Information for Visitors

Panoramic view of left side of church interior

A long view of part of the church interior

We want to extend a warm welcome to all visitors to our church, ranging from those who are used to worshipping elsewhere right across to those for whom the whole idea of church attendance is novel and perhaps even a little bit intimidating.

If you are used to church-going you will probably have a pretty good idea what to expect at our services. You may want to have a look at the web page describing our patterns of worship, just in case, but there are not likely to be many surprises for you here.

If you are a novice church-goer, someone who has never attended a church, or who stopped going years ago, or who has only gone inside a church building for christenings, weddings, and funerals, you probably want to know what you should expect to happen during a typical church service. This page is particularly likely to be relevant to you.

We shall try to answer the following questions that you may have:

If you have other questions, ones that we haven’t thought of, do let Lisa Barnett (revlisa@sash.org.uk) or John the web site maintenance bloke (webmaster@sash.org.uk) know about them. We shall try to answer you, and we may well update the website with your queries, to benefit other people.

Where is Scaynes Hill?

Scaynes Hill is a village in England, in the county of West Sussex. It is pretty close to the centre of Sussex (East and West), east of the town of Haywards Heath, and, very roughly, about a third of the way from Brighton to London.

How do I get to Saint Augustine’s?

Unless you live in or near to Scaynes Hill, the answer is probably going to involve a car. Public transport is limited in Scaynes Hill.

You can find a map showing where the church is on the location page; there are no car parks near the church, but it is generally possible to find street parking not too far away — but please don’t park at the far end of St Augustine's Close (this is the area behind the church and in front of the flats) which, as a notice there states, is “Residents Only Parking”. Broadly speaking, the earlier you arrive, the better are your prospects of finding a parking space close to the church.

If you have stumbled upon this site whilst looking for a church, but cannot realistically travel to Scaynes Hill to worship with us, then you can look for a more convenient place of worship at A Church Near You.

What is the church like?

There are at least two different possible answers to this. There are pictures of what the church exterior looks like on the Welcome page and the Location page, and plenty of images of the interior in the pages on Our Building — the Quicktime Virtual Reality Movies pages there may be the best way to get an overview of the internal appearance of the church — unless you are using a 64-bit version of Windows, in which case you may not be able to view them.

Or the question may be about what the worship is like. This is probably most succinctly summed up as “Biblical Preaching, Eucharistic Worship”, for those who are familiar with the different ways in which worship is done within the Church of England. There are more details on our Worship page. In case this still doesn’t answer the question, it may help to know that we do not use incense, and hands do not generally get raised high above our heads as we worship. Speaking in tongues doesn’t happen here, either, unless you count our very occasional forays into a language like Sierra Leone Krio when visitors from West Africa teach us one of their worship songs.

What should I wear?

We recommend clothes of some sort. Even in very hot weather you will probably feel more comfortable if you are clothed than if you are not.

Seriously, wear clothes that you feel comfortable wearing. If they are particularly out of the ordinary then they may turn heads, but if you are used to wearing out of the ordinary clothes you are probably used to turning heads. Don’t feel that you must wear special clothes because it’s church; only the Vicar has to do that. In particular, hats are entirely optional for female members of the congregation.

What happens in Church?

When you enter the building

Outer door of the church

Church Door

Font being used as a kind of temporary flowerpot

Font or Flower Pot?

Let’s start at the beginning; you have arrived at St Augustine’s some minutes before a service is due to begin (and you can find the times for these on the schedule of services page), you have entered the outer door of the church, come through the small porch, perhaps pausing to have a quick look at the notices on the wall of the porch, you have passed through the main door into the church, and you want to know what is now expected of you. Is there something that everyone is waiting for you to do? No, not particularly. Just ahead of you, at about the same distance as the font (which may or may not have a display of flowers in it when you come), there will be someone standing and handing things out from a small table — a service booklet, probably, a newsletter for the week, a hymnbook in all probability, and perhaps a Bible — and whilst you are exchanging greetings with this person, you will collect these items, and then find somewhere to sit.

Sitting down

Photograph of pews, with chairs in background

Pews and Chairs

Photograph of hassocks

Hassocks

There are two sorts of seating at Saint Augustine’s, the wooden pews on the right of the church as you stand facing the tapestry, and the more ordinary chairs on the left. Normally you can (and should) sit where you like. Very occasionally there will be some seats reserved, but if there are, then they will be labelled.

It might be an idea, if you are at all concerned that you may not do the right thing at the right time, not to sit close to the front of the church. That way you will be able to watch what other people are doing, and do the same thing yourself. It will probably become clear quite quickly that not even regular worshippers here always know exactly when they should stop standing and start sitting.

To avoid any possible risk of embarrassment, you should know that the cushion-like things found amongst the pews, some on the floor, some hanging from the backs of other pews, are “hassocks” or “kneelers” for the benefit of those who prefer to pray kneeling rather than sitting, but who still want to take good care of their knees.

Saying hello

You may well find yourself being welcomed by members of the congregation who recognise that you are new to us. Don’t feel too bad if you are not greeted before the service, or if people have only a very quick chat with you; some will be preparing for the worship, perhaps because thay have a specific role to play in it, whilst others may be waiting until the tea and coffee are served afterwards (9:30 am services other than on the first Sunday of a month) before they engage in conversation.

