Information for Visitors

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. 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.

Also on this page there is information for visitors to the website who would like to know more about our church history, buildings and their contents, including our special tapestry.

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

Where is Scaynes Hill?
Scaynes Hill is a village in England 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 St 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.

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 There is (often — unless it has been replaced by a temporary advertisement for a forthcoming event) a picture of what the church exterior looks like on the Home page. Here are some pictures of the interior (click on a picture for a larger view):

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. 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.

What kind of services do you offer?
10am Sunday Worship

A warm welcome awaits you to make sure you feel ‘at home’ and have everything you need. Here are some notes which you may find helpful:

  • We see ourselves as Christians from a variety of church backgrounds who have chosen to gather in the village’s parish church to worship together, support each other and grow in faith.
  • We use a variety of traditional printed booklets in contemporary language to guide us through the service.
  • We celebrate Holy Communion every week.
  • We follow the Church of England’s pattern of readings to hear both the Old and New Testament plus the Gospel.
  • There is a sermon every week.
  • We enjoy uplifting hymns and songs.
  • Members of the congregation offer prayers of intercession.
  • The weekly pew news sheet contains additional prayers and useful information about the life of the church.
  • There is filter coffee after church often with home-made cake.
  • The service is live streamed for those who cannot attend in person. But people who do come on a Sunday sometimes look back at the recording during the week to hear the sermon or the prayers again.

If you would like to delve more deeply into what we do and why then read the article called ‘God’s Hospitality’.

Other weekly services

Service times and other events are available in our church calendar and in the graphic below, where you will also see reference to Maranatha and Gateway. Maranatha (Come Lord Jesus) is a quiet, reflective service with Holy Communion which may incorporate individual anointing for God’s blessing and healing. Gateway is an informal time for discussion and sharing of questions and ideas around a theme in a supportive environment to encourage us as we seek to discover more about life and faith. The title Gateway is inspired by Jesus who is the gate for the sheep and the way, the truth and the life.

Here are some “sound bites” from our church members to give you a flavour of our services:

  • Our services are thoughtful… Exploring our ways of thinking and living.
  • They shine God’s light on what I thought I knew and let the Spirit of God challenge, guide and direct.
  • Sometimes they are challenging but always inclusive and accepting of each other.
  • Our services are kind, healing, full of peace 🕊️, and followed by great cakes.
  • Our services reflect God’s faithful love, accepting us as we are yet loving us enough to draw us closer to Himself.
  • In our worship we feel the joy of declaring truths about God and sing of our aspirations and prayers. All our worries can be set aside. Not that our problems or worries disappear but that we step more entirely into the eternal worship of God in the heavens.
  • Our services reopen the holes in our spiritual roof.
  • They explain God’s love in relevant contexts and help us understand ourselves and the plight of others.
  • They help us to accept God’s grace in whatever form it takes.
  • Worship is offered as a structured gathering designed to build a community equipped and committed to sharing the love of God with everyone.
  • At St Augustine’s Church are some of the kindest people I have ever met.
  • ‘We have attended SASH for 15 years & find the services uplifting, the sermons helpful, even challenging sometimes, & made some very dear friends.’
  • There is a sense of shared warmth. The mixture of quiet reflection & joyous worship coupled with exploration of the significance of different aspects of faith both for individuals and the church fellowship – keeps us thinking and praying. Also, we are offered many opportunities to contribute.
  • Sermons at St. Augustine’s don’t tell you what to think – they offer you something to think about!
  • SASH is a church where we are able to bring our whole selves through the church doors, without leaving our hearts and minds behind, without wearing a mask; this reflects the welcome, inclusion, love and acceptance we have felt there.
  • Being in a church community that offers the possibility of being able to be yourself, and to be accepted as yourself, is fundamental for us and probably explains why we so quickly felt at home.
What facilities are there for people with disabilities?

In the first place, there is wheelchair access through the annexe doors. This will involve a slight detour anti-clockwise around the church from the front entrance, but it will add seconds rather than minutes to journey times. One of our two lavatories is also designed to be accessible.

For people with hearing difficulties, a loop system is available. For people with vision problems, large print copies of our service books are available, upon request to the sidespeople. We regret, however, that we do not have resources in braille.

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

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 Calendar 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

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. We expect to gather together for tea or coffee in the annexe after a service.

The start of a typical service

Let’s suppose that it is a Sunday 10:00 am service to which you have come. At the start of the service 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, and then the service will begin, often with the singing of a hymn. 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 some hymns are sung. There will be a couple of readings from the Bible, ordinarily one from the Old Testament and one from the New. There is generally another hymn at this point.

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, most of the people who preach here (and all of those that preach more than once) are not like that. They are usually concise and to the point — which 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.”. Under ordinary circumstances, 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, but at present we are just waving to those in other seats.

How much will it cost?

We no longer pass around bags to collect money, during what is often called the “offertory” hymn. Offerings can be made electronically via contactless payment (the machine is in the Annexe), or even on-line: see our Donations page for more details. If you are able to contribute, and wish to do so, then by all means make a contribution. But 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, 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

After the 10:00 service on Sunday — and the 10:30 service on Thursday — tea, coffee, squash and biscuits are served, free of charge in the annexe. 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.

You may find the What we believe page from the web site of Church of England 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 the ordination of women as priests and their consecration as bishops, 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. In that case, here is a map of churches throughout England (and the Isle of Man!) where you may feel more comfortable. 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?

What are your buildings like?

A good case can be made for saying that a Church is not a building, but rather the group of people who use that building as a place in which to worship God. That is why these pages on our church building and its history come quite low in the navigation menu of the site, after the more important matters that concern people. Nonetheless, our building, perhaps like most churches, has a story that bears telling; for although St. Augustine’s is not architecturally distinguished, it does have an unusual and interesting history of dual use, some attractive woodwork and stained glass, and a magnificent tapestry.

The Church was built in 1858, and served as a chapel on Sundays and a school on weekdays for the next two decades. Its tower was a later addition, as was the north aisle. More recent additions include a vestry and a planned annexe. Most of the stained glass windows, except the windows in the tower, are explicit memorials to individuals and there are other memorials throughout the church, some to individuals, others group war memorials. Scaynes Hill was made a parish in 1930, and to celebrate its diamond jubilee a large tapestry was created, which is mounted in three sections at the east end of the church. The design of this tapestry is based around the Gospel of St John. There is also a sequence of paintings illustrating events in the story of the life of St Augustine of Canterbury.

Do you have an interesting history?
Yes, we do. You can find out about the earlier history of the church here; and later history from 1949 here.
What will I find inside the church?
We have a number of interesting artifacts inside the church, notably: