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297: St Peter's, Brighton, England
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St Peter's, Brighton, England
Mystery Worshipper: Mr Kipling.
The church: The Parish Church of St Peter, Brighton, East Sussex, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Designed by Charles Barry, built in 1824, the church has a very ornate ceiling and stained glass windows. This is a huge place, the third largest church building in Brighton, which left me wondering how big the other two are.
The church: The parish covers a fairly small geographical area which is more business-oriented than residential, so a large proportion of the regular congregation live outside the parish.
The neighbourhood: The church is situated in the middle of a one-way traffic system in the city centre, about five minutes walk from the sea front.
The cast: Fr. Michael Wells, celebrant and preacher.
What was the name of the service?
Parish Eucharist.

How full was the building?
A large congregation, but due to the size of the building, it was only half full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Somebody was wandering throgh the churchyard outside and said good morning. The sidesman smiled and said good morning as he handed me the service sheet.

Was your pew comfortable?
Plain wooden pew, but not uncomfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet and reverent. A few people were talking, but quietly and it was kept to a minimum.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Printed service sheet and New English Hymnal.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ. There was also a splendid choir comprised of men and boys.

Did anything distract you?
The lady behind me was rattling through the congragational prayers at an amazing pace – most of the time she was an entire line ahead of the rest of the congregation.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
High Anglican, but without the bells and smells.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
15 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – The Gospel reading was about the woman "taken in adultery" and how Jesus said, "Let those of you without sin throw the first stone". This always reminds me of a fairly sacrilegious joke, which the preacher also knew and went on to tell it.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
How the Pharisees had set out to trap Jesus, possibly even engineering the situation to meet their own needs, and our own hypocrisy when it comes to condemning others.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The choir singing Harold Darke's Mass in E.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The awful moment when I realised I'd been rumbled. Normally, I'd wrap my calling card inside a fiver, but on this occasion, I only had a pocket full of loose change, so I folded the calling card and attempted to put it on the plate discreetly with a few pound coins. The sidesman looked closely at the folded piece of paper and grinned at me knowingly. When he went back to his seat a few rows behind me, I heard him whisper the words "mystery worshipper" to the person next to him. There were several sidesmen on duty – just my luck that the one doing my row was a fellow Ship of Fools regular.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The sidesman sidled up to me and said quietly that he looked forward to seeing my report and we had a chat about the current Caption Competition. By this time, the vicar had found out what was going on and shook my hand, saying he looked forward to meeting me again in "a different sphere".

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Proper coffee and tea was on offer. I had tea, which was fine, and my partner in crime for this occasion said the coffee was also very good.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – This is a very friendly church, but I fear I'd be recognised if I went back!

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Definitely. The music, the preaching and the good mix of high Church ceremony and informality.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Apart from my cover being blown, it must be when the vicar announced during the notices that this year is Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club's 100th anniversary. In celebration of this, he intended to paint the pews in the team colours as an important sign of the Church's witness to the town and asked for volunteers to help him. Some of the congregation looked shocked at this idea. Others had remembered what date it was – April 1st.
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