Ship of Fools
  Bulletin Boards
  Mystery Worshipper
  Caption Competition
  Gadgets for God
  The Fruitcake Zone
  Signs & Blunders
  Born Twice
  About Ship of Fools
  Support us!
  Contact us!
453: St Luke, Gillingham, Kent
Other reports | Comment on this report
St Luke, Gillingham, Kent
Mystery Worshipper: Sarum Sleuth.
The church: St Luke, Gillingham, Kent.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Red brick perpendicular of 1908. Definitely better inside, where the whitewash has been applied. Better furnished than many Anglo-Catholic churches, with some work by Sir Ninian Comper and Sir Edwin Lutyens (whose brother was a former vicar).
The church: It is one of the very few churches in Rochester Diocese that comes under the episcopal care of the Bishop of Fulham. The young people in evidence were mostly involved as servers or choir members.
The neighbourhood: Typical Medway Towns: run-down and neglected.
The cast: The celebrant was the priest in charge, Rev. Robert Featherstone. The preacher was Rev. Patrick Allsopp.
What was the name of the service?
Parish Mass on the Feast of the Holy Family.

How full was the building?
Pretty empty, unfortunately: 14 in the congregation, eight in the choir, six servers and two concelebrants. However, it was the Sunday after Christmas, and the parish has gone through a dreadful period from which it is only just beginning to recover.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A welcoming lady gave me the necessary books. One advantage of a small congregation became obvious at the Peace, which I must have exchanged with most of the congregation. Afterwards several people directed me to coffee in the church hall.

Was your pew comfortable?
It was a pew, and was surprisingly comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father..."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Mass Book (Roman Rite), Redemptorist weekly leaflet, English Hymnal: very nice to find a church that still uses the old version!

What musical instruments were played?
Electronic organ which regrettably sounds as though it is fast reaching the end of its days. The choir were situated in an acoustic dead spot in the south aisle, which negated their valiant efforts.

Did anything distract you?
A ghastly sound system that amplified the clergy too much. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect on the lady who offered the intercessions, as she was almost totally inaudible. The celebrant's white chasuble made me think it was the wrong season: it looked very similar to Lenten array. The thurifer stationed himself in front of the altar for the proper preface, thus obscuring the view.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Post Vatican II Roman, although there were a couple of English hangovers that I wasn't expecting. It was all very functional and matter-of-fact, sparing us the ghastly self-conciousness so frequently found in Anglo-Catholic sanctuaries.

St Luke, Gillingham, Kent

Exactly how long was the sermon?
8 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The preacher compared the Holy Family to the Herod family, who were a very unpleasant lot indeed. He then related this to present-day attitudes, which he considered to have more in common with Herod than with the Holy Family. Well delivered, but rather doom-laden for the season maybe?

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Nothing particularly striking during the service, but the welcome was very special.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
That sound system. The notices were pretty heavy going too.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Immediately the proceedings had finished, the lady behind apologized for the noise her child had made (which I hadn't noticed) and directed me to coffee. Two or three other people also put me in the right direction.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Decent filter coffee with biscuits. I got into conversation with the churchwarden who is a local magistrate on the subject of the local prisons, where I work. I then had a long conversation with the priest-in-charge, and arranged to take some photos for their Christmas card for next year.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 – Too Roman by half for me, and I have fundamental differences with them on the subject of women priests. But if it were the only realistic option, I could live with it.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
The service left me feeling neutral, but the welcome afterwards was one of the best I have ever received, and this made me very glad to have visited.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The welcome.

The Mystery Worshipper is sponsored by, the internet service provider from Christian Aid. By offering email services, special offers with companies such as and, surefish raises more than £300,000 a year for Christian Aid's work around the world.

Click here to find out how to become a Mystery Worshipper. And click here if you would like to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.

Top | Other Reports | Become a Mystery Worshipper!

© Ship of Fools 2002
Surefish logo