|547: All Saints, South Lynn, Norfolk, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Fermat.
The church: All Saints, South Lynn, Norfolk, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: An ancient church currently undergoing very extensive repairs and restoration. It was very difficult to get more than a glimpse of what it would normally be like through all the scaffolding. It seems that the church building has been, for lack of money, neglected for a long while, and it is finally receiving the attention it needs. Apparently it's a splendid building which gets a lot of visitors. At the moment, however, there's little to see, and the services had to be crammed into the Choir, while the nave was dominated by the restoration.
The church: A congregation struggling to cope with holding services in a building site.
The neighbourhood: Just south of the town centre, the immediate neighbourhood seemed to be a (rather clashing) mix of old small terraced streets and what I took to be modern council flats.
The cast: The rector, Fr. Paul Kinsey, assisted by three servers.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
The tiny area in use was pretty well full. Assuming this is a normal turnout, the 30 or so people would be thinly scattered if spread over the whole church though.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Strangely, (as we had just come in the door) we were asked if we were staying for the service. I got the impression several times during the service, that they are used to seeing people coming to look at the building, but rarely have visitors to their services. Everyone seemed welcoming but rather surprised to have visitors who came specifically for a service.
Was your pew comfortable?
Standard pew. Most people were seated on wooden chairs, though, presumably added temporarily to fit everyone into the choir.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Hushed but not silent.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome. I don't normally begin with notices, but..." He then proceeded to give the necessary safety notices regarding the building work.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Service booklet (not sure where this came from, not Common Worship though), hymn book, and a leaflet containing the notices, psalms, readings etc for the week.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
Someone reading bible stories to her child to try and keep him or her quiet. This was more distracting than the child would have been. It might have been alright if they had been near the back of the whole church, but with everyone crammed into a small area it was far from ideal. Otherwise the state of the church wasn't really a big distraction, although it might have been if we had been sitting further back, or were used to it in its normal splendour.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Smells and bells, with Ave Maria, and finishing with the Regina Caeli. No choir.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
How we are required to love God, and how we can come to love an abstract God by loving those around us. The importance of loving everyone, and how the BNP and its like is completely incompatible with Christianity.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Sitting quietly in the anchorhold for a few minutes after the service. This is a small 14th century room just off the sanctuary, where anchoresses have spent their whole lives in prayer. The room felt steeped in prayer and the grace of God one of the most special places I've encountered. I was also surprisingly moved by saying the Hail Mary and Regina Caeli I'm not used to Marian prayers, but on this occasion they felt completely right.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The woman with the child.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Didn't have much of a chance initially we were invited for coffee straight away. My wife asked if there was a toilet and they apologised for not having one, but then quickly organised someone to take her to a nearby building where there was one she could use. Everyone then seemed to be too busy to talk to me while I was standing there on my own. Almost as soon as she got back, the rector came over and asked who we were. He apologised (again) for the state of the church, and for the fact that no-one had yet showed us the anchorhold, which he quickly rectified.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Tesco's instant in a plastic cup.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 A bit high for my taste, but very welcoming and sincere. Everyone seemed to be a bit distracted by the building work, but this was completely understandable.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Very much so.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The peace of the anchorhold.