Mystery Worshipper: Woody
Church: St Peter's
Location: Stockport, Greater Manchester, England
Date of visit: Saturday, 15 August 2015, 11:30am
Red and cream coloured Accrington brick, Georgian, 1768. Short clock tower at west end, topped with cupola. Water sculpture of fountains in front. Gravestones in the churchyard have been levelled but are uneven in places trip hazard! The porch with holy water stoup and notice boards leads into an airy foyer where tables are set out. The interior is unadorned and somewhat faded an attractive building nonetheless that enjoys the trappings of Anglo-Catholic worship. Small apse at east end. Nave and side aisles are tiled. Black painted wrought iron gates with gold finials and daisy motif lead to carpeted chancel. The wooden high altar is the focal point, with reredos depicting the Agony in the Garden. The cave-like Lady chapel houses three impressive marble memorials; one of these is to the founder, William Wright of Mottram Hall, Prestbury, extolling his virtues in flowery Victorianese. Statuary includes Madonna and Child (Mary is wearing a lace mantilla for the occasion) with candle stand in front.
St Peters is a meeting place for prayer and private worship on weekdays, being open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 11.00am till 2.00pm. Home of the Stockport Bobbin-Winders (Lace Makers) Guild new members always welcome! Mass on Friday; sung mass on Sunday a prayerful vibrant presence in the heart of Stockport.
Stockport lies about seven miles southeast of the Manchester city centre. The parish church of St Peters stands in solitary splendour in the once-busy town centre that is St Peters Square. Originally surrounded by houses, it now stands on a paved piazza. Skate-boarding youths career up and down where trams once clanged their way past; whilst overhead, planes wing their way in and out of Manchesters Ringway Airport. The church is dwarfed by commercial buildings; one used to hold the National Provincial Bank but now houses coffee shops and lively bistros, creating a pleasant ambiance.
Principal celebrant was the Revd Ian Brooks, SSC, plus four concelebrants. The Revd Kenneth Kenrick, rector, preached. And a holy huddle of servers. (They have the full complement here.)
What was the name of the service?Society of Mary, North-West Ward, and Guild of the Servants of the Sanctuary Assumptiontide Festival Solemn Mass, Guild Office Procession and Benediction
How full was the building?
Not very full: 45 in the congregation and about 20 in the sanctuary.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
No. Men were standing around outside chatting they didnt say anything. So I went and made use of their facilities and admired the stained glass windows and dcor.
Was your pew comfortable?
Bench pews with square ends; dark red vinyl kneelers. When is sitting on a plank of wood comfortable? But I offered it up! And at least it had a pew runner. I would rather sit in a pew any day than on padded church chairs, which seem out of place in a traditional church setting.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Whoopee! There was much pre-service activity. In fact, when I arrived the place was deserted, but bustling noises emanated from the vestry area. They were having a beano in here! However, the noise tailed off; Father likes quiet to be kept for 10 minutes before the mass. A server was busy lighting candles and there was general activity in the sanctuary.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
The angel bought tidings to Mary (the Angelus).
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Printed booklet for the occasion, with prayers, hymns, readings and order of the mass, interspersed with coloured pictures. Concise and easy to follow. Copies of the New English Hymnal were available, though the words were different in places.
What musical instruments were played?
Church organ a two-manual, 36 stop opus of Copeman Hart Church Organ Builders, Shaw, Lancashire.
Did anything distract you?
A large bumble bee buzzed around, landing on the flowers close to where I sat. (Where was Rimsky-Korsakov when we needed him so badly?) Then the bee tried to get out, flying into the window several times and buzzing angrily.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Traditional Catholic worship, well presented with great spiritual feeling. After mass there was a luncheon, followed by the procession and benediction. The procession was remarkable: The bell dinged and things got underway with two gents carrying the statue of Our Lady adorned with pink roses. Down the nave and out through the west door we went, singing all the while. The priests wore their Mary vestments of blue and white, crucifer and servers leading the way. An impressive sight. The skateboarders stopped skating and the vagrants draped over the benches in the church grounds sat to attention. The procession swung its way around the church. Bystanders seemed impressed and moved closer. The fountain water spouts played on. Returning into church, we found that the hymn we were singing bore no resemblance to the one being played! But we still sang a hymn to Mary. In fact the singing was very good. The guild superior then admitted a new member. We finished up with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – It is always interesting to listen to a good orator. Father Kenrick knows what he is talking about and puts the message across. No waffling!
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The example of Our Lady to us all, giving us strength and support. We should aim to be like her.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Hearing my favourite reading from Revelation: the vision of St John in chapters 11 and 12. I could listen to it all day and can spout chunks of it from memory.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Gregorian plainchant is not the organists forte and accompanying it is a skill in itself. But what the hey...
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The invitation to lunch after the service applied to all. So I sat back and enjoyed the organists concluding voluntary before heading off into the caf area.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Wine, soft drinks, sandwiches, etc. But I realised I was far too hungry to partake and would have swept the board clean. So I toddled off across the piazza, past the water spouts and into an artisan eatery good food and drink at competitive prices! A quick bite and then back to church for procession and benediction.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – Warm, friendly, approachable priest. Father Kenrick has been here donkeys years. He is interested in people, which makes you feel very welcome. I would recommend St Peters.
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 traditional feel of St Peters, Stockport. It had indeed been an afternoon to remember. Anglo-Catholic worship is alive and well here in the heart of Stockport and proud to show it.