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412: St Alkmund's, Whitchurch, Shropshire, England
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St Alkmund's, Whitchurch, Shropshire, England
Mystery Worshipper: Brick.
The church: St Alkmund's, Whitchurch, Shropshire, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Large imposing building in local red stone, well lit inside with colourful stained glass and a few memorials.
The neighbourhood: Whitchurch is a small town, the sort where nothing spectacular happens. The Llangollen Canal passes through drawing tourists to the area.
The cast: The Rector, Andrew Ridley, plus another minister, conducted the service.
What was the name of the service?
Sung communion.

How full was the building?
About three-quarters full when the children were present (they joined the congregation just before communion).

Did anyone welcome you personally?
We came in and were asked if we were planning to stay for the service. We were then given service books and greeted by another usher who invited us to sit near the front of the church. During the peace we were greeted by those in the pews immediately around us. After the service several people came and said hello.

Was your pew comfortable?
The pews were reasonably comfortable, but did not encourage sleeping during the sermon!

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The organ was playing and many people chatted quietly. Those who wished to pray would not have been distracted.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Common Worship service booklet for the season of Easter. There was a pew sheet with the collect and readings from the NRSV, also the New English Hymnal.

What musical instruments were played?
The organ.

Did anything distract you?
There are a number of memorials around the church which are interesting to read!

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Fairly traditional Anglican hymns, although one more modern song was used as an anthem during communion. The worship was well led even though the choir seemed to have no conductor.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
About 20 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – The preacher made a throwaway comment against Oxbridge college chapels – I was there with a group of Cambridge graduates! Apart from that I'd say average, as nothing else stuck out.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Teaching – the importance of correct (orthodox) and God-focused teaching.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The friendly welcome given by a couple after the service – they invited us to join them for tea and we had a long conversation.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The kids coming in before communion and filling the rows in front of us – they were full of energy.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We didn't get a chance to look lost!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was a bit of a hitch with this – the family on the rota weren't there and no one had spotted it before the service, therefore there was no tea/coffee this week.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Not especially, except that I was there with friends ranging from Roman Catholic to Quaker in beliefs, and though none of us usually worship in an Anglican church, we could still join in together.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The preacher's reference to the way the congregation in college chapels worship facing each other rather than focusing on God.
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