|488: Christ Church, Crookham, Hampshire, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Aileen.
The church: Christ Church, Crookham, Hampshire, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: A country church, surrounded by a large, well-looked-after graveyard, with a lych gate beautifully decorated with mauve flowers for the wedding. The church was consecrated in 1841 and has recently been done up and refurbished (they have a nice shiny hall and proper kitchen and toilet facilities). Inside, they have very unusual paintings on the walls above and around the sanctuary/choir area. Some look like the patterned stencils you can buy, and some were angels. One seemed to be Michael, with a sword, and another looked as if he were holding a lantern he's apparently from Revelation chapter 8, and is holding a censer. As it was just before Candlemas, there were about 10 real candle candelabras, spikey and hanging over the choir area. They looked really special. The church is light and airy, with mainly plain glass widows. There are interesting tiled patterns on the floor.
The church: It's Home Counties, so I supposed it to be middle-class, but I may be wrong. They have two priests, a deacon, readers and pastoral assistants. There is a church mag with plenty of local adverts, loads of church events and groups and an article on how to give your cat a pill. When we arrived early there was a really friendly woman polishing up the hall. The choir dresses in beigey robes with turned over sleeves to show a russet lining. Looked ever so much cooler than the usual blue with white.
The neighbourhood: The friendly woman directed us down the road to The Wyvern, a local pub where she said we'd get a good cup of coffee, while we waited. That we did, tho I did feel slightly "looked at" as we were a mixture including Asian and continental and dressed for a wedding (including a bearded kiltie).
The cast: Rev. Mark Nicholls.
What was the name of the service?
Marriage of Natasha P. McDowall and Jeremy R. Squire.
How full was the building?
Nearly full in the main body of the church. A full choir too.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Ushers at the door did their job competently. We did have to do a bit of negotiating about the seats to get the reader and video cameraman at the end of a pew. There was also a smiley verger in a long black robe. He had the most amazing moustache, long and waxed and curled up into a twiddle at the ends. Fascinating.
Was your pew comfortable?
Modern solid wood. Cross-stitch kneelers. Plenty of leg room.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People grabbing and hugging each other, waving, eyeing each other's finery. Definitely not quiet. These were people who have been brought up since babies in church and so treat the building as home.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome, everyone! When the bride enters, please stand, and you may take photographs as she enters and leaves, but not during the ceremony, please."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Service sheet for the marriage ceremony.
What musical instruments were played?
Excellent organ playing before and after. Also to accompany the bride's mother who sang beautifully Puccini's "O Mio Babbino Caro" in memory to the bride's father, who is dead.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Good solid singing they are a musical family. They do the harmonies and various parts almost by instinct. Makes me horribly envious.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
I wouldn't call it a sermon. I reckon he thought we were more interested in the happy couple.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Something about love, very appropriate. The reading was 1 Corinthians 13.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The bride walking down the aisle. She has been in a bad car accident, nearly got killed, and she glided down the aisle, very, very, slowly, with no crutches. I don't cry at weddings, but this time I did. And she looked so beautiful.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
It was her father's birthday, and he wasn't there to give her away.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We got left behind because everyone rushed off to the reception and the car we were following got away from us on one of these country roads. We got lost, drove around for miles and miles and arrived well behind everyone else. Did get champagne on arrival though.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Wedding feast. Scrumptious. The church mag says they have coffee and biscuits after regular services.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 The people are friendly, and that's important to me.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. It felt like being part of a family in more ways than one.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The bride and groom laughing and smiling as they made their promises.