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225: St Andrew the Great, Cambridge, England
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St Andrew the Great, Cambridge
Mystery Worshipper: Og, King of Bashan.
The church: St Andrew the Great, Cambridge, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Rather unimaginative – like a town hall.
The neighbourhood: Cambridge is full of students, and this church particularly aims to cater for them.
The cast: We didn't catch the name of the person who led the service, nor of the student worker who led the prayers, but the vicar, Mark Ashton, read the notices, and the preacher (and director of music) was Johnny Kingsman.
What was the name of the service?
Evening Service.

How full was the building?
The downstairs section was about 90 per cent full. However, the large gallery was empty.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Arriving 10 minutes early for the service, we were welcomed with a "hello", and given a service sheet. We then hung around sheepishly, waiting to be seated, but all the staff were busy talking to one another, so we headed to a vacant row of seats. Notably, the person with a "Welcome" badge standing half a metre away from us for some five minutes failed to offer any welcome to us.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes – a cushioned seat. Why don't they have these in more churches?

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It went from chatty to downright noisy as more people turned up.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good afternoon and welcome. A very warm welcome to you all in every sense of the word this evening." We were then encouraged to say hello to the people next to us. Remarkably, they all appeared to know one another and were engrossed in conversation, so the Mystery Worshippers talked to one another about the extraordinary dress of one member of the congregation, who looked like he'd fallen out of a mid-80's neo-Romantic pop group.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Bible (New International Version). There were also printed service sheets and words to the songs on the overhead projector.

What musical instruments were played?
Synth, drums, flute, violin, bassoon and a single miked singer.

Did anything distract you?
One chorus ended with an excessively cheesy coda, with emotive "string" sounds on the keyboard, which caused the Mystery Worshippers spontaneously to burst out laughing.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Happy-clappy without the clapping.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
26 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
4 – the preacher persisted in pronouncing "Haggai" as "Haggy-eye" and "Sinai" as "Siney-eye".

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
"Keeping going" as a Christian. The text, Haggy-eye 2, was illustrated by "right-on" references to such things as MFI, the TV programme Changing Rooms, microscooters, football (Bradford City and Manchester United), Vogue magazine and motor racing. The comparison of Zerubbabel's governorship to Prince William as prime minister following an alien invasion was particularly inspired.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The (mainly) young and enthusiastic congregation, with an evident commitment to this church and its ministry.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
A somewhat offensive reference to Muslims and a generally simplistic (and, dare we say, patronising) tone to the service. But then, it was geared towards the "new Christian".

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
An acquaintance ambled over and we chatted for a few minutes.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Coffee (pleasant, in a plastic cup with holder so as not to scald the fingers), was delivered to our seats. Another good innovation. The comfortable seating was conducive to an after-service chat.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 – this lively church is among the most popular in Cambridge, particularly catering for those new to the Christian faith (we were led through the service with the implicit assumption that we might never before have attended an act of Christian worship). However, with at least 50 alternative places of worship within walking distance of this one, the Mystery Worshippers felt that they belonged elsewhere.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Not particularly – we found that the picture of Christianity presented to us reinforced some unfortunate stereotypes of conservative evangelicalism.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The cheesy and annoyingly memorable refrain to the chorus "My Jesus, my Saviour".
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