St John and St Barnabas, Belle Isle, Leeds, England


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St John and St Barnabas
Location: Belle Isle, Leeds, England
Date of visit: Friday, 28 February 2020, 6:00pm

The building

A very austere looking building erected around the time of the Second World War. The interior is very Catholic looking, with ornate Stations of the Cross, various images and statues of saints, and a very ornate high altar.

The church

This church is in the Catholic tradition of the Church of England and is under alternative Episcopal oversight from the Bishop of Wakefield. They use the Roman Missal order of mass. The only parish organization mentioned on their website is the Church Lads' and Church Girls' Brigade, whose mission (quoting from their website) is to get ‘young people who may not otherwise go to Church … [to engage] in positive youth work and activities … that benefit their community and Church and develop them as people.’ There is morning prayer and solemn mass each Sunday.

The neighborhood

The church is located in Belle Isle, about three miles outside Leeds City Centre. Its name is thought to be a pun on the distinctive bell-shaped coal pits that once dotted the area. Belle Isle’s housing today is primarily estates, and the area is one of the most deprived in the country.

The cast

The vicar led the Rosary and conducted low mass, assisted by one acolyte.

What was the name of the service?

Rosary and Low Mass.

How full was the building?

About seven people in attendance.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

I was warmly welcomed by the churchwardens.

Was your pew comfortable?

It was very comfortable!

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?


What were the exact opening words of the service?

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Roman Missal.

What musical instruments were played?


Did anything distract you?

The gong that was rung during the Sanctus and offertory.

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

Traditional Roman mass with genuflecting, biretta, vestments and lots of intercession from Our Lady! Much higher than any Roman Catholic mass I've ever been to.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

No sermon.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The Rosary was beautifully said!

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

Not so keen on using the Roman Missal but it's not the end of the world.

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

Not a lot!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

There was none.

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

6 — Other than the Rosary, it left me cold.

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


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

The gong that was used instead of Sanctus bells.

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