St John the Evangelist, Ranmoor, Sheffield, England


Info and corrections →

Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St John the Evangelist
Location: Ranmoor, Sheffield, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 23 December 2018, 6:30pm

The building

Photo: © Chemical Engineer and used under license A large Victorian church with the tallest spire in Sheffield. Very imposing both outside and in. It dates from 1888 and was designed by the firm of Flockton & Gibbs, who were responsible for a number of churches in the area as well as a workhouse, bank and art gallery. It replaces an earlier building that was destroyed by fire – only the tower and spire were spared. Part of the ceiling collapsed in 2017, one hour after a baptism had finished up, leading to temporary closure. An inspection of the ceiling led to the discovery of other repairs that had to be made, and a renovation and expansion project is currently underway.

The church

Monty Python’s Michael Palin was a boy chorister here. His father was also in the choir and rang the fine 10 bells. There is currently a bell ringers’ group; a social justice group; a Wednesday lunch club that features short talks, entertainment, and other accompaniments to a home-cooked meal; and a babies and toddlers group that (quoting from their website) ‘provides fun, crafts, singing, and entertainment … [and] involves a small element of worship.’ They are proud of their music program, supporting a composer in residence as well as an orchestra in residence. There is currently a waiting list to join the boy and girl choristers. Their Sunday services alternate between parish communion and all-age family worship. Matins, choral evensong, and sung compline are also offered at various times.

The neighborhood

Ranmoor is an affluent suburb of Sheffield, featuring a number of notable buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The church is set on the side of a tree-lined valley by the road to Manchester. There is a good pub nearby, as well as a chip shop and other shops.

The cast

The vicar led the service. The church’s combined choirs sang carols.

What was the name of the service?

Gaudeamus: A Feast of Christmas Carols, Music and Readings.

How full was the building?

Pretty full, including the side aisles. Occasional spaces behind pillars, etc.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

I was politely welcomed at the door and given a service book. No suggestion was given of where I might sit; no one asked if I was a visitor – although I arrived early and it didn’t seem particularly busy.

Was your pew comfortable?

A wooden pew – surprisingly comfortable; deep enough, with plenty of space to stretch legs.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

The organist was playing although the congregation were rather noisy. At length the organist stopped playing, and it just got noisier! I did sense a feeling of anticipation, though.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

‘Grace be with you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’

What books did the congregation use during the service?

A printed service book with carols and prayers, but not the readings (just references).

What musical instruments were played?

The ceiling collapse affected the organ, so a substitute electronic instrument was brought in while repairs are underway. It was very well played.

Did anything distract you?

The organist had a distracting way of slowing down considerably toward the end of every carol that the congregation sang.

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

Middle of the road.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

No sermon.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The singing was excellent.

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

The service was rather lengthy, though – a bit shorter would have been good. Also, the layout of verses in the booklet was inconsistent: sometimes across, sometimes down without numbering.

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

Nothing. I sat in my pew, as is my habit, to listen to the organ postlude. By the time it finished (with a pause between movements when there was some embarrassed applause) most people had disappeared. The vicar was at the back but talking to people, so I exited.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

There were refreshments (mulled wine/orange/mince pies) in a corner, but this was not advertised at all. Not close enough to ascertain if fair trade. I did not partake.

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

8 — I’d like to go to a regular service as comparison.

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

Yes. And Christmassy too!

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

The excellent singing.

Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you’d like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.

Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.

Comments and corrections

To comment, please scroll to the end of this report and add your thoughts there. To send us factual corrections, please contact us. We also discuss reports on our Ecclesiantics bulletin board.

© Ship of Fools