|428: Cathays Methodist, Cardiff, Wales|
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Mystery Worshipper: Hungover.
The church: Cathays Methodist, Cardiff, Wales.
The building: Large sturdy Welsh chapel, built in 1890. Converted to be multi-purpose, with many rooms leading off into other rooms (as I found out while looking for the toilets!). Bright meeting room with lovely arches and outsized organ pipes.
The church: Attracts many students in the evening, and combines those who are more liberal with those who are running Alpha courses.
The neighbourhood: From my few days visiting Cardiff, it seemed that this church was in one of the more run-down areas of the city.
The cast: Fiona Fraser, preacher; Rev. Gareth Powell, celebrant; service led by Margaret Crompton.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
About a third full, many of the congregation being young (and looking quite studentish).
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A small old lady handed me lots of news sheets in the front foyer, and then I was given three various books in the meeting room.
Was your pew comfortable?
A nice comfy chair with room for hymnbooks on the chair in front (and boy do you need the room!).
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Subdued. Most people had just heard that the US had started air strikes on Afghanistan; there was a sombre and reflective atmosphere. Very few people were talking.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good evening, welcome to Cathays."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Too many! Methodist Worship Book (mine had the Welsh in too!), Songs of Fellowship (combined edition), Hymns and Psalms.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard and cello.
Did anything distract you?
The church was very brightly lit, in fact dazzlingly so. I had to squint to see past the low hanging lights.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
A mixture of hymns and more modern songs. There was not a lot of movement while singing; in fact, someone commented that I was "tapping my toe," so I must have been enjoying it!
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 She was very confident and was clearly speaking from experience.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Love God and love each other. She gave many practical examples of how she had been doing this with children in Chile, but gave little clue how we could apply it in our situations.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Looking at the beautiful organ pipes, which were painted in lush greens, blues and silver. The lovely cello playing during communion.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The way the cellist looked over the keyboardist's shoulder as though she was pointing out errors and things he might miss to him. Watching her made me feel very tense. The complicated system for taking communion made me wonder whether everyone had taken the bread and wine, or whether some people were still wandering the corridors of the church.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A couple of people asked me if I was visiting and talked for a while, but most people left promptly, I suspect to the pub opposite.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
No coffee, despite the news sheet saying there was.
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 really. It made me feel quite miserable; the tone of most of the service was sad.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The organ pipes.