Although I love to visit old churches, I have only ever been to a handful of church services in my life, so attending the Eucharist Service at the Abbey church was an unfamiliar experience for me. Nevertheless, I decided that a good way to begin the New Year was to go along one chilly Sunday morning for the 10.30 service.
Despite my misgivings and late arrival, I was ushered in and handed a prayer book and order of service before taking a seat in one of the back rows of the Abbey. There was a good turnout, even several small children playing in the toy area, and a few pet dogs with their owners. I settled down to take it all in. The Abbey never fails to impress, and I must say, the service in such a setting was a revelation. It began with the priest and clergy passing down the main aisle, all togged up in their vestments, carrying crucifixes and swinging the thurible, dispensing fragrant incense and creating a suitably spiritual atmosphere. There followed a good variety of readings, prayers, hymns, and even a telling of the story of the Nativity and arrival of the Magi for the children who sat and listened attentively in the centre of the aisle. And the choir sang beautifully when it was their turn. Along with the inviting atmosphere, the thoughtfully planned service was exceptionally well done.
Towards the end of the service, Father Christopher prepared the Holy Communion at the front, then worshippers were invited to come up for the blessing. Unsure about what to do, I just stayed in my seat, while almost everyone else trooped to the front of the church. I confess, I did feel some discomfort at this point. Not being a habitual churchgoer, I am unsure of the ‘etiquette’ or acceptable norms for attenders. My mother always told me "If in doubt, do nowt", so that's what I did. Otherwise, I felt at ease throughout and found the service uplifting, even if my barely audible mumblings and silence during prayers and hymns may not have made this apparent.
Was it a sin not to take Communion and receive the blessing? Perhaps, but a walk along the Tiffey afterwards with its picturesque view of the Abbey and sheep grazing in the foreground, despite a bitterly cold wind slicing the air, I felt at peace. So maybe the good wishes and handshakes of the other churchgoers around me, and Father Christopher bestowing messages of peace as he passed along the central aisle, had some positive effect on this sinner.
So, for any others like me, whether believers, doubters, lapsed churchgoers, atheists or agnostics, I would highly recommend visiting or even attending a service at Wymondham Abbey. The spirituality, sense of community and a warm welcome are there for everyone - even our canine friends.