St Nicholas, Allestree

St Nicholas, Allestree, Derby, England


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Mystery Worshipper: The Revelator
Church: St Nicholas
Location: Allestree, Derby, England
Date of visit: Saturday, 25 December 2010, 10:00am

The building

A 1950s red brick church exterior and an airy white interior. Inside is quite square, with white walls and rafters. Directly as you go in there are the pews, then an area at the front of the church separated off by rails with the communion table at the centre. This was dressed in a nice cream 1970s-style altar cloth. There were no candles on the table, just a flower arrangement. At the back of the church in the centre there was a medium sized hall/creche area. Toward the left there was a font, notice boards (up to date) and an area with the toilets.

The church

The church runs an Alpha course, several children's groups for various ages, and has several mid-week groups for members to participate in.

The neighborhood

Derby is a city in the East Midlands, in the middle of England. The church is centrally located, in walking distance from the main campus of the University of Derby and Derby Cathedral. Nearby Derby Museum contains a masterpiece by Joseph Wright, the famous 18th-century Derby landscape artist, as well as a genuine Egyptian mummy.

The cast

The service was led by the vicar, the Revd William Bates, assisted by the associate priest, the Revd Jill Needle. Her husband, Jon Needle, led a worship group of five musicians.

What was the name of the service?

Christmas All-Age Service

How full was the building?

There were approximately 80 people, which made the church full but not bursting.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Yes, a lady gave me a hymn sheet and showed me to a gap in the seating.

Was your pew comfortable?

Must have been as I didn't really notice it.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Nice and lively. There were a lot of families there energising the place.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Merry Christmas!"

What books did the congregation use during the service?

A pre-printed booklet.

What musical instruments were played?

Three acoustic guitars, an electric bass, and a violin.

Did anything distract you?

The low contrast on the video screen required an effort of concentration.

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

Very much on the happy-clappy end of things. No procession, ministers in shirts and suits. The service was a family worship, so a bit of a hymn sandwich. It was Christmas, so it may have been slightly different from normal, but there was a pass-the-parcel exercise, which involved peeling off layers to reveal a Bible reading, and a film clip of the kings from the East, and genuine clapping during the songs. All the congregation (including the children) appeared pleased to be there and sang with enthusiasm.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

20 minutes.

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

7 – The sermon was more a kind of minimalist question and answer session involving the congregation, especially the children, and the vicar walked around the church doing this. Props such as presents were used frequently.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

What were the gifts that Jesus gave to the world? Love, life, joy and hope.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The music and singing, the bright airy interior and the general friendliness and enthusiasm of everyone. Proper coffee and chocolates.

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

The video screen, as noted above. And during the pass the parcel section, the parcel was being thrown around with some vigour and inadvertently hit a lady in the face. She had to flee to the back of the church, although she did rejoin later!

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

I was led to the tables where coffee and special chocolates were waiting for us!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Very nice, and caffeinated, which was good. Being Christmas, it was served with lots of extra biscuits and the above-mentioned chocolates.

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

8 – If I lived nearer it would be a contender.

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 friendly enthusiasm.

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