What are services like?

What are services like?

A guide to what to expect if you visit our Church

(Autism- and Anxiety- Friendly)

(PLEASE NOTE THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS – WE ARE STILL ADDING TO IT! FEEDBACK WELCOME to revcarolinebeckett@gmail.com)

What type of Church is St. Margaret’s?

St. Margaret’s is a Church of England Church. We welcome ANYONE – Christians from any denomination or group, people thinking about faith, people who are just curious and want to see what Church is like….ALL are welcome. You do not need to be a member or become a member, or let anyone know you are coming: just turn up.

What if I have extra needs?

If you have extra needs, you may find that you are already catered for:

Partially sighted – larger print service sheets, Bibles and notice sheets are available on request.

Limited mobility – we are fully wheelchair-accessible in both the hall and the Church, with an access ramp up into the Church building and people ready to open doors or assist. We have many members with limited mobility so this is catered for, and you can have communion in your seat.

Nonverbal communication – some of our members cannot talk and communicate in other ways so we are used to this. Although only a couple of our members know sign language and they are not always present, we are willing to have a go at communicating regardless, and are used to letterboards and laptops as means of communicating.

Hypersensitivities – if you are hypersensitive to noise and light, our Monday evening service (see below) might be a good place to start, or there are places in the building where you can go to be quiet (the entrance) or where the light is dimmer. If you need to wear noise-cancelling headphones or use a fiddly to help you focus, please do whatever is most helpful to you.

If you feel anxious about coming for the first time, please contact one of the numbers or emails given under ‘contacts’ on this website to tell us what your needs are and we can arrange for someone to look out for you and greet you. This can also be a good idea if you suffer from anxiety. You might perhaps like to see one of us beforehand or have a look at the Church while it is empty first.

What do I need to wear or bring?

There is not a dress code at St. Margaret’s. Some of us choose to dress smartly for church (such as trousers, shirt and tie, a suit, or a dress/skirt and jacket) so if you like to do that there will be some others who are smart too. Some of us dress more casually (such as jeans and a jumper). Most are somewhere between the two. Some of us are a bit unconventional and that is fine, too. We try to avoid shirts with swear words or rude jokes on them or anything that might offend some people as we try to be kind to each other and, in the summer, turning up in swimwear or just shorts and no top might offend some people….but we will still welcome you whatever you wear!

You do not need to bring anything with you, especially if this is your first visit!

Some of our church members do like to  bring some things, though. Here are some examples:

  • We use Bibles in church but you do not need to bring one unless you wish to as most of us pick up a church Bible from the entrance on our way in.
  • In all morning services and most evening services, we have a collection. Someone will pass around a plate or small bag for people to put money in to help the church do its work in the community, but some people give by direct debit and do not put anything in the bag, others cannot afford to give money but give in other ways and if you are new to the church or just visiting us because you are curious you do not need to give unless you wish to.
  • Some of our members bring pens, art materials and notebooks to write or draw in during the service or take notes during the sermon or talk, so you can do that if you wish.
  • Our members who have sensory issues may wear sunglasses to cut down light, or noise cancelling headphones to help with loud sounds, and some of us need sticks, walking frames or mobility aids, or devices to help us communicate such as an iPad or letterboard, so do not be surprised if you see these things.
  • Parents often bring things to keep their children amused, but there are drawing materials and books in the children’s area in church that you are welcome to use during services.

Parking

When you come to St. Margaret’s, there are places along the road nearby to park your car. We park on the grass outside the church or on the opposite side of the road. We try not to park on the road just outside the church because we are asked not to: it blocks up the road and buses need to get through.

 

Where things are

There is the church building that looks like this….

 

 

 

 

 

And the church hall that looks like this….

 

 

 

 

 

And like this inside, with the kitchen on the left and the double doors to the toilets half way along the left-hand wall…

Below is the kitchen, where drinks are served from after the morning service…

There are toilets through the double doors that look like this….

We have male and female toilets and a disabled toilet with babychange facility (see below)

The hall is usually open while a service is going on. Sometimes, due to vandals, the door has no doorknob – please just pull it open or ask one of us to help you. There may be people in the hall setting up or leading Sunday School: they are used to people coming through and will not mind at all. If the hall is shut and you need to get in, please ask one of the people handing out books in the church entrance, or one of the vicars or churchwardens, to help you.

If you would like to see what the church looks like inside, please take the ‘virtual tour’ on our website. Sometimes, we move bits of furniture if we are putting up displays or doing events, but the basic layout does not change.

What happens when I go in?

There are two glass doors in (so you can see through – you might like to take a look beforehand if that helps) and the one nearest the top of the ramp will always be open. The other is sometimes open. The curate, Caroline, almost always gets this wrong! This entrance is at the back of Church so you will not be arriving to lots of people all looking at you!

