|110: Brampton Methodist Church, Cumbria, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Andras.
The church: Brampton Methodist Church, Cumbria, England.
The building: A fine example of a solid Victorian Wesleyan church, built in sandstone and looking very respectable. The gallery has been turned into a library, and the entrance area also functions as a "crush" for after-church coffee and the like.
The neighbourhood: Brampton is an active and attractive market town on the "wrong" side of the M6 (that is, on the opposite side to the Lake District). Once upon a time this was border country, and Hadrian's Wall is only a few minutes' drive away, but nowadays everything looks very peaceful and serene.
The cast: Donald Frith former chairman of the district (the Methodist equivalent of a bishop).
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Something over half full, concentrated as usual in the back two-thirds of the church!
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Did they ever! Greeted twice at the door (once by the minister and once by the steward giving out the hymn books) and repeatedly inside by other members of the congregation. This must be the one of the friendliest congregations in England!
Was your pew comfortable?
A comfy Victorian pew, well padded and with plenty of knee-room.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
A lot of bustle and greeting could be heard coming from the entrance area outside the sanctuary, but it calmed down as the starting time for the service approached.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Hello and good morning, everybody."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
"Hymns and Psalms" (the standard Methodist book) and "Songs of Fellowship".
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
Nothing at all.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Middle-of-the-road Methodist hymn-sandwich. No clapping or dancing, I'm delighted to say, and the singing was a little too restrained, but a real feeling of fellowship.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 relaxed and very comfortable with his congregation, with no pretension to be academic or to aim for high-flown rhetoric. Plenty of genuinely amusing anecdotes, but the sermon was a little light on theology.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
"Pressing on" not giving up when times are hard.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The feeling that a real community was worshipping together, and that any visitor was welcomed into that community with open arms.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Nothing in the service was like the other place.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
There was no chance to look lost. I wasn't out of the pew before at least three people had said hello and made me welcome.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Traidcraft coffee, served in plastic cups.
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?
Yes and glad that so many other friendly people are Christians too.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?