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2556: St Maelrubha's, Poolewe, Scotland
St Maelrubha's, Poolewe (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Maggie.
The church: St Maelrubha's, Poolewe, Scotland.
Denomination: Scottish Episcopal Church, United Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness.
The building: A reasonably low building, built with stone on the outside and inside. Its appearance is old, but it is in fact a modern building, dedicated in 1965. It is beautiful and unusual, with crosses on top. Inside is comfortable, with carpeting on the floor and pictures of the Cross and of St Maelrubha, a 7th century Scottish-Irish monastic who founded about a half dozen churches. Embedded in the wall to the left of the altar is a fragment of stone, possibly from a cross, that may have been taken from St Maelrubha's monastery at Applecross. The church hall and a church-owned holiday cottage are close by, both for hire.
The church: They have a home group that meets on Monday evenings. They publish a parish recipe book, Cook in Haste and Eat with Pleasure, and a parish magazine, the Maelrubha Messenger, both as fundraisers for charity. They maintain a 24-hour telephone hotline. They are also involved in a number of ecumenical events, including joint recitation of the Rosary with the local Roman Catholic congregation.
The neighbourhood: The tiny village of Poolewe is located about 75 miles northwest of Inverness. There are only one shop and one hotel. The Gulf Stream mildens the climate of the area, which makes the cultivation of many beautiful flowers and very high trees possible that wouldn't otherwise be so. The area is very picturesque, with stone hills all around. There are also sheep and cows and many kinds of birds.
The cast: The Revd Heather Widdows, curate.
The date & time: Feast of St Columba of Iona, 9 June 2013, 11.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Service of Holy Communion.

How full was the building?
Fairly full, about 40 people.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
The curate and several parishioners smiled and welcomed us, and gave us a paper that included the word Failte, which means "Welcome". They told us the books we needed were in the seats.

Was your pew comfortable?
We all had seats and they were very comfortable, with books fixed in front of them.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was chatting before the service started, and then everyone turned their minds to more Godly thoughts as the organ was played and the leaders went to the front.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
The collect for St Columba's Day: "O God, you called your servant Columba ... grant that your Church, remembering his faith and courage, may ... come to know your Son ..."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Hymns Old and New; Maelrubha Praise Additional Hymns; Scottish Liturgy 1982.

What musical instruments were played?
An organ was played.

Did anything distract you?
I wondered how many people in the village came to the church and whether many believed in God, and how many spoke Gaelic.

St Maelrubha's, Poolewe (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Everyone sang well, concentrating on the hymns. They all stood still as we sang.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
20 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – The curate spoke clearly and gave us lots of information about St Columba and well as about God's love for us.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Today is St Columba's day in Scotland. Columba, an Irish missionary, came to Scotland and founded the abbey at Iona. He loved reading scriptures. He loved teaching. We need to do that. Columba involved himself in spiritual ways. If we do likewise, our lives will be changed by God.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
It was an excellent sermon and also wonderful communion, when we knelt down and were given bread and wine.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I felt annoyed briefly that my sister didn't come with me to church. I felt it would have made her more Christian.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Several people told me to come and have coffee or tea. The curate also shook my hand and told me to come. Everyone was friendly and very nice.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There were tea and coffee and nice sweet bits to eat. We could pay if we wished, the proceeds going to help support the work of the church. We could sit on the seats and by the tables, and we all chatted for a while.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – This was a lovely church and really nice people too. I really enjoyed it, and felt happy about God and St Columba!

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I felt glad to be a Christian because of the communion and the fact that Columba started Christianity in Scotland. I've visited Iona where he lived – another great place!

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
This beautiful little church.
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