Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Derby City Church 2nd February 2020

In a previous post that has also seen print in the magazine Greenmantle (link below), I have discussed how I as a Pagan Nurse straddle the spiritual and the mundane. I have no objection to meeting persons on a different spiritual path and I outgrew the petty, childish intolerance shown by some towards mainstream religion many years ago. So when a colleague extends an invitation to join them at their church, I am not in any offended or displeased. I recognise the action for what it is, a well meaning gesture of goodwill.

I had made plans that on Sunday the 2nd of February 2020, I would attend the evensong service in Derby at the Anglican cathedral. This was  to hear a performance of a Ceremony of Carols, a beautiful piece of music composed by Benjamin Britten. I decided therefore, to make my visit to Derby a day out. First I would meet my work colleague at his church, then lunch and a visit to the local museum, ending the day with the service at the cathedral. A rather full day.

The City Church of Derby is based in a building situated on Curzon street close to the town (or city) centre. It is a Victorian building designed by Henry Isaac Stevens and it was opened as the Temperance Hall on the 27th of March 1853. By 1904 it was a cinema but that use ended in 1910 when the first purpose built cinema was built in Derby. The exterior is a red brick affair with a painted stucco fa├žade. The Temperance Hall is a Grade II listed building and has been home to an Elam Ministries congregation for over thirty years.

I arrived at the church at approximately 10am, a quarter of an hour before the expected start of the morning service. The building is known to me and easy to find. It was a wet, miserable morning and I was glad to get inside. Once inside I was very much warmer than I was out of doors, partly because of the welcome I received as I entered. Once it was ascertained that I was a first time visitor, leaflets were handed to me and the amenities pointed out. Everyone was very friendly.

As I had entered the narrow corridor-like hallway that ran across the inside lower front of the building, I had caught a glimpse of the main hall. I could appreciate the interior design that was roomy and well proportioned. I noticed the balcony running along three sides of the structure. Climbing the rather narrow stairs, I could look across the hall from the rear and see why this was a listed building. The architecture is distinctive in an unusually plain but charming way. The building itself is welcoming and light. At the far end is a low stage and it was clear that this building had been well suited, for its past use as a cinema and as a dance hall.

Standing there looking across the hall from the rear of the balcony, I misjudged my footing on the step of the terraced seating and fell onto my back. This caused some concern to a gentleman nearby who in the conversation after the incident, revealed himself to be a retired general practitioner. It was it has to be said, quite an entrance. One only I could make. In sharing this story on my return to work, more than one wit has asked whether I was struck by lightning as I entered the building but I can assure you all that did not happen. Nor as one wag has suggested, did the Lord smite me. My fall was down to my not paying attention to the steps and my total lack of balance.

Taking my seat on the balcony, I was joined by a steady stream of people. Looking down onto the main floor, I could see the seats below begin to fill. The hall was packed tight with perhaps two or three hundred people. An assortment of musical instruments, microphones and speakers were in place on the low stage, a projection screen hung above it.

The service was one of praise and not one of communion, which I believe are held monthly. The service began with the band taking the stage and leading the hall now standing, in the first popular hymn. The words of this and all later songs being helpfully projected upon the high screen. The music was joyful and exuberant, if not necessarily to my own personal taste.

My colleague joined me a later, he was a few minutes late and he came over to stand with me for the service. I think my attendance was a surprise for him but I sincerely hope it was a pleasant one. I stood for the singing and I sat for the 'sermon.' I took my prompts from my companion. It was my first visit after all, so it was natural that I take my cues on the correct etiquette from my colleague.

I noted with interest that the lyrics of one song, were an adapted version of the Apostle's Creed. This text is of course universal to all Christian denominations, in one form or another. The lead preacher or Pastor chose to focus on this particular song and had the song repeated with the text displayed over. Thus emphasising the intrinsic importance of this particular dogma to Christianity.

The sermon itself was interesting and quite different from what I am used to at other churches. It was energetic and dare I say; reminiscent of the American Evangelist but without the showmanship that is often so off putting to us English. The speaker addressed many important points with care and taste, including the dangers of the Chinese situation that at this time, was just beginning to attract our attention here in the West.

The Pastor also touched pertinently upon the dangers of intolerance and what qualifies as free speech. In this context he mentioned that the planned tour of the American evangelist Billy Graham had been the subject of some controversy, as it is felt in some parts of the United Kingdom that his preaching may constitute hate speech and be deemed anti-Islamic.

The Pastor here had actually made a minor slip, as Billy Graham died in the February of 2018. He clearly meant to say Franklin Graham, the son of the above mentioned and the CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. It is this member of the Graham family whose planned tour is facing objection and protest.

The points that he raised however, are still valid. The issues are these, at what point does expressing an opinion become controversial? At what point does preaching the Christian message become hate speech? At what point does tolerance for one faith, mean that we are expected to show intolerance towards another? This is a very complex issue and the answers are far from clear. In this respect the sermon was thought provoking in its exegesis. I have since attending this service, learnt that the Pastor passed away very recently and I therefore dedicate this post to his memory.

The service ended as it began, with more music and singing. It was a surprisingly long service running from 10.15am to 11.45am, far longer than the usual Anglican gathering. I found my attendance to have been enlightening, educational and worthwhile. In particular in that it has aided my understanding of a denomination that I knew little about and in gaining an insight of the world view of my friend.

Living in Two Worlds

Derby City Church on Facebook

Elam Ministries

Franklin Graham UK Controversy #1

Derby Temperance Hall #1

Derby Temperance Hall #2

So We'll Go No More a Roving by Lord Byron (George Gordon)

So, we'll go no more a roving
   So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
   And the moon be still as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath,
   And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
   And love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving,
   And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a roving
   By the light of the moon.


IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
'Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Saturday, 11 April 2020


When this is over we shall meet again
We shall go on trips;
And I shall show you the hidden places.
We shall have lunches, dinners and picnics.
We shall go to the theatre;
And we shall learn to live again.

When this is over we shall meet again
We shall not forget;
And we shall share the hidden places.
We shall have adventures.
We shall go to church and temple;
And we shall learn to live again.

When this is over we shall meet again
We shall remember;
And we shall share our stories.
We shall be happy.
We shall be joyful;
And we shall learn to live again.

Text & Photography © Daniel Bran Griffith