St Bride's, Glasgow (Exterior)

St Bride's, Glasgow, Scotland


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St Bride's
Location: Glasgow, Scotland
Date of visit: Sunday, 22 December 2013, 10:30am

The building

A red stone church designed by the 19th century Gothic Revivalist George Frederick Bodley, although only the north aisle of the planned north and south aisles was built. It is one of only two Bodley churches in Scotland. Work began in 1903 and the church was dedicated in 1907, although not consecrated until 1915 due to problems with the original workmanship. It has a soaring roof and a feeling of spaciousness inside. There is some lovely stained glass, well described on their website.

The church

They see themselves as a bastion of the Catholic tradition, with choral eucharist each Sunday being the focus of their worship. They also observe the daily offices, weekday celebrations of the eucharist, meditations on the Rosary, exposition and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and the sacrament of confession.

The neighborhood

This is Glasgow's West End, with several other churches nearby, plus the university and hospital.

The cast

The Revd Dr Kevin Francis, honorary assistant curate, was the celebrant; and the Revd Kenneth Roach, non-stipendiary priest, preached.

What was the name of the service?

Eucharist (1970 Liturgy)

How full was the building?

About 30 people present. The main nave has seating for about 80 and the north aisle can accommodate additional seating, which is where two latecomers chose to sit. The Episcopal Church of Scotland tends to find congregations among English expatriates in Scotland. The people we met and spoke to had English links. I saw no children save for one little girl who was obviously with her grandmother. But just as well, as nothing had been provided specifically for children in the service.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Yes. The couple handing out books at the door wished us a good morning. The rector came over, shook hands and greeted us. After we'd chatted briefly to the rector, someone else came over to chat more.

Was your pew comfortable?

We were seated in comfortable wooden chairs joined together in rows, with kneelers and pockets in the back for books. I suspect they were to the original Bodley plans, as he tended to design spaces that could be used in different ways, and chose not to put pews in many of his churches. There were cushions available on request.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

It was quiet and reverential, with people kneeling to pray or using the font or stoup before coming to their seats and sitting quietly. We were 10 minutes early and people were already in their seats when we arrived.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

The words of the service book. No additional welcome was made until the notices after the eucharist.

What books did the congregation use during the service?

New English Hymnal; self-published booklet with the liturgy and notes to follow; service sheet for the day with hymns, psalm, readings and settings plus notices.

What musical instruments were played?

Organ, the first to be lawfully installed and used during worship in a Scottish Presbyterian church. Its original home was Anderston Established Church (later Anderston and St Peter's), from which it was removed and placed in storage in 1969 and reinstalled in St Bride's in 1972.

Did anything distract you?

The eucharistic prayer from the liturgy. The wording and order were dissimilar enough from the Roman Missal my companion is used to, and the variations I know from Common Worship, to break the flow of the worship for both of us.

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

Formal, with aspersing at the beginning of the service, robed minister and assisting ministers, choir, sung settings, incense, bells, and gospel, complete with procession and censing. However, it didn't feel stiff-upper-lip, just carefully and reverentially joyous. Interestingly, they exchanged the peace at the conclusion of the eucharistic prayer, although there was no intention for anyone to shake hands with anyone!

Exactly how long was the sermon?

10 minutes.

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

7 – Quite conversational. I did wonder if the Revd Kenneth Roach was a lecturer at the university as well as chaplain.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Advent is a time of change, and for us to grow we have to embrace change and endure God's will. So Advent should be a time of taking up challenges as we remember the birth of Jesus and the challenges that Mary and Joseph accepted.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The atmosphere of the church and the warmth and friendliness of our welcome.

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

The wording of that eucharistic prayer.

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

We didn't get a chance to look lost, as we were chatted to by lots of people, and my companion also got chatted to when I was engaged by others.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Hot coffee in cups with biscuits on offer.

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

8 – The welcome was amazing, but this is the only church I've visited in Glasgow. If I were looking in the area, I would like to see other churches. That said, I could see me coming back to this one.

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

Yes. It was fantastic to be a part of such a warm friendly congregation and to see such care taken over worship.

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

The friendliness of the church.

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