|312: St Peter & St Sigfrid, Stockholm, Sweden|
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Mystery Worshipper: Abed-Nego.
The church: St Peter and St Sigfrid, Stockholm, Sweden.
The building: This strikingly beautiful church is located on Strandvägen in the heart of the embassy district of Sweden's capital city. Not large and very elegantly proportioned, it was built on a different site in 1863 hard to imagine, since it seems tailor-made for its present setting. The lovely, airy octagonal Princess Hall was added in 1985. It was a particularly welcoming space for the post-service coffee hour.
The church: I suspect that the congregation was a cross-section of British and Commonwealth embassy staffs. The average age was quite young, and there were many mostly well-behaved children of all ages. There is a strong sense that this church is a particularly welcoming environment a feeling re-enforced by the Chaplain's invitation to all newcomers to lunch with him in his apartment after Eucharist.
The neighbourhood: The church's glorious setting is enhanced further by a neighborhood of embassies and ambassadorial homes of outstandingly high architectural merit.
The cast: The Ven. David W. Ratcliff, Chaplain.
What was the name of the service?
Parish Eucharist and Baptism (though there were no baptisms!).
How full was the building?
The fairly compact nave was largely filled by about 150 people, most them family units.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was welcomed by a pleasant, middle-aged Englishman who wished me "Good morning", and handed me a Psalter and hymnbook, along with a leaflet.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was fine, but the individually designed, tapestry-patterned kneeler was luxury indeed. I was surprised to notice that those around me chose to sit and pray, rather than avail themselves of these comfortable kneelers.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The pre-service was pleasantly sociable and hushed, and the quiet murmur of conversation did not distract me from my prayers. We were brought to order about two minutes before the service by the celebrant, who enjoined us to be silent and prepare ourselves spiritually for what was to come. He remained prayerfully in the chancel until the three-strong vested choir processed down the aisle.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning everybody and a very warm welcome."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Common Worship, Hymns Ancient and Modern (New Standard), and the Parish Psalter.
What musical instruments were played?
The organ was played by an excellent musician who understood very well how to lead and accompany congregational singing. He also welcomed us with a brief but thoughtful prelude and sent us on our way with a triumphal postlude. Virtually everyone sat and listened attentively until it was over.
Did anything distract you?
In the absence of a service sheet, we were often verbally jolted by the priest proclaiming which pages to turn to in our prayer books. He also announced the psalm and the hymns numbers even though this was unneccessary. There were boards clearly visible from every pew with the numbers written in large figures.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I think this service has evolved for homesick Anglicans. Other than the alarming number of numerical instructions, this was a straightforward, unfussy Western rite eucharist, fully vested but without bells or incense. Surprisingly, there were no acolytes no, not one!
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 The sermon was thoughtfully prepared and read verbatim. Fr. Ratcliff's delivery was excellent.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was centred around the Gospel and Collect for the Fifth Sunday after Easter, and focused on the extraordinary variety of appearances of our Lord between his resurrection and ascension, and the ways in which we might respond to them. Charitable giving was extensively cited as one of those responses, though I can't now remember how that connection was made.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
As I knelt to pray, I could look up and see three crucifixes in beautiful aligment: one life-size over the chancel entrance, one particularly poignant in the carved oak reredos, and one set in stained glass above the altar.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Though not exactly hellish, there was the momentary look of panicked disappointment in the celebrant's eye as he realized that the lector for the epistle had failed to show. More hellish perhaps was the cheap and cheerful mass setting inaccessible to all but the three choristers and the congregants who had already got this simpering Kyrie, Gloria and Agnus under their musical belts.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Fr. Ratcliff greeted everyone individually with great charm and warmth.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I enjoyed an anonymous fruit juice and a trifle of carrot cake baked by a very winning lady from Ohio. Coffee was available, but I can't judge since I don't use caffeine. It was, however, served in "proper" cups-and-saucers.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 If I actually lived in Stockholm, I suspect I would enjoy becoming an active member of this congregation.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
This eucharist made me happy to be a part of a world-wide family the Anglican Communion. I got goosebumps realizing that throughout Catholic Christendom the same Old Testament lesson, psalm, epistle and Gospel were being read and studied.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I will remember the beauty of the building bathed in glorious sunshine and the youthfulness of this congregation. I felt that it boded well for the future of the faith.