Liverpool Cathedral (Exterior)

Liverpool Cathedral, Liverpool, England


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Liverpool Cathedral
Location: Liverpool, England
Date of visit: Thursday, 21 February 2013, 12:05pm

The building

Noted 20th century architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's Neo-Gothic masterpiece, the Cathedral Church of Christ in Liverpool is Britain's largest cathedral. It has the world's highest and widest Gothic arches and the heaviest and highest peal of bells. I find it rather gaunt looking from outside; but when you enter, the array of pointed arches leads the eye heavenward, generating an incredible feeling of awe. There is a complete absence of supporting pillars between the magnificent Te Deum and Benedicite windows, hence the enormous nave is known as the "central space." The resplendent reredos behind the high altar is embellished in gold leaf. It features scenes of Christ's nativity, passion and resurrection as well as the Last Supper and Crucifixion.

The church

It is a busy cathedral in a large city, a centre of diocesan activity. And, as one would expect, there is a daily rhythm of worship.

The neighborhood

Situated on St James's Mount, the cathedral dominates the city. Viewed from the river Mersey, it is a distinctive part of the Liverpool skyline. Residential properties, church offices and university buildings surround it.

The cast

I was unable to find out the name of the celebrant. I suspect he would be a retired priest.

What was the name of the service?


How full was the building?

The cathedral was teeming with people, especially children, because it was half term. Such was the level of children's noise that I nearly missed the announcement, over the public address system, that the service was about to start. The service itself took place in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit and there were 12 people in the congregation.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

A gowned official guided me to the chapel.

Was your pew comfortable?

Yes, it was comfortably cushioned.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Very quiet and reflective.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Common Worship Order 1.

What musical instruments were played?

Well, if there had been a choice, I would have sat in the main body of the cathedral listening to the magnificent Willis organ, which is the largest pipe organ in the country. Unfortunately there was no music in this service.

Did anything distract you?

The reredos was a large painting featuring Christ in prayer on a mountainside overlooking the Sea of Galilee, and it made me remember a beautiful window in my home church of Christ preaching from a boat on the Sea of Galilee.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

It was formal and dignified. The vested priest was preceded by a verger, who also assisted him in the service.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

It was just a short address of a few minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

9 – He spoke eloquently.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Have we allowed God into our lives recently? People often shut God out, but we must open the door for him.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

I thought it was lovely that visitors to the cathedral, who were total strangers to each other, wanted to participate in this devotional service and desired to share their expressions of peace with each other.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

I didn't really feel in the other place at all, but there were some hiccups. At the beginning of the service, the celebrant found that the book of collects was missing. The verger had to go and find it, which caused a delay of a few minutes. Also, there seemed to be some confusion over the readings.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

I chatted with the priest and some of the people in the chapel, the main topic being, "Where do you come from?"

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

There wasn't any, although the cathedral has a very nice refectory and cafe.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

10 – I would love to attend a full-blown Sunday service here.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Definitely. The whole cathedral fills you with feelings of awe, magnificence, glory and wonder. The peacefulness and prayerfulness of the chapel was a spiritual haven.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

It has to be that feeling of awe when you first encounter the vastness of the cathedral and see such a magnificent interior.

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