Once you come in, you will be greeted by someone and they will give you a service book with all the words you will need for the different services in it and also a notice sheet if there is one. All of the song words will be on the big screen so you will not need a book for those. Sometimes, a special service sheet will be handed out instead of the book, if it is a special occasion.

In the book, the different types of service are colour-coded and the notice sheet will tell you what type of service it is that day. Usually the service leader will give page numbers too. Usually we say the words in bold print with ‘All’ next to them out loud together and the service leaders say the rest, but sometimes the leader may get us to say part of their words if they want us to pay special attention to them. Sometimes the service leader may add in special words for that particular Sunday that are not in the book.

If you like, you can take one of the Church Bibles from the shelf (on the right in the Church entrance). Lots of us do that so that we can read the readings for ourselves as well as hearing them and look at them again during the sermon. If you find it hard to hear sometimes, it will help to have the Bible as not everyone who reads aloud in church finds reading easy – sometimes the reader will make mistakes or be too quiet or too fast, but we like giving a turn to anyone who wants one. The reader will almost always remember to tell us the page number the reading is on before they start! We have large print Bibles and service sheets if you need one, please ask the people handing out the books and they will find these for you.

What if I’m late?

If you are late arriving and there is no-one handing out books, DO NOT WORRY – we have people coming in late all the time, so we are very used to it. Better late than never – while we’d prefer to have your company for the whole service, you are very welcome whatever time you get to us! Just take a service book and Bible from the shelf on the right as you enter (see below) and come quietly in and find yourself a seat.

How long is the service?

We have a number of different services.

Our morning services start at 10:00am and finish at 11:00am – 11:30am. Morning Holy Communion services usually last an hour and a half and all the other services about an hour. However, because we are a Church where we treat everyone as family, we like to let each other know what is going on, celebrate each other’s achievements and bless and pray for people who are leaving, or starting new things. Because of this, service finish times vary a bit, so if you are coming by bus or taxi or arranging a lift please allow for this. After morning services, we all meet in the hall for drinks and biscuits so waiting in either the church or the hall is not a problem.

Our evening services usually start at 6:30pm and end between 7:30pm and 8:00pm. Sometimes we have a service from 4:30-5:30 instead, and occasionally evening services do not take place if it is a special occasion when something different is happening. In the summer, we do not have evening services in August. Information like this will be in the notice sheet. A large print copy of the notice sheet can be seen through the glass doors on the left had side of the church entrance even when the doors are closed, or you can call/email the people listed on this website to double-check times and we will be happy to answer your query.

If you need to leave before the end of the service, please feel free to do so quietly. You do not have to stay to the end. 

How do I know when the service has started?

A song is usually played before the service starts, then the worship leader will ask everyone to stand for a second song. This is the start of the service. The first words of the service will probably be a greeting such as “The Lord be with you…” or similar words. These words are in the service book.

How do I know when the service has finished?

The service leader will bless everyone – usually ending with …“and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be amongst you and remain with you always. Amen.” Then a last song will be played. The service leader will leave the front and walk to the back while everyone is singing the song, then when the song is finished the service is over.

What happens after the service?

On your way out, there will be someone to hand your service sheet and Bible to. Please keep the notice sheet as it will give you information about events and things coming up. If you are new to the church, please take a Welcome Pack too – in a coloured plastic folder with information about the church and a form to fill in if you would like us to keep in touch with you. Ask one of those helping on the door, or one of the ministers, if you would like one of these and cannot see one.

The service leader or minister will greet you and offer to shake your hand at the door. We do this to be friendly, because we are glad to see you, and to help you feel welcome. If this is difficult for you because you do not want to be touched, or for any other reason, you do not have to do it. Just keep your hands by your sides or your arms folded and we will know you would rather not be touched. We will understand: not everyone likes to be touched or feels comfortable shaking hands.

After Church, most people will go out through the doors and turn right into the Church Hall to have a drink and a biscuit. You go up to the kitchen hatch and someone will ask you what you would like to drink. We serve tea or coffee, which you can have black or white, and with or without sugar, or you can ask for a glass of water, or there is squash. Please help yourself to biscuits. Sometimes we have cake too. We sometimes sing happy birthday when it is someone’s birthday: if it is your birthday, or you have had your birthday that week, and you would like us to sing it for you, please tell the minister.

What are the different services like?

Some are quite noisy, others very quiet. Services likely to be noisy have (N) next to them, services that are quieter have (Q) next to them, the others are more of a mixture.

In most of our services we will do these things:

  • Sing together
  • Speak words from the service book or screen out loud together, including the confession and the creed. Confession is a point in the service where we think about the things we have thought, said or done wrong – or good things we have left undone – and ask God to forgive us. You will never be asked about these things, or to share them out loud. Confession is a set of words saying sorry to God that we all speak out loud together and the words will be in your service sheet or on the screen.  The creed is a set of words we read out together that say what we (the church) believe about God. If you do not believe in these things yet and have just come to see what church is like or because you are exploring faith, you do not need to say these parts if you do not want to.
  • Sit and stand (if you are able)
  • Listen to notices (at the start or end) that tell us what is happening over the next few weeks

In some services, you may be asked to….

