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||1441: St Faith and St Laurence, Harborne, Birmingham,
Mystery Worshipper: Tartuffe.
The church: St
Faith and St Laurence, Harborne, Birmingham, England.
The building: The parish was formed in 1933 when two mission churches
joined forces. The building was begun in 1936 but was not completely finished
until 1960. It's a red brick structure with an imposing front and exquisite
stained glass in a variety of styles and by various designers. Nikolaus
Pevsner in his Buildings of England (1966) described the interior
as "especially successful, and the proportions are very pleasant."
It feels quite intimate, with white walls and dark brown spiderweb-like
ribbing and shiny wooden pews.
The church: They support missions in Sri Lanka and Chile and are
active both in Churches Together and the Edgborne Group of Churches. Several
social events such as Family Fun Day, Party in the Park and the Harvest
Festival are held at various times throughout the year. They offer two morning
services each Sunday as well as an evening service (sung eucharist or choral
evensong in alternating weeks), holy communion on Wednesdays, and morning
prayer each weekday except Fridays.
The neighbourhood: Harborne is a very pleasant suburb of Birmingham
and features the Birmingham Botanical Garden as well as a fine selection
of pubs and restaurants. The most unusual thing about the area is that it
feels very comfortable – like typical England, going along in a quiet,
The cast: The Revd Priscilla White, priest in charge.
The date & time: Pentecost Sunday, 27 May 2007, 8.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
There was a scattering of worshippers around the church totaling about eight.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was welcomed and handed the necessary papers for the service by a smiling
woman who told me how the service worked. I think she was a little taken
aback by the fact that I was dripping due to the torrential rain outside.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was a traditional but comfortable one and looked newly polished.
It was nice to come to a church where the pews were nicely spaced, giving
plenty of room for those of us with longer legs!
How would you describe the pre-service
As this was an early service, the church was quiet save for the pounding
rain, and very reflective. In a way, as it was so empty, I felt quite alone
despite the other worshippers.
What were the exact opening words of the
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen." This was followed by a brief welcome and mention of the fact
that it was Pentecost Sunday.
What books did the congregation use during the
There was an in-house publication: Parish Church of St Faith and St
Laurence, Harborne, Order of Service for Holy Communion and the parish
newsletter, which contained the collects. The Holy Bible, Revised Standard
Version, was at the end of my pew.
What musical instruments were played?
There was no music.
Did anything distract you?
The rain dripping off me had permeated everything – the booklets,
the floor, my glasses – and threatened to put me out of the mood for
worship. The sound of the rain outside made me think about the walk back
and how much wetter I was going to be. During the service, I was distracted
by the chap opposite me as I tried to work out if he was wearing a dog collar
(I think he was, but I also think he was disturbed by my staring!). Also,
there was a lamp hanging from the ceiling that looked like a huge, red golf
ball. It was so low I wondered if I would hit my head on it when I went
forward for communion (I didn't!).
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
This was a simple, traditional service, reflective and fairly middle-of-the-road.
There were some imaginative touches, especially in the intercessions, where
the responses seemed more personal than the standard ones.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 This was a thoughtful if not rousing sermon.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The Holy Spirit gives us power, presence and potential. The Holy Spirit
is open to all, and we have to wonder if we are ready for our potential
to be released.
Which part of the service was like being in
The eucharist itself was very moving due to its simplicity and the feeling
of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I had missed it when I arrived (perhaps I mistook it for a bucket set out
to collect the rainwater), but the collection plate was resting on a table
in the middle of the aisle. Later, when I saw it being carried forward,
I realised that I had lost the opportunity to deposit not only my offering
but also my Mystery Worship calling card. Fortunately, the plate was returned
to the back of the church afterwards, so I deposited both as I left.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was greeted by the priest in charge, who made me feel very welcome and
insisted I take a parish magazine with me.
How would you describe the after-service
There was no coffee as this was such an early service.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 I would want to attend the later service, as this one felt just
a bit too small to provide the support I would like and to allow me to become
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes, because it reminded me of the simplicity of the eucharist and the power
of the Spirit.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The warmth and friendliness of the priest in charge. That and the big red
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