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642: St John the Evangelist, Hook, Hampshire, England
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St. John the Evangelist, Hook, Hampshire. UK
Mystery Worshipper: Silas.
The church: St John the Evangelist, Hook, Hampshire, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: The church is over 60 years old, and its brickwork is reminiscent of Guildford cathedral – not surprising as both were designed by Sir Edward Maufe.
The church: The church lies within the centre of the village. It has limited parking space, but luckily there is a large car park opposite.
The neighbourhood: There is a painted plough on the corner of the road diagonally opposite the church; my first thoughts were that it was there for the harvest festival.
The cast: Taking part in the service were Revd Neil Vigers; Emeritus Reader Gordon Crowder; Paul the organist and a blue robed choir with teams of Scouts, Cubs, Guides and Brownies.
What was the name of the service?
Harvest praise, although it soon became apparent that this was also a service to inaugurate the new organ.

How full was the building?
It was crammed full; even the gallery was brimming. The car park was full almost 20 minutes before the service began.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
There was a gang of greeters (I counted eight), and each welcomed me to the harvest service.

Was your pew comfortable?
The seating consisted of rather hard chairs attached to each other – not very comfortable after the first half an hour.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was a lot of chatter, probably more so than average, with the various childrens' organisations were clearly enjoying themselves. Recitation was going on before the service by three children but this was obviously a rehearsal for things to come.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Our first hymn is 'Come ye thankful people come' on the service sheet."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A service sheet with hymns and responses was used.

What musical instruments were played?
A new digital organ and an electric piano (sited in a slightly more prominent position than the organ).

Did anything distract you?
There was a woman in pink a few rows in front of me. Every hymn she stood up and sang with her back to the front of the church, and facing everyone in the row behind. This was rather disconcerting, and the reason was not at all obvious, unless it was to keep a watchful eye on people at the back, or the child next to her.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The occasion was fairly joyful, but there was no hand waving during the more modern hymns. The intercessions consisted of selected persons leaping to their feet rather like jack in the boxes, and saying their piece.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
9 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – An ominous overhead projector and screen were wheeled in at the start of the sermon and sited between the congregation and the choir. Presumably the choir read things back to front from the back of the screen?

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The priest started to talk about the reader's bank balance statement which got everyone's attention (including the children's) very quickly. This soon came around to the fact that we all needed more spiritual credits in our accounts with God, especially at a time of harvest.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The new organ was played beautifully at the beginning of the service and also during the traditional hymns. We were all asked not to leave after the final hymn, but to listen to the new organ. This was well worth doing.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
For some unknown reason, although it was announced that there was a new organ present in church, the organist had to go forth and play the piano during some of the modern hymns. This piano had been sited directly in front of the choir, a few steps higher than the organ. During coffee afterwards I heard a few snatches of conversation that seemed to indicate that there was a lobby of piano enthusiasts and a lobby of organ enthusiasts and both had to be satisfied. I did wonder though why a very large packet of toilet rolls had been placed as part of the Harvest offerings directly in front of the new organ console.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
It was not possible to look lost, as there was a mad rush for coffee and drinks after the service, and clearly all the children needed refreshment. Several people asked us if we wanted to have coffee. However, there was a stall selling a large number of third world products which unfortunately cut off the flow to the tea and coffee hatch.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
We never experienced it, due to the scrimmage.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – Clearly it was a friendly congregation.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes and it was a delight to have the harvest hymns sung and accompanied so well.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The woman in pink turning around for every hymn.
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