Is this your first time coming to a service?
Read on to find out more!
Who are we?
The three churches in our Benefice provide different worship experiences:
Shipham’s general style of worship is the most informal: we use visuals and many modern songs. It fits the modern interior of the church well. The church is an integral and active part of the village. Shipham’s mission is to be a living and effective witness to Jesus Christ in Shipham. If you are bringing children to the service, there is no Sunday School currently but we love having them and there is an area at the back of the church for activities.
Rowberrow uses the 1662 Book of Common Prayer so is much more formal worship, with more traditional hymns. Again, it fits the ancient church interior well. Following the liturgy (words in the order of service) that has been followed for over 300 years provides an experience steeped in history and tradition: your prayers will be added to the prayers of the centuries!
Axbridge falls within the middle of these two experiences, with a mixture of older and more modern music: Evening Praise is the most informal.
Axbridge Church is a civic town church so we’re involved with many of the civic activities and work closely with the Mayor, Town Clerk and Town Council. We therefore hold civic services in the church throughout the year.
Whichever you choose, you’ll find a group of people who are here to worship and who will welcome you. We hope you enjoy your visit to our places of Christian worship and pray that you will know God’s peace and blessing as you go on your way.
First time visiting us?
If you’re not used to a church service, coming into one can be daunting: ‘Where do I sit?’, ‘How do I know when to stand?’
We understand this: don’t worry! We either use a service booklet, which has marked in it all the places where we sit and stand. And even if you do get it ‘wrong’ – everyone does at times and no-one will worry!
We have someone every week who welcomes everyone – new or regular – so you can be sure of a welcome when you walk through the door. If you’re feeling nervous, do tell them. You can also ask to sit with someone to help you, if that makes it easier for you.
Where are we?
Axbridge Church is in the town centre, off the north-east side of the square.
The church’s address is:
Church Ln, Axbridge BS26 2AP
Level access is via Church Lane or there are steps up from the medieval town square. There may be some parking available in the square or there are two other car parks nearby.
Shipham Church is off the main road through Shipham. If you’re approaching from the Cheddar direction, it’s on your left, tucked back off the road.
The church’s address is:
The Square, Shipham BS25 1TW
There is level access from the road, on which there is free parking.
The 668 bus starts at the Miner’s Arms in Shipham and goes to Street. See the timetable here.
Rowberrow Church is next to the manor house on the road through the hamlet.
The church’s address is:
16 Observatory Field, Winscombe BS25 1LL
There is level access from the road. There is limited parking at the church when there is a service but there should be parking available outside the church at other times. If you’re coming for a service, there is usually someone outside to advise where you can park.
There is no public transport which goes to the church.
What to wear for a service
There are no rules about this! Wear whatever you like – as long as you’re decent! - from your ‘Sunday best’ to shorts and a t-shirt; no-one minds. What’s important is you’re there, not what you wear!
A note for the winter months: although all three churches are heated, they lose heat quite quickly – wear something warm!
If you’re coming to visit during the week, our churches are open daily throughout the day There are guides in each church to tell you more about the building.
When you arrive
Someone will greet you and will give you what you need for the service; this will usually be an order of service, telling you what happens when, along with our weekly newsletter and a hymn book, if you need one. If we’re doing a practical activity within the service, you’ll either be given what you need or it will be in the pews. If you have a young child with you, at Axbridge, there are activity bags available for them; just ask for one. If you’re coming for a service in Shipham, there’s a space at the back with activities for children plus space to sit with them; just ask if you need anything.
Where to sit
You can sit wherever you like – no-one is precious about where they sit. Just be wherever is comfortable for you. We’d suggest that you don’t sit at the very front for your first service, so that you can see what others are doing for reassurance!
What to expect
If you’ve never been to a service in Church, you’re probably feeling a little concerned about what is going to happen. Let’s take you through some potential concerns.
How long will the service last?
Service length is variable, depending on the type of service, the number of people and any activities within it. A parish communion can last for somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half. Evensong lasts for about 30 – 45 minutes. Evening Praise tends to be for round about an hour.
What’s actually included in the service?
All services will have a mixture of praise and worship, readings from the Bible and different types of prayer. A communion service will also have a time for members of the congregation to greet one another. Most services include a time for teaching or reflection, which is usually between ten and twenty minutes long; in an informal service, this can be split into more than one part. Sometimes the praise and worship is one hymn or song followed by spoken words but, in a more informal service, there is usually a time of praise where multiple songs are sung. At Shipham, after the morning service on the fourth Sunday of the month, there are people available to pray with you; this is usually specifically around healing but can be prayer about anything on your heart or mind.
How will I know what to do?
You’re in church to encounter God – perhaps for the first time – not to worry about ‘getting it right’. It will be clear when to sit and stand but no-one will probably even notice if you get it ‘wrong’. If it makes you feel more comfortable, ask the person welcoming you to introduce you to someone so you can sit with someone who will guide you.
What about communion?
Communion is the act of taking bread and wine which have been blessed by the priest. These are a celebration and memorial of Christ giving his body and blood to pay for our sins so we can be with God. You may take communion if you’ve been baptised in the Church of England or you usually take communion in your own church, of whichever Christian denomination.
Communion comprises taking bread and wine. In our churches, the ‘bread’ is symbolised by a circular wafer. Before Covid, everyone drank a sip of wine from the same cup but, since the pandemic, we’ve been intincting – the priest dips the wafer in the wine then gives it to you. We’re currently offering a choice between intinction and drinking directly from the common cup.
If you are not able to take communion or would prefer not to, that’s absolutely fine, too. At the beginning of inviting people to come forward, the priest will invite everyone who doesn’t wish to take communion to come for a blessing when the rest of your row goes up. They will tell you what to bring (e.g., the service booklet) or what to do) e.g., stand with your head bowed) to signify that you want a blessing rather than communion.
What if I need to go out during the service?
This happens more than you’d think. If you need to go out for any reason, feel free to do so without worrying. Please note that the toilet at Axbridge is in the church rooms, halfway down the steps on the left. Shipham’s toilet is round at the back of the church – go out of the door and follow the path to the right - and is a composting toilet. Rowberrow has no toilet!
What if I would like prayer ministry?
There is specific prayer ministry after the fourth Sunday of the month at Shipham. This means praying with people for whatever they need. However, prayer is available at all times for everyone. There is a prayer chain, based in Shipham, and a monthly prayer hub, also in Shipham. You can also ask to be included in the prayer list on our weekly newsletter, In Touch. If you need prayer, please contact the Priest in Charge or the church office. We’re always happy to pray with and for anyone who asks for it!
Are services only on a Sunday?
While most services are on a Sunday, at some times of the year, services are held on different days of the week; for example, if Christmas Eve or Christmas Day falls during the week, the Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services, and the Ascension Day service. The period between Ascension Day and Pentecost – known as Thy Kingdom Come (more information here) – also includes more services during the week. Keep an eye on In Touch, our weekly newsletter, to know what’s on and when.
I have disabilities or will be with someone who does; am I still welcome?
Absolutely! If you or someone you’re with has a physical disability, all our churches have level access. Please note, though, that the toilet at Axbridge is only accessible via steps.
If you’re coming with someone who has a disability and can be noisy, please don’t worry: just let them do what they need to do!
Updated by AMF & HJF 09 January 2024