  • Shake hands with others and say ‘peace be with you’ (most Communion services). If you do not like to be touched, you can just fold your arms and say ‘Peace be with you’ to the other person instead.
  • Come to the front with everyone else in turn to eat bread or a wafer and drink wine – if you wish to receive Communion – or be blessed. If you need gluten free bread or cannot have alcohol but wish to take communion, please let us know so an alternative can be provided. If drinking out of a shared cup causes a difficulty, you can dip your wafer in the wine then eat it instead. Anyone who is baptised can receive communion in our church. You do not need to prove this to us, just come.  Those of us who are not yet baptised – adults and children – receive a blessing instead. Keep your hands below the rail if this is what you would like. A blessing involves the priest putting a hand lightly on your head and praying a prayer for you. If you do not like to be touched, the priest can just put a hand out towards you – please let us know.
  • Pass bread or wine to another person (at informal or creative Communion)
  • Discuss something with the person next to you or near you
  • Say other words out loud together that are not in the book
  • Do a simple movement – for example, to help you imagine something, like opening out one hand to show you are letting go of a worry, or clapping out a rhythm with everyone else.

You will NOT be made to do anything at the front by yourself. You will not have to read aloud alone in front of others unless you wish to and volunteer. You will not need to sing any solos!

If you are ever uncomfortable about anything you are asked to do or say in a service, you do not have to do it. If you feel anxious or overwhelmed, it is OK to go outside for a while, into the entrance space, the Church Hall or just outside, until you feel calmer. Someone may ask you if you need any help, but they will leave you alone if you wish.

Some of our members do not or cannot talk and others make noise during services; some do not like to be touched and some like to hug; some are confident and some feel very anxious. Please be sensitive to this – everyone is different and they are probably not trying to offend you. If you find something difficult, please speak to one of the ministers in person or by phone or email.

All-Age Worship (N)

This service is usually on the first Sunday of every month at 10:00 in the morning and lasts for about an hour. Everyone stays in (adults and children) and the service is more likely to use simpler words, have songs the children will enjoy as well as the adults, and have a shorter talk with more illustrations. Often in this service we have baptisms or thanksgivings (see the baptism and thanksgiving section of this website, under ‘Events’, for what it is like to watch one of these).

Morning / Evening Worship

This service follows the following structure:

A song or songs sung in the background as people settle

The worship leader inviting everyone to stand for a song

The service leader welcoming everyone

Notices about things going on in Church

Sentences and responses are said from the service book or on the screen.

Prayers, including confession

Song(s)

Reading(s) from the Bible

Sermon

Song(s)

Creed

Intercessions – prayers for the church, the world, our community, those who are sick or in need. These are spoken by someone who has volunteered on the rota. You may be asked to join in with amen or with another phrase like Lord, have mercy.

Blessing

Song to end.

Holy Communion

This service is usually on the 2nd and 4th Sundays in the morning and on the 1st and 3rd Sundays in the evening. This can change if there is a special occasion.  

This service follows the following structure in the morning:

A song or songs sung in the background as people settle

The worship leader inviting everyone to stand for a song

The service leader welcoming everyone

Notices about things going on in Church

Sentences and responses are said from the service book or on the screen.

A short child-friendly story, talk or activity

Prayers, including confession

3 songs, with all the children and teen and their leaders going out to the Hall at the end of the second song for their groups.

(sometimes at this point more words are said together – the Gloria – from the service book)

Reading(s) from the Bible. If there is a Gospel reading we stand up to hear it.

Sermon

Song(s)

Creed

Intercessions – prayers for the church, the world, our community, those who are sick or in need. These are spoken by someone who has volunteered on the rota. You may be asked to join in with amen or with another phrase like Lord, have mercy. Sometimes there is an opportunity for church members to pray out loud – this will be introduced by the leader and you can join in if you like: some of our members like to pray this way, others stay quiet.

Passing the peace. The service leader introduces this and ends with words like (in our service book) The peace of the Lord be always with you and we all respond with and also with you then shake hands with each other saying, Peace be with you. 

Song – when this starts people gradually return to their seats and start singing. Money gifts are collected during this song. If you would like to give, please do, but you do not have to. We put the money we give on a plate or in a bag that is passed around so you do not need to leave your seat and just need to pass the plate or bag to the next person. During the song, the money gifts and the wine and bread may be brought to the front and given to the minister.

