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2485: Coll Church, Arinagour, Isle of Coll, Scotland
Coll Church, Arinagour, Scotland Photo: Roger and Ann Hiley
Mystery Worshipper: Shaun the Sheep.
The church: Coll Church, Arinagour, Isle of Coll, Scotland.
Denomination: Church of Scotland.
The building: The church was built in 1907 in the rectangular Gothic style, with buttresses and a square bell tower. There are clear glass windows. It is situated on the top of a hill at the head of Loch Eatharna and is known locally as "the Church on the Hill".
The church: It is the only church currently in use on the Isle of Coll. It is a focal point in Arinagour due to its prominent position overlooking the village. The church is part of a charge of three linked churches, the other two being village churches near Oban on the mainland.
The neighbourhood: Arinagour is the only village on the Isle of Coll, an island of the Inner Hebrides accessible from the port of Oban on the west coast of mainland Scotland. The island's population is around 200, of which about half live in the village.
The cast: No names were given; the service was lay-led.
The date & time: Christmas Day, Tuesday, 25 December 2012, 11.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Christmas Service.

How full was the building?
Including us, there were eight people in total present. The building could comfortably have held 100 people.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
The woman who gave us our hymnbook wished us a merry Christmas.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. It was a pretty standard wooden pew and was not uncomfortable, although the service was very short so we didn't have to sit on it for long!

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was quiet and respectful. The other congregants were quietly talking, but this was not distracting.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"A good morning, and merry Christmas to you all."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Psalms & Church Hymnary, Third Edition.

What musical instruments were played?
A small electric organ (the church did not have its own built-in instrument).

Did anything distract you?
Although it was not a warm time of the year, the sun was streaming through the windows, and we managed to choose a pew where the sun was directly in my eyes for most of the service. However, I felt too conspicuous to move out of the way.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was quite formal but no less joyous for this. Four carols were sung, and although there were only eight of us there (including the organist) it felt like there was a larger number singing.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
1 minute.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Unfortunately there was a page or two missing from the preacher's notes, so he was unable to continue after reading some lines from a poem. He went straight into a period of prayer for local, national and international concerns.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The quote from Taylor Caldwell that the preacher read says it all. We are never alone.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Being part of an (albeit small) congregation in such a beautiful place, being reminded that even in the most rural and remote locations God is there and there are people who want to come together to worship. I chose to interpret the shaft of sunlight in my eyes throughout the service as a sign of blessing rather than judgment!

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
It was a shame that there were so few people there, and no children. The windows were covered with Christmas designs (wise men, etc.) that had clearly been made by children, suggesting that there are some links between the church and the younger generation.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
People went quietly on their way, so apart from wishing us a merry Christmas there was not much going on after the service.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There were no after-service refreshments (and nowhere obvious that I could see to prepare them).

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – To be fair, if I lived in Coll I would have no choice as this is the only functioning church. However, this would be no bad thing, as we were made welcome and it appeared our company was appreciated.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, very much so.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The sense of joy at worshipping God at Christmas in such a beautiful place, and that even with so few people it felt like a living worshipping community.
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