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55: St John the Baptist, Glastonbury, England
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St John Glastonbury
Mystery Worshipper: Sir Robin the-not-quite-so-Brave.
The church: St John the Baptist, Glastonbury, Somerset, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Imposing and impressive (largely) AD1500 traditional English church.
The neighbourhood: The church is in the centre of Glastonbury, with a vast range of shops for different spiritualities all within two minutes' walk. As a spiritual centre in the UK, drawing people of many different beliefs, Glastonbury is shrouded in mystery. According to legend, Joseph of Arimathea came here, making the first British converts to Christianity on the site of the Abbey (which is just across the road). He is also said to have buried the Holy Grail – the cup used at the Last Supper – at a site now called the Chalice Spring, which is a short walk from the church. Glastonbury was a centre for learning many centuries ago, and remains a major focus for the legends surrounding King Arthur, Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table. An appropriate spot for Mystery Worship!
The cast: Prebendary Patrick Riley.
What was the name of the service?
The Six O'Clock Service.

How full was the building?
About one quarter full, if that.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
The welcome team was most impressive – all staff wore name badges, which was a little intimidating after a while, when you realised that nearly everyone in church had name badges on! A man named Bill gave me a hearty welcome with a broad West Country accent and hearty handshake.

Was your pew comfortable?
Not after 10 minutes, but it was a pleasant change to sit down on it because we had 40 minutes of standing for choruses.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very quiet, because of the small number of people there. All the people with responsibilities in the service were huddled together in a prayer scrum in a side chapel.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
'Welcome this evening to St Johns, on behalf of the church family.'

What books did the congregation use during the service?
An overhead projector was used throughout. 'You don't need any hymnbooks,' Bill told me on the way in. 'It's all on the screen.'

What musical instruments were played?
Guitar and electric piano.

Did anything distract you?
The final verse to 'Amazing Grace' on the overhead screen was written: 'When we've been there 10,000 times.' It's '10,000 years', surely?

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Happy clappy, done in a reverential and restrained way, with lots of outstretched hands and gently swaying arms. Quite a typical charismatic service, with plenty of 'experienced worshippers' getting carried away in God's presence. There was also a testimony of God's healing touch, during which a fly saw fit to dive-bomb me, resulting in a spontaneous raising of the arm and flick of the hand – might have been mistaken for the activity of the Holy Spirit to anyone who had not seen the fly!

St John Glastonbury

Exactly how long was the sermon?
5 minute preamble and Bible reading, 11 minutes actual preach.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7. He got to grips with a very difficult passage: the story of the daughter of Jephthah in Judges 11:29. He encouraged us not to reject the passage, but to look for a deeper truth, which he communicated well.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Facing, accepting and living with incompleteness in our lives.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The sermon. It was pleasant to have a charismatic preacher saying that the Christian life is not all one 'glory experience', but that it is acceptable to have insecurities and insufficiencies in our lives, and that we need to face all that is incomplete in them. As someone who has struggled to hold on to the Christian life at times, this was an encouraging and affirming message that assured me of God's companionship in and acceptance of my weaknesses.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Standing for so long during the choruses.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
After nearly 5 minutes, I was about to leave, when Dave, a ministry team member, came to talk with me briefly, hoping I'd enjoyed the service.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Very good and served with a smile, but it was not fair-trade coffee, I'm afraid. A very large tub of a well-known brand name sat on the serving table.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
It didn't impact me one way or another, it just was.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
From the sermon: it's OK not to feel 'together' all the time.

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