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327: All Saints, Winterbourne Down, Bristol, England
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All Saints, Winterbourne Down, Bristol
Mystery Worshipper: Leo.
The church: All Saints, Winterbourne Down, Bristol, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: This was the first church built by G.E. Street. He went on to build many large Victorian churches.
The neighbourhood: It's a quiet village on the outskirts of Bristol. The church has a long drive up a steep hill.
The cast: Fr. Roger Thomas.
What was the name of the service?
Sung Mass on Trinity Sunday.

How full was the building?
Quarter full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, a woman said "good morning" as she handed me the books.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, plenty of leg room.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Concerned gossip – I overheard a conversation about somebody being in hospital.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Let us proceed in peace" – at the start of the procession for Trinity Sunday.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
English Hymnal and a home-produced mass booklet.

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?
Being used to a good choir, I found the singing here quite "homely", but I quite enjoyed being in a congregation where worship was simple, reverent and nobody was trying to impress anyone else.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Fairly traditional but unfussy, gentle and relaxed anglo-catholic.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
10 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – He spoke without notes and his thoughts ranged from simple anecdotes to some profound and wise insights. He varied the pace of his voice to good effect, which kept me listening beyond the point where my mind usually wanders.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The Trinity is not some mathematical abstraction but a loving, beautiful relationship into which we are taken in directions that we could never have predicted. Preachers who brandish bottle openers with three functions don't realize a scout knife can accomplish much more; a better illustration might be the three musketeers, because it's relational.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
During the eucharistic prayer, seeing the haze of sunlight coming through the east window, with incense swirling around in it, gave an appropriate sense of mystery which is so often lacking in modern Anglican worship.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Nothing, except to notice that there were no children or young people, so I wonder what the future holds for this church. However, they do hold a regular family service that attracts some younger people.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A couple of women greeted me immediately and asked me if I was a visitor. Then Fr. Roger chatted to me.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There wasn't any.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – I would enjoy the caring feel this community has. A friend of mine was welcomed into this church about a year ago and has not encountered the cliques and hidden agendas that many churches of this type have. The noticeboards and magazine include information about Third World debt and local community affairs instead of the navel-gazing which is characteristic of many traditional churches. I also liked Fr. Roger's acknowledgement that we should be humble rather than dogmatic, since other faiths also have insights into the mystery that is God.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. It is rare to find intelligent yet homely preaching, decent ceremonial, a celebrant who can sing well and a friendly atmosphere all in one place.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The end of the first reading, which said that (the Wisdom of) God delights in the human race. That's so much more of an incentive to believe in God than the judgmental image many Christians have of him (and of each other).
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