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116: Cranleigh Preparatory School, England
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Cranleigh Preparatory School
Mystery Worshipper: Corpus Cani.
The church: Cranleigh Preparatory School, England.
Denomination: Anglican.
The building: The school chapel is modern and quite small. The east wall is entirely glazed and looks out onto the countryside, giving the whole place a bit of an Ikea feel.
The neighbourhood: The chapel is one of the buildings of a boys' boarding school. The senior school is across the road and both schools are on the outskirts of a large Surrey village. All very picturesque and bourgeoise.
The cast: The service was led by the Master (no, not Noel Coward, but Mr Keppie). There was a visiting preacher from another school, but I missed his name.
What was the name of the service?
Harvest Festival.

How full was the building?
Fit to burst. People were sitting in the entrance porch as well as the main chapel.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, but I am known here, so it's fairly easy to chat. Since this is a private chapel, the people who come here are generally known and are welcomed as friends.

Was your pew comfortable?
Not bad at all, although it was a bit of a tight squeeze.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet, with people listening to the organ, which was playing when we arrived and carried on until the choir was in place.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Would you please sit for the notices."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The English Hymnal and a service booklet.

What musical instruments were played?
The organ has recently been rebuilt and sounded wonderful. It was very well played. There was also a choir of trebles, who sang wonderfully.

Did anything distract you?
A lady a few rows in front was wearing a most peculiar hat which caused the odd involuntary giggle on my part. Very un-Christian, but I just couldn't help it.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The service was a shortened form of Morning Prayer from the Prayer Book. It was very traditional, but so well done that it was a profoundly spiritual experience. The Master's prayers were moving and relevant – his prayer for the victims of the recent rail crash at Paddington was especially poignant.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
9 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – the sermon was maybe a teeny bit too long for my taste (short attention span), but it was witty and thoughtful by turns and covered the theme well. Maybe there should have been a bit more theology and a bit less funny story. His asides were very amusing.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
No matter how bad things seem, we all have lots to be thankful for and, as Christians, we give thanks to God because we want to, not because we have to.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The singing, both by the choir and congregation, was magnificent. The organ was played by one of the boys after the service, which was good to see and great to hear.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The moment I chickened out of putting my Mystery Worship calling card in the collection – sorry, but I figured so many people knew me that they'd guess it had come from me!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Plenty of people to talk to, although I couldn't get near the preacher who was monopolised by two people until the Master whisked him away.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Although it had a bit of an odd taste, it was good and hot and came in a cup and saucer – better still, it was serve by the Master himself!

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – the chapel only operates during the termtime, so it couldn't be too regular, alas. This is a wonderful place which introduces children to a traditional, middle-of-the-road form of worship without overwhelming them with the boring bits.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Extremely. A great place which simply oozed Christian feeling.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The wonderful sound of all those people, accompanied by a splendid organ, singing, "Come, ye thankful people, come."
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