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80: St John's College Chapel, Cambridge, England
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St John's Cambridge
Mystery Worshipper: Music Man.
The church: St John's College Chapel, Cambridge, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Beautiful Gothic church with Victorian wooden ceiling and beautiful stained glass windows. Very quiet and dignified. The seating is banked like the choir in most churches (facing the center aisle) with a lectern about halfway up.
The neighbourhood: One of the most picturesque university cities in England.
The cast: He didn't identify himself, but there was no sermon, just readings.
What was the name of the service?

How full was the building?
About half full with tourists, students and other locals.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Not really... I just walked in and sat down. The Prayer Books were already at each chair.

Was your pew comfortable?
Not particularly. The seating was old-fashioned choir stalls: beautiful, but not that comfortable. The seat was too low, and while the carved backs were very pretty, they really didn't give anything to lean against. However, the service was so beautiful that I really didn't notice the comfort of the seat until the end.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet. Some people kneeling to pray, others quietly sitting in their seats.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
The cantor began the service by singing: "O Lord, open thou our lips".

What books did the congregation use during the service?
We used a card with the service printed on it, and then the Prayer Book if you wanted to follow along as the choir sang.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ before and after. During the service the singing was mostly acapella.

Did anything distract you?
The lectors moving to the lectern to read while the choir was still singing the "Glory to the Father..." at the end of the canticle before the reading. It wasn't really the motion that bothered me, but the fact that you could hear them moving. It's hard to move in a place with such wonderful acoustics without everyone hearing you.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Stiff upper lip, but beautifully done. Quiet and dignified with fantastic singing on the part of the choir. For this sort of thing, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
There wasn't a sermon.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The beautiful singing. Since the choirboys were on holiday, only the men were singing – a completely different sound. Sitting there in that wonderful church hearing an all-male choir singing in four-part harmony (or more) with the voices weaving a tapestry of sound. At times you felt like you could just float away on that music...

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Other than my minor grumbles about the seats and the lectors' timing, nothing at all.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was taking a picture from the back of the church when the verger pointed out in a good-natured way the "no photography" sign that I had missed seeing when I came in. We ended up having a chat for 5 or 10 minutes about the choirs and the church.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There wasn't any. I talked with the verger while he tidied up, and he locked the door as I went out.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
It's not a parish church but a college chapel, so I'm not really eligible to be a member.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, very much so.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The feeling of peace I had after the service.
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