The start of a typical service

Let’s suppose that it is a 9:30 am service to which you have come. At the start of the service Lisa Barnett, or whoever is conducting the service that week (the celebrant or president as such a person is occasionally described), will come forward, stand in front of us, and wish us a good morning. She or he will read out any notices for the week, and then the service will begin. You will have been handed a service booklet when you came in, and you can follow what is happening in that.

As a very brief summary, we and the person conducting the service greet each other in the name of the Lord, we confess our sins and are assured of God’s forgiveness, and a couple of hymns are sung; during the first of these the younger children will leave for their activities. The second hymn, which is in the service booklets, is often known by its Latin name, Gloria in excelsis — though you may be relieved to know that we sing it in English! There will be a couple of readings from the Bible, ordinarily one from the Old Testament and one from the New, and another hymn will be sung.

Next the celebrant will read a passage from one of the four Gospels, the books in the Bible that tell about the life of Jesus, and preach a sermon, a talk about some subject that will most often be linked to one of the Bible passages to which we have listened. Whilst there are people who feel that a sermon isn’t a proper sermon if it lasts less than half an hour, Lisa and the other people invited here (at least for a second time) are not normally like that. They are usually concise and to the point — which is another thing that you may be relieved to hear.

Joining in the Peace

After the sermon comes the creed, when we all join in saying out loud a statement of what we believe. Then we pray, for the Church and for the world. After that comes the peace. The person leading the service will say something like “The peace of the Lord be always with you” and we reply “and also with you”, then she or he says “Let us offer one another a sign of peace.”. This is the cue for everyone to start shaking hands with the people near them, whilst saying “Peace be with you.” or words to that effect. Married couples have been known to kiss one another at this point.

How much will it cost?

The next hymn is called the “offertory” hymn. During it a collection of money will be taken. If you are able to put money in this, and wish to do so, then go ahead. Otherwise let the collection bag pass you by. Do not feel that you must put money into the collection if you cannot afford to, or even if you do not want to.

The communion

Now comes the preparation for the communion. There is quite a build-up to this, including everyone saying the Lord’s Prayer together. It culminates in the distribution of bread and wine to those members of the congregation that take it — but not everyone will. As Saint Augustine’s is a part of the Church of England, all Christians of other denominations who normally receive communion in their own church are welcome to do so here, too. If you do not usually receive communion you have two options: some people will remain sitting when others file up towards the altar rail, whilst others will come up to the altar rail for a blessing — they may carry their service booklet in their hands, to help the celebrant recognise what they have come for.

If you talk with the person who led the service after it has finished, she or he will normally be very happy to help you learn more about Jesus, so that you will in time be able to join in the communion — though it is possible, if we have a guest celebrant whilst Lisa is away, that he or she may have another urgent commitment elsewhere after finishing at St Augustine’s.

After the communion, the service is almost over. There are prayers of thanksgiving for the communion, and then will come the dismissal, and the service is over. This will be about an hour after it began.

A chat over drinks and biscuits

Photograph of people drinking hot drinks and chatting, with the table from which drinks and biscuits are served just visible in the background

Tea, coffee, biscuits, and conversation

After the 9:30 service on almost every Sunday (except the first in each month), tea, coffee, squash and biscuits will be served, free of charge. Although people will be talking to their friends, it is highly likely that you will find quite a few people wanting to talk to you. We hope that you will want to stay and talk with us!

What exactly do you believe?

The answer depends upon how much detail you want. There are single sentence summaries that are easy to understand, if lacking in detail, and massive books that are very comprehensive, if not very easy going, that seek to answer this question.

One reasonably brief and clear explanation, written in plain, jargon-free English, can be found on the Chichester Diocese web site.

You may also find the Frequently Asked Questions from the web site of Portsmouth Diocese to be helpful.

What are your views on women priests?

We think that the ones we have and have had here, leading our worship and celebrating the eucharist, are lovely.

A considerable number of Christians do have theological objections to the ordination of women; we at St Augustine’s do not. We welcome people holding either, or neither, of the opposed views on female ordination, but it is only fair to point out that the probability is high that any given communion will be celebrated by a woman. If this is a problem for you, then you may feel uncomfortable worshipping with us. There is a directory of churches in the Diocese of Chichester where you may feel more comfortable here. Although we should prefer to have you worshipping God with us, having you worship God somewhere comes a close second.

What sort of people go to St Augustine’s?

Quite similar people to the ones that don’t. We come in different sizes, different ages, men and women, girls and boys, with different personalities, different interests, and different occupations. If you live in Scaynes Hill, you have probably met some of us. We have problems to face in our lives, just as often as people who don’t go to any church have problems — perhaps different problems, perhaps the same problems. We believe that, as Christians, we have help in facing those problems, but that doesn’t mean that we do not have them.

One thing we are not is people who believe that we are better or holier than others. If we really were as holy as all that, why should we need to go to Church? Much more importantly, we believe that God so loved the world that he sent his son, Jesus, to die for us on the cross. If God values human beings, us, and you, and the people around us, that much, who are we to disagree with him?

Come and meet us. You may find with us what we have found, a living relationship with God through Jesus.