Ship of Fools
  Bulletin Boards
  Mystery Worshipper
  Caption Competition
  Gadgets for God
  The Fruitcake Zone
  Signs & Blunders
  Born Twice
  About Ship of Fools
  Support us!
  Contact us!
985: All Saints, Clifton, Bristol, England
Other reports | Comment on this report
All Saints, Clifton, Bristol, England
Mystery Worshipper: Leo.
The church: All Saints, Clifton, Bristol, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: George Edmund Street (the 19th century architect who designed the Royal Courts of Justice) drew the plans for the original church, which was founded by a group of laymen who were disquieted that the existing churches reserved most of their pews for those who paid a rental. The building was bombed in 1940 and rebuilt in the1960s, late enough to embody the change in understanding of the nature and presentation of the eucharistic liturgy, which required a plan somewhat different from that of Street. The present church is modern, consisting of a tower with a tall antenna-like steeple and two wings fanning out on the sides.
The church: All Saints sponsors a number of active ministries. Members of the congregation regularly go on food runs to the homeless and help in the night shelter.
The neighbourhood: It's a mixture of posh three-storey houses with large drives at the one extreme, and accommodations for a transient student population at the other.
The cast: The priest-in-charge, the Rev. Richard Hoyal, was the principal concelebrant. The preacher was the Rev. Canon Brendan Clover.
What was the name of the service?
Concelebrated Festival Mass (for patronal festival).

How full was the building?
About 85 people in a building that comfortably accommodates twice as many. There was a time 20 years ago when it was packed for All Saints Day.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, a simple hello from two locals who live near me and whom I have known for several years.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, ample bottom room, padding for one's back, and plenty of room to kneel upright without having to adopt the "shampoo position."

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet, prayerful and expectant. This is a church where people prepare to meet Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament and have their social club afterwards.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Let us go forth in peace."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Service leaflet with the readings; the New English Hymnal.

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?
A huge thurible that can take about twelve rings of charcoal and is swung overarm and will probably kill someone one day. Whether that unfortunate soul will be guaranteed a passage straight to heaven without passing purgatory, I know not.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Modern Catholic. The principal concelebrant's body language was open and inclusive; the other concelebrants had that bored Anglo-Catholic downcast look that is supposed to communicate concentration but to me communicates...well...boredom.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
11 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – Canon Clover's style was witty and profound by turns. He could say something funny about some of the odd habits of the saints that had my sides aching with laughter, and then he would throw in a serious remark that pulled us up short.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The saints were sinners like us. They did not all smell of perfume when they died. Indeed, their sanctity showed in the fruits of their lives, not in the way they died (important for me as a much-loved acquaintance of mine, a priest, suffered a stroke and behaved abominably in his dying weeks). Canon Clover's final phrase was masterful: "Easter opens up like a fan to the Church in the lives of every one of us."

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Everything went perfectly smoothly, allowing me to pray unperturbed. In my own church I am always worrying that they'll forget such-and-such.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Memories: When I first moved here 25 years ago, I attended All Saints but was told off for wearing jeans, for being of the wrong political persuasion, for supporting women's ordination and, therefore, not being a "proper Catholic," etc. Thus, despite its being ten doors away and my parish church, I crossed parish and deanery boundaries to attend what to me was a more obviously Anglican church. While I am sure some members of the congregation still hold some of these views, I found the current atmosphere in general to be more inclusive even than my so-called liberal church down the road. I am left feeling utterly confused.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I met up with a Tory councillor whom I had slagged off in a previous MW report, of which I now repent. His company was witty and intelligent, and 90 minutes passed before I could break away from him and some others who chatted me up.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Wine! Somewhere between plonk and decent. True to form, however, nobody bought me a glass; I always ended up buying a round. It was like that in the past as well.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – Their supporting Resolutions A, B and C (which disapprove of the ordination of women) would stop me. My spiritual director is a woman and my last vicar was a woman.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, glad to be part of that "multitude that no person can number."

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The uplifting sense of worship and absence of the fussiness that many Anglo-Catholics are prone to.
The Mystery Worshipper is sponsored by, the internet service provider from Christian Aid. By offering email services, special offers with companies such as and, surefish raises more than £300,000 a year for Christian Aid's work around the world.

Click here to find out how to become a Mystery Worshipper. And click here if you would like to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.

Top | Other Reports | Become a Mystery Worshipper!

© Ship of Fools 2005
Surefish logo