Mystery Worshipper: The Old Man from Scene 24
Church: St John the Evangelist
Location: Horsham, West Sussex, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 8 July 2012, 6:30pm
A Perpendicular Gothic Revival stone and rubble church of 1919-23 with side chapels to the nave. It has a more recent hall with an impressive series of arches as its entrance. The main church building has only just closed in the past couple of weeks for refurbishment, and services are being held in the hall for the duration.
They support two primary schools and one secondary school in the local area. St John's itself has active links with the local Filipino community and runs a number of programmes: RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults); The Real Presence, which is a series of monthly talks helping Catholics discover Christ in their daily lives; and an Alpha course.
St John's is right in the heart of Horsham town centre next to a popular pub and opposite a United Reformed church.
The priest who led the service wasn't listed anywhere or named.
What was the name of the service?Evening Mass.
How full was the building?
Very full about 95 per cent, probably over 150 in attendance.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was running a few moments late so was walking briskly in. A member of the clergy was greeting people, but I wanted to catch the opening words of the service so didn't wait my turn to be greeted.
Was your pew comfortable?
Standard wooden pew without any cushioning. As the hall was so packed with these, I didn't have much leg room either.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The opening hymn was being sung as I arrived, so I didn't get a chance to sample 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."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Order of Mass New English Translation and Celebration Hymnal for Everyone.
What musical instruments were played?
An amplified acoustic guitar.
Did anything distract you?
Despite using the mass sheet, we went quite a way off script at the beginning and I wasn't able to follow what was going on. A significant part of the mass was being sung and the tunes were not included in the service sheet, so I felt excluded from the first 15 minutes of the service.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Probably fairly low on the candle for a Catholic service, with some pretty uplifting hymns sung to a guitar accompaniment.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
3 – The priest's style was fairly engaging, but it was unclear what message he was trying to convey or how it was linked to the gospel reading for the day. He dropped in a couple of in-jokes about a neighbouring diocese.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was based on the gospel reading of Christ being rejected by his own townspeople a prophet not welcome by his own. The priest attempted to draw a parallel to the Church's mission to be a prophetic voice to society.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The hymn sung at communion was an old favourite of mine: "Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you." It was particularly touching, as I hadn't sung it since I was a child.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
We were all supposed to kneel at one point. As the pews were so tightly packed together, our pew wasn't far enough from the one in front for us to kneel properly, so we bowed our heads. Unfortunately someone in front had long legs and knocked the kneeling pad row back and it clobbered me in my shins as it fell. Ouch!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Everyone streamed out of the hall. I shook the priest's hand and thanked him for the service. After that I started to take photos of the church building, and a pleasant chap who appeared to have visited the pub next door engaged me in conversation.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
No sign of refreshments, which I put down to our having using the hall, where refreshments would presumably normally be set out.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 – I was impressed with the hymn selection and worship style, the wider work of the church, and the depth of community involvement. But the mass was a bit messy at the start when it went off script. The congregation seemed very pleasant, as did the priest, but the sermon was disjointed and I couldn't make out what the message was. Finally, although I was born and raised a Catholic, I have significant theological differences with the Catholic Church and can't see myself regularly attending.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
It did, actually. I left spiritually uplifted and glad to see such a well attended church that has such devotion to its community and mission.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The hymn "Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you."