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2354: St Chad, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, England
St Chad, Poulton (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Chris Teean.
The church: St Chad, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, England.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese of Blackburn.
The building: The traditional-looking grey stone church enjoys an elevated position in the centre of the town. The tower containing eight bells dates from the times of Charles I, but the church, originating from Anglo-Saxon times, was almost completely rebuilt in the 18th century. The congregation of the time wanted to see the preacher, so galleries containing box pews were built and the church adopted the style of a "Georgian preaching church." The box pews have been removed from downstairs but are still in place in the galleries. Unfortunately the galleries are built across the large side windows and so they obscure a lot of natural light. The apse, containing beautiful stained glass windows, was added in 1868. It houses the sanctuary, where the communion table is placed in front of an altar with a wooden reredos of carvings of the Last Supper. To the left of the chancel is a Jacobean pulpit in front of an impressive looking organ. To the right are some choir stalls and a lectern in the shape of a bronze eagle. Many memorials, plaques and hatchments dedicated to benefactors of the parish line the walls of the nave and the galleries.
The church: St Chad's is one of the largest parishes in the diocese. Several services of holy communion are celebrated every Sunday as well as an evening service. There are further services throughout the week. There are many clubs for children and adult, along with bell ringers, flower arrangers and amateur dramatics plus the usual church gatherings. Further details can be found on their website.
The neighbourhood: The pretty market town of Poulton-le-Fylde lies a few miles inland from the well-known holiday resort of Blackpool. This area, known as the Fylde, is a rich farming area of Lancashire bounded by the coast and the Wyre and Ribble rivers. The church is adjacent to a market place, and is surrounded by traditional small shops, banks, cafes, pubs and restaurants, all of which add to its delightful ambience. It is also in substantial grounds, which are particularly beautiful in the spring when there are carpets of snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils.
The cast: The celebrant was the Revd Terry Chalice, a retired priest. He was assisted by lay reader Vanessa Frost. Members of the congregation, Sylvia Prentice and Joyce Smoker, also served as lectors.
The date & time: Sunday, 11 March 2012, 9.30am.

What was the name of the service?
Parish Communion.

How full was the building?
It was quite full, with most pews filled; there must have been well over a hundred people there. The congregation consisted of people of all ages, although the average age would probably be over 60.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. I was enthusiastically welcomed by two ladies, both of whom offered me a news sheet.

Was your pew comfortable?
It was a traditional oak pew so was as comfortable as you might expect. However, it was quite spacious, with a decent shelf to lay out all my paraphernalia of hymn book, service book, news sheet, offertory envelope, MW card and glasses!

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was a gentle hum of whispered greetings and conversations, and the organist played some introductory pieces of music.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A service booklet The Order for the Holy Eucharist: Advent and Lent, and a hymn book The New English Hymnal. These were already placed in the pews, as well as a lectionary and another hymn book New Hymns and Worship Songs.

What musical instruments were played?
The centenary of the installation of the impressive looking organ by Messrs Norman and Beard was celebrated only just over a week ago, and it was certainly expertly played today. I couldnít see the organist, who I assume was St Chadís resident organist David Chadwick, but when I went up for communion I could see a robed youth playing a hymn with confidence under the guidance of the organist.

Did anything distract you?
In the prayers of intercession the priest prayed for the vicar, Keith, and the curate, Ruth. This immediately made me wonder if he was the vicar or not, and whether the lady dressed as a lay reader (white alb and blue stole) was the curate or not? She didnít appear to be wearing a clerical collar.

St Chad, Poulton, Chicago (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was a very middle-of-the-road Anglican service carried out with dignity but little ceremony. The service started with a verger carrying a simple wooden Lenten cross, leading a procession of a robed choir consisting of children and adults, a lay reader carrying the Bible aloft, and the priest robed in a beige and red chasuble. The Bible passages were beautifully read with elucidation and clarity.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
15 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – The preacher spoke very clearly, but from prepared notes.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It was about how we find it difficult to obey the Ten Commandments in these modern times. Many examples were cited. For instance, on the Sabbath day we often have days out, work in the garden, or go shopping. Many people have to work on a Sunday, so it is virtually treated like any other day. Barriers have been put up between people and God; Jesus saw this in the corrupt practices in the temple, which had become more like a market than a place of prayer. At this time in Lent we have the opportunity to put God at the top of our list of priorities and put him back in the centre of our lives.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The congregation sang all the hymns with enthusiasm, and I enjoyed being part of this glorious worship to God.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I had just returned to my seat after having received communion and was just having a private word with God, when I was jolted out of my conversation by a loud commotion. I had previously observed a distinct lack of children, but now an army of toddlers and young children arrived, having been to their own Sunday school nearby. We must remember that these young people are our future congregation. I can only say that it changed the atmosphere completely!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The lady sitting next to me engaged me in conversation and invited me to coffee, which was being served in the nearby church hall. I found out that the priest was not the vicar and the lady reader was not the curate!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
It was freshly served in nice china mugs and there was a good selection of biscuits. Several friendly ladies made pleasant conversation with me.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – This is a church that is regularly booked for weddings because of its picture post card appearance. However, I had just witnessed a service in the middle of Lent, so I am not sure if the lack of ceremony was because it was Lent, or not. My own preference is for lots of smells and bells, so I shall have to visit again at a non-penitential season before I make up my mind.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Undoubtedly. I left with hymn tunes ringing in my ears.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The whole arrangement and design of the chancel area, enclosed in the beautiful apse, was most appealing.
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