|867: St. Martin-on-the-Hill, Scarborough, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Voice
The church: St Martin-on-the-Hill, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: This is a Victorian, Bodley-designed building, with fine interior pre-Raphaelite artwork. Inside the building is a magnificent Henry Willis organ encased in Bodley's organ case. An icon depicting Christ crucified stands under the rood screen, on the chancel steps, surrounded by about 50 candles in a very emotive and powerfully beautiful way.
The neighbourhood: The church is situated on the south cliff of Scarborough. This is a great tourist district, including Oliver's Mount, the Spa, and wonderful views of the North Sea.
The cast: The Rev. Fr Tony Mills (Anglican), the Rev. Sue Neale (Methodist) and other lay ministers.
What was the name of the service?
Scarborough churches together Taizé service for Pentecost.
How full was the building?
Very full, maybe about 200 people drawn from the various churches in Scarborough.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, a pleasant group of people handing out service booklets and Taizé chant music.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. Reasonably hard wood, but relatively comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Generally a lot of chatting amongst the congregation, although there were periods in which people were silent, and clearly prayerful and reflective.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome to St Martin's church..."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
A service book containing a corruption of an order of compline, together with some Taizé music.
What musical instruments were played?
Piano, by a very skilled and imaginative pianist.
Did anything distract you?
Perhaps the icon and the candles on the chancel steps; and looking around, recognising people I knew.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Very relaxed and reflective. It had a distinct tinge of Anglican order in it, but wonderful instances where music and the word were used creatively. The ministers from St Martin's were robed, as were the singers, but other ministers involved weren't.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
There was a meditation in which Fr Mills reflected on the meaning of Pentecost and what the Spirit demands of us; perhaps more importantly what we must accede to the Spirit.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The Nunc Dimittis. Whilst the canticle was being said, the Taizé chant "Preserve us O Lord" was sung quietly by the congregation.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Possibly the relative stiff-upper-lippedness. Taizé services are often very relaxed and informal, and because of the size of the amassed congregations this wasn't possible. Too many people in pews and not enough sitting cross-legged!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I wandered for a moment, then latched onto people I knew and chatted until ushered out of the church.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Pretty good. Modestly tasty biscuits were also provided.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 The building itself is a glorious place to be. That alone would be reason enough.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Definitely; it was wonderful. In times when we are constantly (and vainly) seeking an ecumenical lowest-common-denominator, or an agreement on how things ought to be done, it was very pleasing to celebrate Pentecost among Christians not just those of my own denomination or church.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The icon and the candles. Despite being a slight distraction from the happenings in the service, they were a marvellous way in which to concentrate on God.