|Comment on this report, or find other reports.
|Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you'd like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.
|Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.
|1930: St Mary's,
Hugh Town, Isles of Scilly
Mary's, Hugh Town, Isles of Scilly.
Church of Great Britain, Cornwall
District, Isles of Scilly Circuit.
A small simple building dating from 1900. It is in the traditional
Methodist style, with pews and balcony. On the day of my visit
it was decorated with some beautiful banners.
This church came about from the merger of three Methodist congregations.
It appears to play an important part in this small island community.
In addition to Sunday worship, they hold fellowship and educational
sessions during the week. The community and the church were
featured in the recent BBC TV programme An Island Parish.
The Isles of Scilly form an archipelago off the southwestern
tip of England's Cornish peninsula. There are five inhabited
islands and several more small rocky islets. The climate is
temperate compared to that of England, but they sometimes feel
the brunt of harsh winter gales. Tourism dominates the economy.
The church is situated at the heart of Hugh Town, Scilly's capital.
With a walk of a few yards you are at the sea shore. Stunning
scenery is all around.
The Revd Charles R. Gibbs, minister, assisted by Mrs Beryl Read,
The date & time:
Palm Sunday, 28 March 2010.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
About half full downstairs and a few up in the balcony.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Not really. As I entered the church, someone said, "I hope
it stops raining for you soon."
Was your pew comfortable?
No, they were quite uncomfortable. Some people in the know within
the congregation were being offered cushions during the first
hymn. Visitors didnít seem to have this option!
How would you describe the pre-service
People were talking as we were waiting to start. There was what
seemed to me to be some rather monotonous music from the digital
keyboard. Whether it was being played by a live musician or
was merely a digital sound track, it was hard to tell. It sounded
rather like a backing track and didnít add to the preparation
for worship. Just before the service started, the music seemed
to spring to life (perhaps being played for real), and was much
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning and a very warm welcome to you all."
What books did the congregation use during the
Hymns and Psalms (Methodist Publishing House) and a
printed sheet of hymns.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ, played beautifully for the hymns; and a keyboard and
clarinet for worship songs. The keyboard had a backing track
constantly playing which didnít add to the worshipful effect.
Both the keyboard player and clarinetist appeared to be able
musicians and could have managed perfectly well without the
Did anything distract you?
It was cold (probably because I was seated next to the window)
and I had come in out of a downpour. The microphone was not
working very well and people kept tapping it to see if it was
amplifying their voice.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Quite informal style with a mixture of hymns, prayers and readings
led jointly by the minister and worship leader. There were references
in the service that I considered bordering on being sexist (asking
men if they remembered "hour-glass" figures) and racist
(referring to the dark colour of an African manís face). I felt
very uncomfortable with these references.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
4 The minister walked up and down the aisles, which was
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The sermon went through the events of Palm Sunday and Holy Week.
It talked about how we are sometimes disappointed in other people.
Jesus would know this feeling too, but he knew Godís will and
was resolute in following it. Our mission is to tell others
about Jesus and how our knowledge of him affects our own lives.
Which part of the service was like being in
The prayers were helpful, and the song "Soften my heart"
was inspiring. We were asked to pray in turn for those people
who sat around us, which was very powerful. There was one point
in the service were I got the sense that spiritual renewal may
be about to happen here.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Apparently many of the children on the island had chickenpox
so were not there. The childrenís segment went ahead anyway, and
some adults were asked to do a word puzzle while we sang a hymn
and watched them. There was an awkward pause at the end of the
hymn while they tried to finish it off, and we just waited while
very little happened.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
After the service, I walked through the church to the hall and
hung around in the hall with my cup of tea. Then I walked all
the way out through the church with people still busying around.
But no one spoke to me until right by the outside door, when
the two leading the service said hello. Outside the church there
is a list of 10 "things you need to know about the Methodist
Church on the Isles of Scilly." The first thing on the
list is, "We will make you welcome." Iím afraid that
was not my experience. The second thing should have been, "We
will offer you a cushion."
How would you describe the after-service
The tea was fine and in a pottery cup, but the tea bags on show
in the kitchen were not fairly traded. There's a co-op supermarket
just down the road selling fair trade tea.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 There is little choice on St Maryís and this is the
only free church.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
The service had very little challenge. It seemed to assume people
knew everything already and were coming together for a social
occasion. This is a real shame if it is reflected every week,
as there are large numbers of visitors to the island. The church
is missing a great opportunity for outreach. The beauty of the
islands themselves was what made me feel glad to be a Christian.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Those glimpses that spiritual renewal might just be on its way
in this church.
|We rely on voluntary donations to stay online. If you're a regular visitor to Ship of Fools, please consider supporting us.
|The Mystery Pilgrim
| One of our most seasoned reporters makes the Camino pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Read here.
| Read reports from 70 London churches, visited by a small army of Mystery Worshippers on one single Sunday. Read here.