|373: Christ Church, Bell's Corners, Ottawa, Canada|
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Mystery Worshipper: Fabian Stedman.
The church: Christ Church, Bell's Corners, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
The building: The original building dates from the 1870s, and is a fine example of 19th century Ontario church building. Both the outside and the interior decoration are typical of that time. It was greatly expanded and enlarged in the 1980s, with the original building becoming a chapel to the new church. The expansion is also typical of the architecture of the time.
The church: The church is heavily involved in community affairs. There was a large number of community groups using the rest of the facilities at the time of the service. These ranged from a Japanese group being taught how to speak English, to an exercise club.
The neighbourhood: Bell's Corners is a 19th century village that was swallowed up in the 20th century expansion of Ottawa. It was recently amalgamated with the city as part of Ottawa's municipal expansion.
The cast: The officiant was the Venerable Canon Bruce Crockett. It was his last service before retirement.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist. This is the parish's only mid-week service, at 7.00pm on Wednesday.
How full was the building?
There were about 20 people in a chapel that would accommodate 80.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
It was one of the most welcoming greetings that I have ever experienced in my entire life. There were two visitors, with everyone else present being a regular. The greeter came and sat down with me in the pew in order to help and explain the service.
Was your pew comfortable?
Basic 19th-century wooden pew.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People were quietly praying or talking with each other. The greeter that came over and sat next to me asked me questions about visiting Ottawa, and how I had come to be there that night, and how travellers like myself knew that there was a church service being held. I did mention that one obvious way of letting people know that a church service was being held was to ring the church bell. She went off and talked to the Rector, and the bell was rung.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"The sermon tonight will be cancelled due to the heat."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Book of Alternative Services and a locally-produced song book.
What musical instruments were played?
A guitar was played to accompany the hymns. The church bell (visible in photo) was briefly rung before the service. It appears to be of 19th century colonial founding and not made to modern tuning standards.
Did anything distract you?
The inferno of heat. The service was held in the original 1870s chapel which had no form of air-conditioning. The main church building is air-conditioned, but was constructed so that it could be partitioned off and used by community groups during the week. A variety of community groups were using it, which says a lot about the outreach efforts of the parish.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Ultra-modern charismatic worship. It was very sincere and all of the "regulars" participated in some way. The liturgical text was eucharist prayer 4 from the BAS, the famous "Star Trek" liturgy with the congregational response "Glory to you forever and ever" after each paragraph. The members of the congregation took turns reading a paragraph, with the priest only reading the post-sanctus words of consecration. Between reading the lessons, leading the prayers, and reading the Eucharist liturgy, every one of the regulars had some role to play. As far as style goes, the parish is an active participant in the Alpha and Cursillo movements. No "frozen chosen" there.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The atmosphere of love and prayer. "How those Christians love one another." We came up and stood in a ring around the altar after the offertory. For communion we passed the elements around the circle, communicating each other.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The satanic heat! Ottawa was undergoing a heatwave, with the temperature at 35 degrees. In the winter, Ottawa is renowned as the world's coldest capital city. Not on this hot August day.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was approached by many people after the service and made to feel quite welcome. We had an interesting discussion about how the Alpha movement was working in Ottawa and in my home city.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Nothing was provided.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 This appeared to be a wonderful parish community. What really impressed me was the singing of the hymns. Good quality modern hymns, and everyone really sang with great sincerity.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. The love and warmth and participation of the congregation was exemplary. For example, the person who read the first lesson was a very young man who was clearly unaccustomed to public speaking. Everyone was very supportive of him.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The atmosphere of love, peace and acceptance.