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300: Our Lady of Grace, Cambridge, England
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Our Lady of Grace, Cambridge, England
Mystery Worshipper: Mrs Alighieri.
The church: Our Lady of Grace, Cambridge, England (also known as Little St Mary's).
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: A nice barn. Fairly simple structure – a couple of side chapels, lots of ornate bits: the font, the stained glass, the crucifix, etc.
The church: The church is under the patronage of Peterhouse, the college next door.
The neighbourhood: Surrounded by the University of Cambridge and backing onto the river, the church is near quite a few other churches.
The cast: Celebrant: Rev. Dr Ben Quash, Dean of Peterhouse. Deacon and preacher: Rev. Greaney. Plus a cast of about 20: choir, acolytes, subdeacon, thurifer, etc.
What was the name of the service?
5.00am Easter Vigil.

How full was the building?
Fairly full, given the time of day.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was given an unlit candle and invited to take a seat in the darkness of the church. Choristers and clergy flitted around like bats in the darkness, cassocks and and gowns flapping in shadows.

Was your pew comfortable?
Not very. We were standing a lot of the service – which I found hard going, and I eventually gave in to the pain in my legs and sat down.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Silent, reverent and encouraging.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this most holy night, in which our Lord Jesus Christ passed over from death to life, the Church invites her members, dispersed throughout the world, to gather in vigil and prayer (from the Easter Liturgy).

What books did the congregation use during the service?
"Little St Mary's Cambridge: Holy Week Services", Rite One traditional language (in tasteful service books) and the New English Hymnal.

What musical instruments were played?
A cappella choir to begin with, lots of bells and the organ later.

Did anything distract you?
Around the altar there are four very tall angel figures, holding candles. The sacristan had one hell of a job trying to light one of them.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Bells and smells Anglican.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
A couple of minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was delivered an hour into the service, and I really couldn't take it in at that hour of the morning. However, special note should be made of our preacher, Rev. Greaney, who chanted pages and pages of Exultet. I was told later by someone that this can induce a faint, due to hypoxia.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The whole thing was fantastic. It started in darkness, with just the lector lit up, and gradually the dawn crept in through the large windows. Then the light of the fire was brought into the church and the whole place was lit up with candles, and incense filled the building, and handbells were rung, and the organ sounded for the first time that day. We renewed our baptismal vows and then had communion.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
People pottering in late, walking sticks being dropped.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was invited into the parish room for breakfast and chatted to quite a few people. I wasn't allowed to be lost.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Excellent. It was made with coffee bags, and there was vats of it, served with proper cups and saucers. There were also sausages and rolls, honey and marmalade and butter. I couldn't eat the latter, but the coffee was good.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – It's the church next door, so it's quite convenient. However I love modern worship as well, and all the genuflecting would do my nut (not to mention my knees would complain).

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
At the alleluias, Ben belted them out in style, which lead Rev. Greaney to comment that if that was anything to go by, then the baptismal water would be equally vigorously sprinkled. Sure enough, we were well and truly doused as Ben wandered down the church. He got to the altar, and performing what can best be described as a slam-dunk, he sprinkled the organist as well. As the organ loft is halfway up the wall by the altar, this is no mean feat! The organist looked around bemused and the congregation burst out with joyous laughter at the sight.
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