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2924: St Nicholas with All Saints, Wallasey, England
St Nicholas, Wallasey (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Tom the Cabin Boy.
The church: St Nicholas with All Saints, Wallasey, Wirral, England.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese of Chester.
The building: Big cathedral-size neo-Gothic parish church, Grade 2 listed. Built 1910-11 of Storeton sandstone. Cruciform, with a central tower. Ship-shape and well kept inside and out. Neat gardens, well tended, clean and tidy. At the west end there is an interesting war memorial depicting scenes in the life of Christ, with obvious armed services overtones. Lovely stained glass bathes the interior with an ethereal light. The east window has Christ the King seated in glory surrounded by angels. As this is a seaside parish, there is an abundance of seafaring emblems in glass and stone: ships, water, seaweed, an anchor, cockle shells (St Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors). The imposing high altar is backed by a wooden reredos depicting Christ on the cross, Our Lady and St John, and four adoring angels. There is a peaceful secluded Lady chapel with carved reredos depicting the Last Supper Ė illuminated. The octagonal marble font is carved with baptism symbols.
The church: St Nick's is also known as the Harrison Memorial Church, as money for its construction came from the Harrison family. Because of its proximity to the Wallasey Golf Club, it is likewise known as the Golfers' Church. The pew sheet does not provide much information regarding groups, societies, clubs, etc., but their website lists a number of upcoming social events, including a fancy dress ball and Breakfast with Santa (already!). They have a lot of weddings and baptisms, so there must obviously be children.
The neighbourhood: Wallasey is seaside suburbia at the northeastern corner of the Wirral Peninsula. Lots of fresh air and sea breezes. The church stands proud but slightly out of the centre of town. Local shops include a wide variety of businesses. The local dog-walking and recreation area is known as the Dips. Harrison Drive, along the seafront, is a well used promenade overlooking the Mersey Estuary and Irish Sea.
The cast: The Revd Jeff Staples, vicar; Louise Jones, reader.
The date & time: Sunday, 20 September 2015, 10.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Celebration Service for the Freedom of the Borough. From the church's website: "We will be welcoming the officers and crew of HMS Astute and the officers and cadets of TS Astute to a ser
vice of celebration." HMS Astute is an operational nuclear-powered submarine in the Royal Navy, the lead ship of her class. TS Astute, named after the submarine, is a Maritime Training Corps cadet unit. Freedom of the Borough is a military honour bestowed upon troops that allows them to parade their military prowess within the borough precincts.

How full was the building?
Full to the guníls! The church was full of sailors, able bodied or otherwise.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A man held the door open and welcomed me. He gave me an order of service and a pew sheet.

Was your pew comfortable?
No! Very hard and unforgiving in spite of the red carpet pew runner.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Expectant and noisy. The organist battled valiantly against the hubbub.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, everybody, and welcome to our Freedom of the Borough celebration."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Printed order of service that included hymns and prayers.

What musical instruments were played?
A three-manual pipe organ.

Did anything distract you?
I was all at sea, marooned in the nave, surrounded by men of the service and expecting them to burst into choruses from HMS Pinafore!

St Nicholas, Wallasey (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Traditional C of E; place on candle: middle. Proper church like what we used to have. Three cheers; no nave altar. Nautical and nice.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
9 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – "I was asked to keep it short!" the vicar said. He spoke from chancel steps and referred to notes. Straightforward and down to earth. He got the message across in a few short sentences.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Caring for others: the care we show to others, those unable to care for themselves. Jesus is our example. (Looking round, I espied several people checking their mobile phones. How nice that they were inspired by the vicar's words to check in on those they cared for – would that have happened at the Sermon on the Mount?)

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
There's something about a man (or a woman) in uniform! All those able seamen in their Number Ones, shiny brass buttons and gold braid did it for me!

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I could not help but notice that several people had been shooting me funny looks. I wondered why – and then I realised I was sitting in the pews reserved for officers and dignitaries. Had I been wearing a collar, I would have been hot under it. I slid down in the pew, making myself as inconspicuous as possible. I expected to be keelhauled at least!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
An elderly gent came over and spoke to me. He had been attending St Nicholas church for a very long time, he said; he was very fond of it. He pointed out one or two of the interesting bits. It was a special place for him.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was no coffee or refreshments. At the end of the service, the colours were returned to the colour troop, who processed out to the lively music of Handel marches: one from his Occasional Oratorio and another from Scipione. Once outside, the troops boarded two old Wallasey Corporation buses: a primrose yellow coloured double decked bus and a green and cream liveried single decker.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – Friendly and welcoming.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

St Nicholas, Wallasey (Font)

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Standing proudly with my head held high singing the National Anthem.

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