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||1227: St Edward King and Martyr, Cambridge, England
Mystery Worshipper: The Token Non-Goth.
The church: St Edward King and Martyr, Cambridge, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Nestled in a corner off the central market square,
St Edward's is easy to overlook. From the outside, it's an interesting mixture
of architectural styles, with a stone chancel, brick-built nave, and a very
old bell tower. On the inside, it seems more architecturally balanced, giving
the feel of a traditional parish church.
The church: St Edward's is a Royal Peculiar, which gives it a certain
independence from the Church of England. It has two side chapels, the south
labelled Clare and the north labelled Trinity Hall. These refer to two nearby
colleges which have close connections with the church. St Edward's has also
traditionally been a cradle of reformers – figures such as Hugh Latimer
preached against the misdeeds of the Church during the Reformation period.
The pulpit where Latimer preached is still in use. In modern times St Edward's
has become a centre for mystical and meditative Christianity. It has close
links with the psychology and religion departments of Cambridge University,
and actively engages with groups such as the New Age movement and the Goth
community. Indeed, the service described herein was held for the benefit
of the Goths. Goth is a modern subculture dating from the early 1980s, an
offshoot of post-punk. Its followers favor "gothic" tastes in
music and clothing as influenced by 19th century gothic literature.
The neighbourhood: St Edward's is in the centre of Cambridge, which
means it's surrounded by the prestigious colleges of the University. The
Haunted Bookshop lies a mere ten paces away, for those who are interested
in books, or ghosts, or both.
The cast: The Rev. Marcus Ramshaw, assistant chaplain, was the celebrant,
and the Rev. Dr Fraser Watts, vicar-chaplain, was the preacher.
The date & time: Tuesday, 17 January 2006, 8.30pm.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
The congregation consisted of about a dozen people, all seated in a semicircle in the chancel.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Someone welcomed us as we approached the chancel, explaining that the service
was being recorded by local newspeople for the first anniversary of this
service. We weren't handed service sheets – they were laid out on the chairs.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was a cushioned chair, of the type often found in churches. Very comfy indeed.
How would you describe the pre-service
The church was in total darkness except for candles and lighting around
the altar, setting the right mood for the service. Initially it was all
quite frantic, as the press were rushing around taking photographs (including
several of me and my companion), setting up lights, and interviewing the
vicar. As the service start time approached, the atmosphere became somewhat
more hushed, except for the occasional click of a camera.
What were the exact opening words of the
A piece of Goth music was played on a CD player, and when it had finished
the celebrant said, "A very warm welcome to St Edward's Church for
this Goth Eucharist."
What books did the congregation use during the
The special Goth liturgy written by Chaplain Ramshaw was included in a booklet
laid on our seats.
What musical instruments were played?
A CD player was used for most of the music. The preacher sang "Before
the ending of the day" unaccompanied.
Did anything distract you?
The blasted cameramen! They distracted considerably from the overall atmosphere
of the service. One memorable moment occurred when a cameraman knelt down
at the altar rail facing the congregation, to film us just as we were being
invited to receive communion. He got out of the way pretty quickly after
I knelt down next to him!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
It's hard to say. According to their website, the Goth eucharist reflects
the darker sides of our lives before moving toward a position of hope and
happiness found in Christ. The whole service was worship – the musical
interludes were mainly secular tracks from the Goth community, which were
quite moody and dark but moving in a way. Chaplain Ramshaw's liturgy likewise
is dark, to be sure, but also intimate and reassuring. I felt that I was
worshipping more during the liturgy than during the music – I found
it difficult to engage with the music and didn't find it particularly worshipful.
Maybe I just wasn't making enough of an effort.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Fraser Watts read the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead, then
expanded on it. In this story, Jesus is confronted with the terrifying reality
of death. His response to Martha and Mary – that he is the Resurrection
and the Life – gave a new meaning to doctrines they had been brought
up with. As he commanded people to roll away the stone on Lazarus' tomb,
so he commands us to reveal the hidden, dark aspects of our lives and let
his light in.
Which part of the service was like being in
Heaven at a Goth service? Well, I must admit that the words of the liturgy
(particularly the confession and the prayer at the invitation to communion)
were very moving and they reassured me of God's infinite love – something
I need to know at this time.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
During the peace, we were encouraged to share "a handshake, an embrace
or a kiss – whatever you feel comfortable with." I don't mind embracing
people I have met before (and many of my friends are Goths), but I was slightly
unnerved by a tall scary man with black lipstick who approached me with
arms wide open. I quickly offered my right hand to signify my limited intentions.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
As I walked through the nave of the church, a lady from Radio Cambridgeshire asked if she could interview me. I obliged, and spent the next few minutes trying to answer questions about the Goth community. Ironic, considering I'm not really a Goth.
How would you describe the after-service
There was none. But many of the congregants go on to "The Calling,"
a Goth night at a local nightclub. No doubt there's plenty of drinking to
be done there.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 The service is only fortnightly, but I found it very moving and
meaningful and will definitely go again.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes. In particular it restored my sense of God's grace and the love of Jesus, which had been flagging in recent days.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The service's attempt to face up to the dark side of life, whilst not losing sight of the hope we have in Christ.
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