|540: St John's, Workington, Cumbria, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Alguhas.
The church: St John's, Workington, Cumbria, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: A monumental classical building with a huge pillared portico at the front. The inside was an extraordinary combination of non-conformist meets greek orthodox. The interior walls were white and un-ornamented with plain round windows and a balcony surrounded the nave on three sides. However, the puritan image was shattered with the presence of a large font with a huge spiky lid slap bang in the middle of the centre aisle and a eye-popping baldachino above the altar featuring four huge brightly painted gold pillars looking like the skeleton of a massive carriage clock and a banner headline in Greek across the top. From the roof of this construction was suspended a huge image of Christ carrying an English flag and ornamented with golden rays sticking out in different directions. Imagine a 10-foot high monstrance with Jesus instead of a host and you'll have some idea.
The church: Judging from the listings in the church magazine, St John's appears to have a wide variety of active groups, including Cubs, Brownies, Scouts, Guides, Mother's Union and youth groups.
The neighbourhood: As it was pouring with rain I didn't linger to take note of the local scenery.
The cast: John Cook, Vicar.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Pretty full, as it was Easter Sunday.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were given orders of service by the sidesmen.
Was your pew comfortable?
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Fairly quiet considering the number of people there.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. We begin at an Easter garden." The Easter garden in question was a piece of text on our handouts rather than a location in the church.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
An order of service and a paper handout with hymns on it.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
The activities of the choir. The service was advertised as having an "Easter procession," which proved in reality to be watching the choir do a figure of eight round the church going round the side aisles and twice up the middle. This was only the beginning of their exertions as they actually lived in the balcony with the organ, up at the back of the church. Having done all their processing, they then had to go back up to the balcony, marching two by two at a ridiculous distance from each other so that they could navigate past the font which was stuck slap bang in the middle of the centre aisle. They reappeared downstairs for the Gospel reading and then again to process out. The choir was preceded by a rather dishy female crucifer who, for some reason, was dressed in gold vestments rather than standard server or choir robes. How she qualified for such grand clothes was never explained unless she was a secret deacon.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Religion without emotion. No speaking in tongues here.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 Even though I am not a fan of long sermons, this one was too short and ended without an obvious conclusion.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Death is both a separation and a homecoming. For this reason the churchwardens would be holding a champagne and caviar party in the evening (no I never quite understood the link either).
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
My wife says it was getting a free Easter egg from the vicar on the way out. However, as he didn't give me one, I'm not sure I can agree with this.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Lack of after-service coffee (see below). Lack of greeting from anyone (see below). To be absolutely fair, the lack of coffee might have been because everyone was intending to come back for Evensong and the party.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing. Everyone headed for the door.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
It would have been nice if there had actually been some.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 The choir was good. The interior decoration less so.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes particularly after 40 days of Lent.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
That gold baldachino.