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3213: St Paul's, Seahouses, England
St Paul's, Seahouses (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Aidan of Lindisfarne.
The church: St Paul's, Seahouses, Northumberland, England.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese of Newcastle.
The building: A plain chapel-like building with central aisle and chancel. It dates from 1834 and is the work of 19th century English architect Anthony Salvin, an expert on medieval buildings who restored numerous castles and country houses as well as building a number of new houses and churches. The pews are fitted with lovely embroidered kneelers. The church has a carpeted area and the back with a welcome area housing the font and votive candle stand. There is a parish hall and the diocesan youth hostel. There is handicapped-accessible car parking available, plus an entrance ramp and accessible toilets. An induction loop system is available for the hearing impaired. Guide dogs are welcome.
The church: The church serves the Seahouses community together with the surrounding rural area consisting of smaller villages and settlements. The benefice also includes St Ebba's, Beadnell. They describe themselves as "a place of thanksgiving, worship, prayer and joy." The local United Reformed church also used the building. They have a Sunday school and youth group. There is Friday Tea, described as "a thoughtful quiet service followed by tea and cakes." There is one Sunday service.
The neighbourhood: The church serves the coastal seaside village of Seahouses, a fishing village that calls itself the Gateway to the Farnes, a group of unpopulated islands off the coast of Northumberland known for its lighthouses and its dozen or so species of birds, including cormorants, puffins and terns, among others. This is a very popular holiday destination and there are a lot of second homes within the village. The church is inland, with fields at the back of the churchyard.
The cast: The Revd Canon Judy Glover, vicar.
The date & time: The Transfiguration of Our Lord, 6 August 2017, 10.30am.

What was the name of the service?
Parish Communion.

How full was the building?
Half full, around 50 people present. A few teenagers but no young children.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A warm welcome with a smile.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes – very comfortable, with a carpeted pew runner and a lovely embroidered kneeler.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet and reverential. The organ played in the background.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning and a warm welcome to those visiting us this morning."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Hymns Old and New; a tinted service booklet for the Transfiguration; Common Worship Order One; Sunday Link newsletter.

What musical instruments were played?
Pipe organ.

Did anything distract you?
Yes – the vicar! She put her heart and soul into the singing. She appeared to be dancing to the offertory hymn: "Give me joy in my heart."

St Paul's, Seahouses (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Traditional but friendly and relaxed.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
14 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – Clear, relevant and engaging. The vicar held my attention. Even my teenage daughter said, "I understood what she was saying!"

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
She spoke about routines and the need to break them and have time out. She spoke about the mountaintop Transfiguration experience and the times we have seen something new and life-changing. She spoke about how often we return to those below and to the gossip of those who seek to undermine us, those who have never been to the mountaintop but can be destructive.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Lovely singing. I want specifically to mention the bidding prayers, which were led by a member of the congregation. They were so thoughtful and from the heart. We prayed for specific local issues followed by national and international concerns. They were amazing! Also, the light streaming through the large clear windows.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was invited into the parish hall, but I declined as I wanted to attend the dog show scheduled to begin that afternoon. There, I spotted a number of elderly parishioners who recognized me. But sadly, it rained.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – A small, friendly and engaging congregation.

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The excellent sermon – it struck a chord – and the fact that my daughter liked it too!
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