|Comment on this report, or find other reports.
|Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you'd like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.
|Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.
||1415: St Finbar's, Glenbrook, New South Wales, Australia
Mystery Worshipper: Amaranta.
The church: St Finbar's, Glenbrook, New South Wales, Australia.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: The parish dates from 1912 and the present building
was consecrated on 7 May 1995. Its most notable external feature is its
roof, which resembles a skate ramp. The building was fashioned out of local
sandstone, with a wood ceiling and tiled floor. It is large and airy, if
dimly lit, as there are windows only at the short ends of its roughly rectangular
shape. The sanctuary is a platform without altar rail, while the chapel
for the reserved sacrament is delimited by a bamboo lattice. The cross,
designed by Australian sculptor Tom Bass, has five crimson drops symbolising
the five most precious wounds of Christ. There are three icons, some glass
plaques near the font, and other symbolic designs on the doors. The rich
symbolism incorporated into many of the appointments is discussed at length
on the church's website.
The church: The parish was founded in response to the desire of local
railroad workers for a Catholic church and school for their children. Hence,
the attached primary school is an integral part of the parish community.
When I visited, the school was in its summer holidays and some construction
work seemed to be in progress, judging by the scaffolding.
The neighbourhood: Glenbrook is a small town on the lower slopes
of the Blue Mountains, just west of Sydney. The upper Blue Mountains are
well known for their scenery and bushwalking potential, but this area, though
still beautiful, is primarily populated by commuters. The church is on the
other side of town from the railway station and main street, and a couple
of blocks from the highway, the other main transport artery. These few streets
are basically residential, though Glenbrook Oval (a sporting ground), the
School of Art, and the RSL (Returned Serviceman's League and Bowling Club)
are not far away.
The cast: The Revd John McSweeney, parish priest, with sacristan,
servers, readers and eucharistic ministers.
The date & time: 14 January 2007, 9.30am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Mostly full. The pews were all occupied, but the congregation was not exactly
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Under the porch outside I was greeted with a "Good morning" and
handed a service leaflet. I had to slip out of my pew later to pick up a
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was padded and extremely comfortable. On the other hand, it was
fortunate that there was little kneeling, because there were no kneelers
to cushion your knees on the tiled floor.
How would you describe the pre-service
The congregation conversed at a subdued murmur, a few people visiting the
side chapel to make their devotions.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning, and welcome to our celebration for the second Sunday
in ordinary time."
What books did the congregation use during the
Some of the music was from As One Voice, a collection of songs
that I have heard described as "folky." This was the only book
used; the antiphons, response for the psalm, and the gospel acclamation
were on the weekly news sheet.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard and guitar. The organ remained silent an instrument built
in 1881 for St Peter's Anglican Parish, East Sydney, and bought and restored
by St Finbar's on the closure of that parish. It features a fully mechanical
action and was restored to its original condition upon installation. Its
pipes are richly decorated with a variety of symbols (again discussed at
length on their website).
Did anything distract you?
Quite a few congregants came in late, most notably a couple of
people who squeezed past me as late as the gospel reading.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Modern Catholic, fairly low, and generally family-oriented. The service
ran extremely smoothly, and, while I wouldn't say the train was on auto-pilot,
the wheels were certainly well oiled.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 Father John touched on quite a number of things in that short space
of time, and jumped rapidly to an apparently unrelated concluding series
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
It's difficult to say. He drew interesting links between each of the readings,
addressing the ways in which kindliness and compassion should be present
in our lives.
Which part of the service was like being in
The congregation enthusiastically joined in the sung repsonses
(apparently from memory), which, combined with a good cantor,
made the musical parts of the proceedings something of a
highlight. It was also good to see the rapport between the priest
and the congregation.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The spoken portions of the service were rushed through so fast I could hardly
work out where we were, let alone join in. The woman next to me managed
to fit "World without end, amen" into three syllables.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Not a lot. A few people returned my smiles, and one went so far as to say
hello, but otherwise I just stood there drinking my tea, watching everyone
How would you describe the after-service
The tea was of fairly average standard and the coffee seemed like instant.
They were accompanied by sweet biscuits and shop-bought lamington fingers
(pieces of sponge cake dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut). There
were also cordial and choc-chip cookies for the kids.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 It seemed to me that this would be a strong, loving community to
belong to, but that it would take quite some time to begin to feel part
of it. I suspect that if a person had children at the attached primary school,
this process would be somewhat easier.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes – just. While I could sense the warmth of this Christian community
from the outside, I felt too much of a spectator to be glad on my own account.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The roof – from the inside and from the out.
|We rely on voluntary donations to stay online. If you're a regular visitor to Ship of Fools, please consider supporting us.
|The Mystery Pilgrim
| One of our most seasoned reporters makes the Camino pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Read here.
| Read reports from 70 London churches, visited by a small army of Mystery Worshippers on one single Sunday. Read here.