Eucharistic prayer – Eucharist/Lord’s Supper/Communion are all words for sharing wafers and wine together. We hear the prayer and join in the parts in bold type in the service book, then when the minister invites us, we come up to the rail and either stand or kneel to receive the bread and wine. One of the sidespeople who handed out the books will let you know when your row should go up. If you cannot come up to the rail, the minister can come to you – please let us know before the service if you would like communion in your seat.

The music group may play and sing during communion and people can join in or just listen. The children and their leaders come back in for communion.

Prayer after everyone has returned to their seats

Blessing

Song to end.

In the evening, we follow the same structure but there is no child-friendly slot and the children do not leave and return.

Creative Holy Communion

This service is a different kind of communion service: it usually has different service sheets rather than using the book, so the words are different, and communion is set up on a small table with chairs gathered around it in a half-circle.

It is less formal, so sometimes the minister passes the wafer or bread to the first person in the semi-circle then that person passes it to the next and so on, then the same with the cup of wine. If you are nervous about what to do, sit in the middle of the semi-circle so you can watch what others do first. If you do not wish to receive the bread and wine, please say so. We will not be offended.

If the minister is going to do things differently, they will explain how it will work first before you do it.

Listening to God (Q)

This is a service focused on prayer. It is quite different to the other services. It usually does not have any singing, but often has more activity than other services.

Sometimes, when you go in there will be Prayer Stations. This means there will be a short introduction by the service leader then people move around the church doing different prayer activities while some quiet music plays in the background. You do not need to do all of the activities – some people do them all, others might do a couple, or stay just doing one. The activities might include writing things down, making something (e.g. braiding different strands of coloured wool together or tying knots in a piece of string, with each knot representing a person or situation to pray for), drawing or painting, holding or moving objects like polished stones, lighting candles, looking at a picture and thinking or perhaps tasting something (e.g. sweets, bread or fruit). The activities will all have an instruction sheet with how to do it and what it might help you to think about or pray for.  Near the end, the service leader may gather everyone together so they can tell each other about what they prayed about if they wish to, and say a prayer together before leaving.

Sometimes, the service will be a Prayer Walk. It will begin with payer and instructions from the service leader and then you will be asked go outside in pairs or small groups to walk around the community and pray about the things you see. Everyone comes back just before the end of the service so they can tell each other about what they prayed about if they wish, and say a prayer together before leaving.

Songs & Testimony

This service starts at 4:30 instead of 6:30 and goes on for an hour until 5:30. It is made up of a welcome to start, a blessing to end and in the middle a set of stories and songs, one after the other, shared by different people. A person chooses a song beforehand, then on the day of the service before it is sung they tell everyone why they chose it – the story behind why it is important to them. Sometimes there is a Bible reading and a short talk in the middle of the service, but not always: it depends how long the stories are.

Monday Evening Reflection (Q)

This is a quiet, half-hour service done in low light with candles in the church entrance. It takes place every Monday evening from 7:00pm till 7:30pm with informal conversation afterwards if people choose to stay till 8:00. Chairs are set out in a circle and on every seat is placed a copy of a Bible reading in large print. In the centre of the circle is a small table with candles on it. When you arrive, just sit quietly in one of the seats.

  • The leader plays a Taize chant – you can listen to an example by following the link here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7GexIvX8HU If you would like to sing along quietly, do.
  • The leader tells the group how things will be done and in what order (basically, the things in this list)
  • The reading is read slowly and clearly. As you listen, if a word or phrase (sentence or part of a sentence) stands out or interests you, think about that. You do not need to concentrate on all the rest once something has ‘spoken’ to you (meaning, caught your attention or got you wondering/feeling/thinking)
  • Silence to think about what word or phrase from it that caught your attention.
  • Whoever would like to, by turns round the circle, reads out just the word or phrase that they are interested in. You do not need to say anything, you can just stay quiet and think if you like – lots of people prefer to do that.
  • The same reading is read slowly and clearly a second time. As it is read, you can ask God in your mind what he is telling you through the reading, particularly through the part that got your attention last time round.
  • Silence  to think.
  • Whoever would like to, by turns round the circle, tells the rest of the group in just a few sentences what they think God is saying to them through the bit they found interesting and/or what they thought about or felt when they read it. No-one replies or interrupts.
  •   The same reading is read slowly and clearly a third time. This time, as it is read, ask God in your mind what he wants you to do or pray about.
  • Silence to pray by ourselves.
  • The leader plays a Taize chant
  • The leader speaks a blessing
  • The leader plays another Taize chant softly – at this point the service is over and some people go while others might stay for a while to talk.

People often like this service because it is quieter, gives space to think and they do not need to talk or sing if they do not want to.

Midweek Holy Communion 

This happens on some Wednesdays at just after midday, in the church or sometimes in the church hall. It is shorter and informal in style, a bit like Creative Holy Communion, but the words used are the words in the book.  If the minister is going to do things differently, they will explain how it will work first before you do it.