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433: St Andrew's, Newcastle upon Tyne, England
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St Andrew's, Newcastle
Mystery Worshipper: Duvet and Pillowcase.
The church: St Andrew's, Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Uncluttered, ancient and beautiful. Most of the fancy work was done in wood – the pulpit, rood screen and so on. The oldest church in Newcastle, and proud of it.
The church: It provides services for the Greek Orthodox and deaf communities, as well as the local community.
The neighbourhood: St James' Park stadium is about 100 yards away, and St Andrew's is in the heart of Chinatown.
The cast: Bill, Anglican diocesan chaplain to the deaf in Newcastle.
What was the name of the service?
Communion for the deaf.

How full was the building?
Eight of us in a large church.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. Signed and spoken. They asked if we we signed or spoke, and then the service was done bilingually.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes – cushioned folding chair.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Talkative – in sign. Not quite silent, though. The deaf don't know they're making noises, necessarily.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
Signed and spoken: "The Lord be with you."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?
It was a heritage weekend and people blatantly ignored the service and wandered round the church. Visual background noise.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was simple.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
I'm not sure – we were too involved in following the signing, and would have been picked up if we looked at our watches.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – Occasionally he forgot to speak, but the signs at that point were so dramatic that it wasn't needed. The signs made the whole thing come alive.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Following Jesus and evangelizing in the deaf community. How we need to leave our baggage behind and follow Jesus.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The Bible coming alive – you got a real sense of the potter moulding you, during the Jeremiah reading. This was in part because the readings were slower, but it had more to do with the combined signs and voices. Also at the intercessions, the signing meant that you could see that the priest was intercessing for you to God, due to the way he held his body.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The wretched women who started talking in what was obviously a communion service, wandering round for the heritage open day. Others managed to come in and sit quietly.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
This wasn't allowed. I was signed at, spoken to, and generally made to feel thoroughly welcome.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Proper china, in the vestry, and fair trade as well. Very nice. It was wonderful, trying to eavesdrop on signed conversations, and feeling we were a part of it.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – It's Pillowcase's nearest parish church, although she's just outside the actual boundary. The service is fortnightly to monthly, depending on possibilities. Duvet isn't in Newcastle most of the time, so it would be difficult.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. I felt alive in faith.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Watching the priest signing "take up thy cross" and "lose your baggage" and "come follow me". It was a truly wonderful service.
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