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2565: St Swithin, Thorley, Isle of Wight
St Swithin, Isle of Wight
Mystery Worshipper: Mr Kipling.
The church: St Swithin, Thorley, Isle of Wight.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese of Portsmouth.
The building: A church has stood in the village since the 13th century. The current building dates back to 1871, although the porch and belfry from the original church still stand in a nearby disused graveyard. A detailed description of the building can be found on their website. A major improvements project begun in January is nearing completion.
The church: St Swithin's is part of the Shalfleet group of churches with whom they share the clergy. The church is maintained by a small group of worshippers and friends.
The neighbourhood: Thorley is a small village on the Isle of Wight, close to the popular yachting town of Yarmouth. The island is approximately three to five miles off the south coast of England and is a popular holiday destination. Former island residents include Queen Victoria and Alfred Lord Tennyson.
The cast: The Revd Clive Leach, assistant priest in charge, was celebrant and preacher. Andrew Johnson, the churchwarden, gave the notices and read the gospel.
The date & time: Sunday, 14 July 2013, 9.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Holy Communion, Common Worship.

How full was the building?
There were 13 of us in total including the priest and the organist.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. Several people did as we entered. Mrs Kipling and I were also welcomed by name during the notices.

Was your pew comfortable?
Not particularly. The backrest was quite low and was digging into the middle of my back.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quite a lot of chatter going on right up until the beginning of the service.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"A bright and wonderful morning to you all."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Common Worship holy communion booklet, a sheet from Redemptorist Publications containing the day's readings and collect, Hymns Ancient & Modern New Standard, and a hymn sheet containing two hymns dedicated to St Swithin written by a former organist in the parish. The priest led the liturgy from a tablet.

What musical instruments were played?
A delightful single manual pipe organ.

Did anything distract you?
The chatter before the service.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Low end of middle-of-the-road. The priest wore cassock-alb and stole and as far as I could see nobody made the Sign of the Cross at any point. Apart from the hymns, the service was said throughout. The Commandments were read at the gathering part of the service. Curiously, the Gloria was said with the congregation kneeling, which I've never encountered before. The eucharistic prayer (prayer E) was said with the priest facing east. This was the church's patronal festival, but apart from the two hymns to St Swithin (one at the beginning, the other at the end) very little was made of this.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
9 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The Revd Mr Leach was humourous in places, and direct and to the point. He held my attention throughout.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The gospel reading was the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Jews and the Samaritans disliked each other intensely, yet the Samaritan helped the injured Jew. Despite our own divisions in the church, we remain united in Jesus Christ.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Sharing the communion with a very friendly congregation.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
One of the hymns was sung to an unfamiliar tune – so unfamiliar that nobody seemed to know how it went. There appeared to be as many different versions being sung as there were people in the congregation.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The opportunity didn't arise. I think by the time I left, I'd spoken to everybody there!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Instant fair trade. Drinkable but not the greatest I've ever had.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – Difficult one to answer. As much as I liked the church, I think I would find 9.00 every Sunday a bit of a chore.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Definitely. With a small congregation like this, there is always a danger of becoming inward looking and unwelcoming to strangers. St Swithin's is the complete opposite and it was a joy to worship God with such a small but faithful community.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The warm welcome.
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