Sunday, October 22, 2006

The not-at-all mysterious worshipper

Inspired by the mystery worshipper reports and shamelessly plagiarising the questions here is the low-down on our parish ...

Mystery worshipper: The Bookworm
The Church: A Roman Catholic Church in deepest Bedfordshire that will remain anonymous!
The building: Single storey, brick-built, rather uninspiring 1950s building. Replaced smaller "tin hut" on same site.
The community: Mixed bag - mainly English, Irish or Italian, but with a sprinkling of other nationalities.
The neighbourhood: Older part of town, a few minutes walk from town centre.
The cast: Father J, parish priest
Date and time: Sunday October 22nd, 10.30 Mass
How full was the building? Almost full - I would guess about 180 to 200 people.
Did anyone welcome you personally? Yes - an extremely large teddy bear (space is at a premium so donations for a Christmas bazaar are being left in the entrance area), P, an older lady who is a regular welcomer for the 10.30 Mass, and N, a 14yo boy on the autistic spectrum who gives out hymnbooks and missals..
Was your pew comfortable? Standard wooden pew, as comfortable as any other wooden pew. Fold down kneeler a little narrow but adequate.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere? Low but persistent hum of chatter.
What were the exact opening words of the service? "Good morning everyone. During our Eucharist this morning we remember that Jesus came among us to serve ... " (can't remember the rest of the introduction, but it was highlighting today's Gospel). Strictly speaking the introduction was not part of the Mass, which started with "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit".
What books did the congregation use during the service? Hymn book (Laudate) and a missal for the second half of Year B.
What musical instruments were played? Organ - small pipe organ installed fairly recently. Nice sound but frustrating to play as it has only one manual, few stops and no swell box (which allows volume control).
Did anything distract you? Star and Little Cherub!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what? Middle-of-the-road English Catholic. Sticks to the rubrics of the Mass, though not always to the strictest interpretation. Music a mixed bag - hymns ranged from Cardinal Newman to Graham Kendrick; main prayers of the Mass mostly sung, again mixed bag ranging from a traditional Alleluia, through modern-ish setting of Kyrie Eleison, to litany-style Lamb of God. Singing somewhere between tentative and moderately enthusiastic.
Exactly how long was the sermon? 5 minutes
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher? 7
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about? (A) Used references to a TV sit-com (Blackadder) to illustrate the inability of the apostles to grasp what Jesus was telling them, because it was so different to their expectations of the Messiah. (B). Ended by emphasising that Jesus came not to be served but to serve. Began with flippant humour, but overall the sermon was short, to the point and focused on the Gospel for the day. I'm not entirely sure how Father J got from A to B as I was distracted by a squeaking Cherub.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven? Reverently said Eucharistic prayer; receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion.
And which part was like being in ... er ... the other place? Kerfuffle of children coming back into Church from children's liturgy. One group got accidentally shut out, causing them eventually to collide with the offertory procession. Irritating clapping of children by congregation before they were sent back to their places.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost? Can't really answer that one. Too busy dealing with Star's friend F who had "lost" her boots - which, naturally, shouldn't have been off her feet in the first place. Suffice it to say that I was briefly in loco parentis while F's mother was taking grandma home ... and Star and F are two of a kind who need watching like hawks ... and Angel and her friend G (who happens to be F's sister) should know better!
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Basic but adequate - coffee or tea, orange squash for children, biscuits (or cookies, depending on your version of English!). Served in parish hall which is basic and inadequate - an old, prefabricated building, unheatable in winter and in dire need of replacement. Friendly and sociable. Children over-excitable.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10=ecstatic, 0=terminal)? 7½. I've had an off-and-on relationship with this parish, but it has grown on me over the years. It has some glaring weaknesses - the total lack of any input for over 8s being one - but nothing I can't live with. Overall it is a lot better than it was a few years ago and there is a good sense of community - it is easy to feel part of the Body of Christ.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian? Yes.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time? Seven days time? I have trouble remembering anything for 24 hours!

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