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!
613: St John's Cathedral, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Other reports | Comment on this report
St. John's Cathedral, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Mystery Worshipper: The Vicar.
The church: St John's Cathedral, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Denomination: Anglican Church of Canada.
The building: The building is a fairly standard cruciform 20th century Gothic style church. It would probably hold up to 500 people at a pinch. The pews in the front half of the nave have been angled at 45 degrees, presumably to give a worship "in the round" feel. The cathedral has some great stained glass windows, depicting various biblical scenes, as well as one of John West, the first Anglican missionary in western Canada. There is also a mosaic by the well known artist, Leo Mol.
The church: It is the oldest Anglican church in western Canada, with a church on this site since 1822. The cemetery surrounding the present cathedral (built around 1926) dates back to 1812, making it the oldest Christian burial ground in western Canada. This cemetery is the resting place of many of Winnipeg's founding and prominent families.
The neighbourhood: The cathedral is located in Winnipeg's North End; the area around the cathedral is largely residential, with the Red River being nearby, to the east. Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral is just a couple of blocks south, with a park between the two churches.
The cast: The Very Rev. Robert Osborne, Dean of Rupert's Land.
What was the name of the service?
Choral Evensong.

How full was the building?
Approximately 30 people in the congregation, with a visiting choir of approximately 12 men.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
The verger said a polite hello as he handed us our prayer books and leaflet.

Was your pew comfortable?
Comfortable modern wooden pew, with adequately cushioned kneelers.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Fairly quiet with a few hushed conversations, and an organ prelude.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"May I welcome each of you here today for this service of song."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Book of Common Prayer (Canada), and a leaflet with the psalm and hymn (with music).

What musical instruments were played?
The organ, which was very well played by the cathedral organist.

Did anything distract you?
The high altar was stripped, no frontal, or lights. It looked as if it were Good Friday. Apparently the high altar is not used much anymore, and so I guess the opinion is that there is no point in dressing it up. During the dean's sermon, something at the back of the cathedral fell with a loud bang, but as he continued to preach, it must not have been anything significant.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Fairly straightforward traditional prayer book, with most of the congregation standing for the canticles, kneeling for the prayers, etc.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
12 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – He spoke well, in a clear and engaging manner.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It was the Feast of St Columba, and he spoke about Columba's mission work, and the founding of the mission on Iona. He talked about how missions have usually involved efforts overseas. He related, as well, the difficulties that the early Anglicans in Western Canada had in obtaining support from the wealthier and more established churches in Eastern Canada, since they were preoccupied with mission efforts to Africa. According to the dean, mission is something that needs to be local, since our society is now largely post-Christian. All in all, a good sermon, although I am not a big fan of sermons at Evensong.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The music, which was well done by All the King's Men, a Winnipeg choir.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I may be nitpicking here, but the bare altar bothered me, as the cathedral does have some very nice frontals. I did not care for the angled pews, either.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I talked to a few people whom I knew, who were also there to hear the choir. The representation from the cathedral community appeared to be quite small.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
None, although I believe they have coffee after the Sunday eucharist.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 – Based on past visits, I know that there are some very warm and friendly people here, but the liturgy in the last few years has become much more contemporary, and my tastes run to the traditional and high church style. The cathedral music director is one of Winnipeg's premiere church musicians and I expect that the regular services would feature some excellent music under his direction.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Walking around the cemetery, realizing that this site has been set aside for Christian worship and burials for nearly two centuries. (Not a long time compared to most European and even eastern North American churches, but it is in western Canada).
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 2003
Surefish logo