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381: Holy Trinity Belbroughton, Worcestershire, England
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Holy Trinity Belbroughton, Worcestershire, England
Mystery Worshipper: Pillowcase & Duvet.
The church: Holy Trinity Belbroughton, Worcestershire, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Two chancels, one a lot older than the other, and with the remains of a staircase to the rood screen. We used the modern chancel.
The church: Although the congregation was small and elderly, there was a thriving Sunday club, evidenced by lots of children's pictures, wonderful cuddly toys, and a good-sized space to play in. It was away from the congregation such that parents could watch their kids and yet not be distracted from the service.
The neighbourhood: Used to be a hive of Black Country industry, with a local nail factory nearby.
The cast: Not sure, but we think the rector was Dr D. Sharples.
What was the name of the service?
1662 Mattins.

How full was the building?
Six in the congregation, five in the choir, one organist and the rector, in a building that could hold a couple of hundred.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. Two choristers gave us books, and another person greeted us.

Was your pew comfortable?
They were well-spaced, comfortable chairs, with good, squashy-looking hassocks.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Friendly and natural.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, the Lord be with you. One commercial – does anyone want to join in the Inter-benefice cricket match for some Bank Holiday mayhem?"

What books did the congregation use during the service?
"Words of Worship" benefice green service book (including material from the Alternative Service Book, Patterns of Worship and the 1662 Prayer Book). Plus Hymns Ancient and Modern and the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). Pillowcase appreciated the green book as being easier to read, though Duvet found it easier to follow the service in the BCP.

What musical instruments were played?
The organ.

Did anything distract you?
A power interruption, followed by subsequent flickering lights. It was surreal, because the organ stopped, came back on, and no one else apparently noticed.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Formal in that it was BCP, but it seemed quite normal.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
14 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – He started as a 4, but wound up as a 10.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Interfaith ecumenism. How we are divided but have to work together, trying to hold the other's view in mind, and engage in dialogue – neither confronting nor converting. Well illustrated, without ever compromising on Christian teaching. Once he got going, the sermon flowed beautifully, bringing together his apparently disparate opening remarks. He quoted from the Islam UK series, from hymns and poems, and from the Gospel for the day.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The Old Testament lesson (Isaiah), and the well-done psalms to Anglican chant.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The woman reading from the New Testament was unprepared, couldn't breathe in the right places (the reading sounded barked), and she really struggled. I couldn't follow it at all.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We wandered round, looking at the dragons on the pulpit. The rector watched, and then came to greet us as we went to leave.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – It was only 20 minutes away from Duvet's house by car, although Pillowcase thought it was too far. The lateness in the day of the services was very appealing, coupled with a nice ring of bells. Definitely worth a visit if you're in the area.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. It reminded both of us that there are people who can preach, and give a sermon based on "sound" theology, which allows for dialogue and understanding between denominations and different faiths.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The sermon. It was truly amazing. The retired priest really is a blessing to these small parishes in the heart of the Black Country. Long may he be able to continue.
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