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731: St Peter & St Paul, Tonbridge, Kent, England
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St Peter & St Paul
Mystery Worshipper: Caleb.
The church: St Peter & St Paul, Tonbridge, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Typical magnificent church of England architecture.
The cast: The service was led by Rev. Stephen Seamer and the preaching was by Rev. Jon Cox.
What was the name of the service?
Evening service.

How full was the building?
The building was nearly empty. I only counted about 30 people.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Several people welcomed us at the door, and when we were seated in the church, more people stopped and said hello on their way past us to their own seats.

Was your pew comfortable?
Typical cold church pews with a small wooden shelf in front. Why do they have these shelves that are only just big enough to sit smaller books on them?

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
A quiet murmur of chatting, which echoed a bit, given how empty the building was.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good evening, everyone, welcome to you."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Hymns for Today's Church and the New International Version of the Bible.

What musical instruments were played?
An organ played for most of the hymns, except for one, where there was taped music playing over a sound system.

Did anything distract you?
The whole building distracted me, as there were so many tombstones and other inscriptions on the walls that I wanted to read. There was a mix up over the Bible reading: the reader thought it should be from John's Gospel, but it should have been from Hosea.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Very stiff upper lip with traditional hymns. It was hard to know when to sing, as the echo of other people's voices was a few beats after the organ notes.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
22 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – The preacher was from Australia and delivered the sermon in a laid-back style, as only an Aussie can. He started by shouting, "Can everyone hear me at the back?"

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Revelation 4:7-12 and Hosea 4:1-12. God has given us an urgent word, and we need to both hear and heed the warning. God's word may not be comfortable for some, but we need to repent or be removed. God has given us an open door, and we need him to give us the courage to walk through it. The sermon very bravely referred to the issue of gay bishops and priests in the Church of England. He finished with the instruction that we need to change from being pacifists about the issue to being intercessors.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The atmosphere in this elegant building was awe-inspiring.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
After the service ended, the organist played a piece of music that I only ever associate with horror movies – it was strange to say the least.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Several people asked us to join them for coffee at the back of the church. Some people pointed out various leaflets on the history of the church and the local church magazine. After we had expressed an interest and picked them up we noticed each one had a charge for it!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Coffee or tea was available in cheap pottery cups.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 – While the sermon was excellent and particularly challenging, the liturgy and recited prayers are not our cup of tea.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, the welcome was unlike any other I have received at churches.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The sermon – to speak so openly about his attitude to gay bishops and priests was refreshing.
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