|931: St Chad's, Bradford, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Pulsator Organorum Ineptus.
The church: St Chad's, Toller Lane, Bradford, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: This is a fairly typical stone-built Anglo-catholic church of circa 1910, in the Romanesque style. The apses behind the high altar and in the Lady Chapel are decorated with a Byzantine mosaic.
The church: Its survival is rather remarkable, given its location.
The neighbourhood: This is an inner city parish on the west side of Bradford. There is a lot of derelict commercial and industrial property in the vicinity, not to mention brickfields. Some two-thirds of the population of the parish are of Asian descent, mainly from Bangladesh.
The cast: The parish priest, Fr Ralph Crowe, presided. The Rt. Rev. Robert Ladds, Bishop of Whitby, preached the sermon.
What was the name of the service?
Solemn vespers and benediction for the eve of the Feast of Corpus Christi.
How full was the building?
There were 100 or so people there, so the place was about a third full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
The lady who handed me the service booklet smiled warmly and said "Hello".
Was your pew comfortable?
It was OK. The seating comprises un-upholstered wooden seats fastened together in rows. There was an adequate kneeler, and sufficient space to kneel properly.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Largely reverential, but there was some chatter going on. The organ was playing quietly and a bell was being tolled to summon the faithful. There was a lovely incident just before the service started, when five or six people, obviously a young family, came into the church. It seems that their little boy, who was about five, was curious about the tolling of the bell, and they had come in to investigate. He was shown how it was done, and rang it a few times himself, much the delight of everyone.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome to St Chad's, especially to those of you who have travelled some distance to be with us."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
A duplicated service book produced for this annual occasion.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
The number of clergy processing in wearing birettas was somewhat startling. There were at least a dozen, many of whom sat in the choir stalls. The noise of the boy racers (or was it the police?) on the main road outside was a distraction at times. Certainly a lot of vehicles were driven past in "foot to the floor" mode at one stage.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Ultra traditional Anglo-catholic dead-pan. Lots of choreography up at the altar. Lots of genuflecting, bowing and crossing among the congregation. And kneeling. There was a lot of kneeling. It doesn't come much more stiff upper lip than this.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 The preacher's delivery was entertaining. This disguised the fact that he said everything two or three times, just in case we had missed the point.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He began by recalling the story of Mary, who produced the alabaster box full of precious perfume at Bethany. He drew a parallel between this and the tabernacle, and its precious contents. We should break open the tabernacle and contemplate the blessed sacrament as often as possible. Then there was a bit about how the underprivileged people of Middlesborough need Christ.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Lots of plainsong, accompanied beautifully on the organ, including several psalms and the hymns proper to the occasion, sung to their traditional plainsong melodies. In fact, as the whole service was sung (with the exception of the address), the organ was played almost continuously for nearly two hours.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The quite long opening announcements were almost inaudible, especially as Father Ralph kept turning away from the microphone (and the congregation) to look at the people he was referring to. As a result, we never found out who they were or what they had done to merit a mention. After kneeling for so long, I was scarcely able to stand up!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Several people made attempts to usher us into the church hall for the refreshments that had been laid on, which were, by all accounts, lavish. Some of them were really quite persuasive.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Er, we went to the pub instead.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 I thought I was going to enjoy this service, but I didn't. I found it too fussy, and I started rebelling against the whole idea of benediction, which I have never attended previously. It seemed a pointless exercise; must be my Baptist upbringing coming to the fore. I usually like Anglo-catholic worship, but this was a bit much for me.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Not really, it left me cold. Perhaps I wasn't in the mood.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The little boy being shown how to ring the bell before the service.