Cedars Spiritualist Church
By Rachel Sloane
Forget all your ideas about ouija boards, dimmed lights, crystal balls or Hollywood props – a spiritualist church looks much like any other if The Cedars in Ipswich is anything to go by.
I visited the centre in Anglesea Road, Ipswich on a Saturday night for their weekly service where a medium is present to pass on 'messages' from those who are dead - or as they say have 'gone back to spirit'.
Based for over eighty years in the ground floor of a Victorian house it was the location of the Ipswich Psychic Society and was visited by Arthur Conan Doyle who, as well as writing the Sherlock Holmes stories, was a great believer in spiritualism. With a room for 'healing', a tea room, kitchen, medium's sitting room and a main hall for services which seats around 100 people, the premises are friendly and welcoming.
Spiritualism is defined as "a rational religion based on knowledge, proven through mediumship, that the human spirit survives physical death". The services include prayers to a non-denominational 'Father God' or 'Great White Spirit' and are attended by people of all religions and none. The church says people of all ages attend and increasingly more are in their late teens and twenties.
After my tour I joined around fifty people and the service began with hymns and a prayer. Candy then began passing on 'messages' to some of those present that she claimed to be receiving from their loved ones.
During my visit, the spirits seemed preoccupied with food (home-made cakes, Liquorice Allsorts and jellied eels), inheritances and with offering reassurance and advice on everything from driving safety to careers.
Candy, as she spoke, was pausing to listen and, with an occasional chuckle, would ask specific people there if they would accept a message before passing on what she was 'hearing'.
Converting a sceptic
Allan Hall joined the church after his wife died. He had been bringing her to services for years but had always left and gone to the pub for a beer. After she passed on he felt the need to come to services himself. I asked him if it was disappointing to sit through a service and receive no message, but he explained that he has found when you were most in need of hearing from your loved one , a message would come through – he had many in the early days of his bereavement, but fewer as time had gone on.
From its Victorian beginnings, spiritualism became very popular during the world wars, then less so during the late 20th century. Now, according to members at the Cedars, it is increasing in popularity again, so much so that there are three such churches in Ipswich alone.
last updated: 23/04/2008 at 13:15
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