Mystery Worshipper: Lambert
Church: St John the Baptist
Location: Beeston, Nottingham, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 2 January 2011, 10:00am
A medieval church restored in 1842 by the Victorian architectural team of Scott and Moffatt, known for their churches, cathedrals, and especially their workhouses. Only the chancel retains some medieval fabric. The church has been extensively renovated in the last few years, and was brightly lit and warm.
Lots of social activities, including Mothers Union, a singles group, a historical foods group, a walking group, plus activites for children.
Beeston is a suburb of Nottingham. It has a large population of students, as it is very close to the University of Nottingham. Beeston was a village until the 19th century and the church is in the historic centre of the village. Now the churchyard is dominated by an ugly 1960s shopping precinct, which is thankfully scheduled for demolition.
The Revd Wayne Plimmer, vicar, was the celebrant and preacher.
What was the name of the service?Sung Eucharist, Feast of the Epiphany (Anticipated).
How full was the building?
Mostly full. There were about 80-90 people in the congregation with perhaps 15-20 spare seats.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A service sheet and service booklet was handed to me with a cheery greeting of "Happy New Year."
Was your pew comfortable?
Very. The chairs are new and upholstered.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The organ played quietly before the service, but it was almost impossible to hear above the sound of the bells ringing in the tower.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"We stand to sing our first hymn: 'As with gladness, men of old.'"
What books did the congregation use during the service?
A Common Worship communion service booklet was handed out at the door. The hymns, lessons and prayers were printed in the pink service sheet.
What musical instruments were played?
The organ, an electronic instrument installed in 2008 that replaced an old pipe organ that had been extensively renovated over the years.
Did anything distract you?
Frequent interruptions to the flow of the service to tell us what page we were on, or that we were about to sing a hymn. Given that it was all printed, the announcements seemed unnecessary and distracting.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was moderately Anglo-Catholic but not so rigid and formal as to be unfriendly.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – I enjoyed the sermon very much. I felt the vicar delivered it well, addressing it to his congregation rather than just reading it out. He also made some clear and memorable points and didn't repeat himself, which is something I have experienced from other clergy.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The vicar preached on three aspects of the Wise Men: how they were strangers in a foreign land, how they had a difficult journey, and how they brought their best to Christ. He reflected on how these three aspects were relevant to us now.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
It was a very cold day outside, but warm inside the church. This was an unexpected surprise for a Victorian church.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The constant announcements. I think this was slightly patronising and interrupted the flow of the service.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A few people said hello and wished me a happy New Year as they milled around at the back of the church.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
It was difficult to escape from having a coffee, as it is served in the church by the west door. But I saw the brand name on the coffee jar and decided against sampling it. I had a cup of tea instead.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – A lovely building and good preaching, but I would look for interactions other than simply "Hello, happy New Year" and far fewer interruptions!
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 noise of the bells inside the church before the service.