|140: Holy Trinity, Pleshey, Chelmsford, Essex|
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Mystery Worshipper: Jordan.
The church: Holy Trinity, Pleshey, Pleshey, Chelmsford, Essex
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Typical huge, ancient parish church.
The neighbourhood: Situated next door to the Chelmsford Diocesan Retreat House.
The cast: Canon John Howden.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
About one-third full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was visiting as part of a group on retreat in the Retreat House next door to the church. I was greeted with a smile and "good morning". During the peace, people asked if I was having a good weekend.
Was your pew comfortable?
Pews are rarely comfortable. The books fell off the front frequently.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Hushed reverence with murmured greetings. The ringing bells added an air of expectancy.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. Now that you have dutifully stood up I have to ask you to sit again."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Good News Bible (the Gospel was read from New Revised Lectionary), Hymns Old and New, The Order for Holy Communion, and a sheet of readings and notices.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
A mixture of reverence and informality. Modern songs and traditional hymns. I'd describe it as comfortable, middle of the road.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6. He didn't use notes or a pulpit, and his style was one of talking to, not preaching at.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The theme was the baptism of Christ. The sermon explored what it was that made people gather at the Jordan, or what drew them to London on New Year's Eve, or at gatherings in villages and towns. His conclusion: a yearning for something.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The singing there were some good singers in the congregation. We sang: "Brother, sister, let me serve you." The bell-ringing was also quite moving.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Unexpectedly meeting someone who had upset me in the past... a real test of forgiveness!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Hot coffee was served on a tray to the pews, in cups and saucers.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7. Being a village church it may be a little cliquish, but the worship was good. I would find the distance a problem, 10 miles away.
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 bell-ringing, because it is so good that churches have rediscovered their bells!