It is quite a beautiful old church building adorned with a small steeple. Inside it is painted in pinks and blues, with plain windows admitting a lovely light. The floors are carpeted in red. At the front there are two raised wooden platforms, a higher one for the minister and a slightly lower one for the pair who would lead the singing.
Poolewe Free Church is in a team ministry with the villages of Aultbea and Inverasdale, which each have a Sunday morning service, while the evening one happens here. They also share worship with the Poolewe Associated Presbyterian congregation.
Poolewe is a tiny village in the north-western highlands of Scotland, on the shores of Loch Ewe and surrounded by mountains and the sea. The church is just beside the River Ewe and near a primary school and some houses. The road leads away from the church to farmland, where we saw sheep, cows and horses. This picturesque rural area is home to deer, many birds and small creatures.
The Revd Jeremy Ross, pastor, presided.
What was the name of the service?Evening Service.
How full was the building?
The building was quite full, probably over 100 people, with room for a few more. They all seemed to be local Highlanders, with a wide range of ages: adults, teenagers and younger children. Many families came in cars. Many of the women wore hats to church, though the men seemed to be in charge.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was greeted with a smile as I arrived, and given a printed leaflet along with the hymn book and Bible. The people sitting nearby were were friendly to me.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was very comfortable, cushioned to match the red carpet.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People chatted quietly and also checked the pew sheet and the hymns we would sing. Everyone seemed to come a bit early, rather than late.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"A warm welcome we extend to visitors. We worship with the congregation. We hope you enjoy fellowship with us. We sing psalms for our praise. We stand to sing and sit for all prayers except the final prayer."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Sing Psalms, and The Holy Bible, New International Version.
What musical instruments were played?
There were no instruments played, but two men stood at the front singing loudly and clearly to lead us in the hymns and psalms.
Did anything distract you?
A few times I remembered members of my family who had enjoyed playing music in churches.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Everyone sang well and stood still as we sang the psalms and a hymn from Isaiah. The singing was excellent, and I had a strong feeling of worshipping God.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – The pastor preached well, spoke well, and left us with good things to remember about Jesus and our own contact with God.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was about understanding what we are required to do about "communion." Jesus is our Saviour, and we remember his death in the bread and wine, which Jesus gave, saying (Luke 22:19): "This is my body given for you, do this in remembrance of me." We are all going to be with Jesus when we take our place in heaven. We are still sinners, and communion reminds us how Christ died on the cross to save us. We sit at the "Lord's table" in this church, but there are many people who who do not know or remember Jesus' story, and it is up to us to tell them and remind them. We do not get saved just by eating the bread and wine, but Jesus has already saved us. We pray to God to forgive our sins and then we share communion. Christ died on earth and went up to heaven and will come back to us and rescue us all. He will take his people to be with himself. Our citizenship is in heaven.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The prayers, the hymns and the preaching were all heavenly, all about Jesus loving and caring for us.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I was conscious of my sinful nature, worried that my own wrongdoing might hurt Jesus and make him love me less.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The pastor stood by the door to speak to us, and lots of people chatted with me and were friendly. I was shown where I could leave a donation, a collection not having been taken in the service.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was no tea or coffee on offer, as it was evening, but due to the time of year it was still sunny and warm as we all left.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – I really thought this was a very good kirk (Scottish for church). If I lived there I probably would go all the time.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I felt very glad to be a Christian and to sing the familiar psalms and hymns that we sang in the kirk I belonged to ages ago.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
I remember a prayer: "Pray for us as we join together to worship God and give thanks that we have the freedom to worship openly together." I will worship God regularly without forgetting.