed out that these days there are more people not going to church than those who go, and that it's easier not to be a Christian than it is to believe in Jesus. However, Jesus rose from the tomb on Easter morning and didn't have a party or immediately have some quality time with his disciples. Instead, he told Mary to go and proclaim the news of the resurrection. This is something we should be still doing today.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The beautiful weather I love it that most East mornings are sunny, but this year was really exceptional and the light coming through the windows into the white church interior made the service truly special.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Considering the building was so full, and the reputation of the Welsh for being vocal, the singing was really disappointing not at all rousing for Easter morning.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We didn't get a chance to. There was no after-service coffee, and everyone filed out pretty quickly. The vicar was at the door and had a little chat with everyone. Had we followed the rules and waited around looking lost for five minutes, we might have been locked in!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none. We went to a nice little tea room just down the coast and had a lovely coffee and bara brith (a Welsh bread made with dried fruit), but I guess that doesn't count!

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – I really enjoyed the service this morning nice building, nice traditional service, good vicar, beautiful weather (although I don't think that's guaranteed in Wales!). It's a shame the sermon wasn't a bit longer, but I guess on Easter Sunday you have to cater for those who don't go to church very often and you don't want to scare them off with a 20-minute marathon!

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, definitely.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The delay at the Sanctus and the vicar's relief when it finally got going.
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