St Martin of Tours, Chelsfield (Anglican)

History

The church dates from the 12th century – from 1122 at the latest – with various additions and renovations made throughout the centuries since. The tower and side-chapel date from the 1200s, and the current pews were installed in 1886. The church founded a mission in 1890 a few miles away.

Appearance

The Grade II* listed building is in a cruciform shape, with a church hall named the Brass Crosby Room attached. A map can be found here.

The church has whitewashed walls beneath a ceiling held up with large wooden beams. On the walls are various monuments and memorial plaques, and the Ten Commandments are listed on either side of the archway between the nave and chancel.

A crucifix is behind the pulpit, and the stained glass windows above the altar (which was decorated with orange on the day I visited) display Christ surrounded by angels.

Clergy

As the church’s vicar was away at the parish’s mission church this Sunday, the service was taken by a reader, who wore a blue tippet and choir dress (the standard Anglican liturgical dress for a lay reader). There were also two ladies who helped him take the service, both dressed in black, one of whom played the organ.

Congregation

There was a rather small congregation: only nineteen people, not including myself, fourteen women and five men. Most seemed to be middle-aged, and there were two children. I don’t think anybody was of an ethnic minority.

With the congregation being so small, everyone immediately noticed me as a visitor! Everyone was very friendly, welcoming me to their church and talking to me about it. There was a real community spirit here, in a way that welcomed rather than excluded outsiders.

Service

I attended the 10:00 am Family Worship service (the schedule of services was recently changed, and can be found on the church’s website; the sign outside still gave the old times).

The service began with the reader welcoming the congregation, and with the signing of a hymn (we used Songs of Fellowship hymn books). There were then prayers of penitence, followed by the gospel reading – Matthew 4:12-23 – read by a girl who came up from the congregation.

After the reading came another hymn, and we then prayed the collect for the day. After sharing the peace with each other, the reader gave some notices, which led on to the sermon.

The sermon itself was rather “interactive”. It was on the Bible reading, wherein Jesus calls his first apostles to be fishers of men. The reader asked the congregation if they could name all twelve disciples, and we were then asked to write names of “fishers” and “fishes” (i.e., people who had strengthened our faith and people we would like to see become Christians) on paper fishes which had been given out with the hymn books as we entered. These paper fishes were then gathered up in a big net, which was placed in the chancel.

After the paper fishes had been collected up, there were more prayers, and then a hymn was sung as the offering was taken. After the offering had been blessed, the service concluded with a final hymn and a prayer for the congregation.

The service lasted just under an hour.

Despite the setting of a traditional-looking parish church with wooden pews, the service was very much of the “low church” persuasion, with mostly modern hymns and the interactive paper fish element. There was no communion in the service I attended; the church alternates each Sunday morning between a communion service and a family worship service.

Afterwards

After the service, the congregation went into the adjoining church hall for tea, coffee, biscuits and conversation.

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