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679: St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne, Australia
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St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne, Australia
Mystery Worshipper: Fermat.
The church: St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne, Australia.
Denomination: Anglican.
The building: A fine and lofty church, around 100 years old. The spires are newer and look it (they are a slightly different colour of stone). You couldn't mistake this for anything except a cathedral church. Currently a large and very appropriate, but not especially attractive, "peace" banner adorns the side of the church facing Swanston Street. Inside, the windows are small, and the lights are hung low down, so the higher parts of the church are dark and a little gloomy.
The neighbourhood: Right in the heart of Melbourne's central business district and opposite both Federation Square and Flinders Street Station, the cathedral occupies the best possible position to be the flagship church in Melbourne.
The cast: The sermon was delivered by the dean of the cathedral, the Very Rev. David Richardson. I'm not sure who the celebrant was, but it might have been the precentor, the Rev. Canon Anne Wentzel.
What was the name of the service?
Choral eucharist for Australia Day.

How full was the building?
Mostly empty – perhaps 50 to 100 people in the congregation spread thinly over a large area. I'd hoped for rather more on the national day, especially considering the crowds outside in Swanston Street and Federation Square.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I'm afraid I arrived several minutes late. The welcomer shook my hand, said "Good morning" quietly, handed me a printed leaflet and asked me to go up a side aisle to minimise any disturbance of others.

Was your pew comfortable?
The pews are comfortable enough – nothing to write home about really. The kneelers are thin but adequate.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Just a leaflet printed for this one service. On this occasion the hymns were included in the leaflet, but that's not the usual practice here as far as I know.

What musical instruments were played?
Just the organ, though there was to be a jazz concert followed by a jazz mass (whatever form that might take) later in the day.

Did anything distract you?
Lots. At first I couldn't hear the words of the collect or readings because they were too quiet. This seemed to get sorted out by the second lesson and from then on that was fine. Worse than that, though, were the tourists scattered amongst the congregation who kept moving about to talk to each other, taking photographs (with flash) and finally leaving when they had seen enough. Clearly the people on the door need to do more to ascertain whether or not people really are there for the service or just tourists. They could also do with a few "no flash photography during services" signs, or something to that effect.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
More stiff-upper-lip than anything. A rather staid, middle of the road Anglican service without enough people to generate some atmosphere or make the singing sound anything but thin.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
12 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – The sermon was well delivered, but I couldn't help being distracted by the people moving about.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Peace, war, and the churches' involvement in the world.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Knowing that the communion would be just as valid, despite the distractions.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
All the movement and flash photography. This completely spoiled the service for me. Well, not completely, at least the communion itself was worthwhile.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn't. There was coffee available, and I'm sure everyone would have been perfectly friendly, but I was too fuming to stay, so I cleared off to the Botanical Gardens for the rest of the day.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 – At one time we were considering making this our regular church, but decided otherwise for various practical reasons. This service made me glad.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
To be honest, I'm not sure.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Singing an Australian version of "All things bright and beautiful" as the final hymn, about bilabongs and coral reefs.
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