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751: St Philip & St Jacob, Bristol, England
Other reports | Comment on this report
Mystery Worshipper: Son of a Preacher Man.
The church: St Philip & St Jacob, (known as Pip'n'Jay), Bristol, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Claims to be "Bristol's oldest (and possibly youngest) Anglican church still open." A mix of ancient and modern, with the original building and modern extension.
The church: When the present vicar arrived at the church in the mid 1960s, it was threatened with closure due to a declining congregation. Over the past 35 years, the church has grown to become the leading evangelical church in Bristol.
The neighbourhood: There is very little housing nearby. The building sits in a pleasant churchyard, close to office buildings.
The cast: The principal leader was the vicar, Canon Malcolm Widdecombe.
What was the name of the service?
Gospel celebration of communion praise.

How full was the building?
The church was about half full. Estimated attendance 110.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, many people. It started on entry, with a handshake and welcoming greeting, and also when I sat down. The welcome during the peace was something else. I've never received such a genuinely warm welcome at a church before.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, Victorian pews with some cushioning.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Reasonably quiet, but with most people in conversation.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome to Pip'n'Jay."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Service sheets and home-produced "Pip'n'Jay Praise" books. Although the books contained some songs, the words were also clearly shown on the video projector.

What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, drums, electric and acoustic guitars.

Did anything distract you?
Yes, the Liverpool football shirt worn by one of the guitarists, and my wife's comments on how cute he was. When it was ministry time, those requiring ministry went into the chancel and the curtains shut behind them – and then kept opening and shutting.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Very relaxed, with plenty of hands raised to the heavens.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
28 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – Amusing, confident, articulate and full of the Holy Spirit.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The need, means, scope and availability of salvation. The vicar was not afraid to describe in detail what Hell might be like for those who were not saved.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The communion was superb. Instead of the congregation going forward, we administered it to each other, which led to a genuine intimacy.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The Liverpool shirt of the guitarist. I could have forgiven a Bristol City or Rovers shirt – but Liverpool!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We didn't have time to stay for coffee, as we were going out for an evening meal. I would imagine that there was no danger of being left alone for long, as so many people were keen to engage in conversation at other times.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I understand that drinks were on offer.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – Possibly the best Anglican church service I have ever attended – and I've attended a few in my time.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Very much so. I was buzzing for a whole week afterwards.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The wonderfully genuine welcome and sense of community.
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