|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.
|1868: St Matthew's,
Photo: Sharon Loxton
August in Hippo.
Matthew's, Bristol, England.
Church of England, Diocese
This late Georgian Gothic building was consecrated in 1835 and
described by an observer as "cold, gaunt and most unlovely."
But whatever your architectural tastes, its crenellated tower
is one of the most recognisable features of Bristol’s
skyline. The building feels very bizarre when you first enter
it. Where you would expect the ground floor to be are stairs
leading up to what would have been the gallery level, which
is now the worship space. This has resulted in the windows being
truncated (so looking like they are incorrectly proportioned).
However, as I saw after the service, this means there is a large
space underneath used apparently for children's church and other
St Nathanael’s parish was amalgamated with St Matthew's
in 1984. They run courses and groups for many parts of the community,
including a Messy Church. For today's service, the congregation
mainly consisted of students and staff from Trinity College,
Bristol, clergy from churches where these students are placed,
plus some of their congregation members.
The church is in Kingsdown, an area of Bristol I do not know,
but it appeared to be a relatively middle class residential
The celebrant was the Revd Mat Ineson, priest in charge, assisted
by an unnamed student. Preaching was the Rt Revd Lee Rayfield,
Bishop Suffragan of Swindon. Leading the commissioning was Andrew
Lucas, executive director of Trinity College, Bristol.
The date & time:
3 December 2009, 5.15pm.
What was the name of the service?
Commissioning Service for Context Students at Trinity College
with Holy Communion.
How full was the building?
About half full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was welcomed with a cheery hello and a handshake at the door.
As I sat down, a man who I thought looked slightly out of place
introduced himself. He turned out to be the pastor of a non-denominational
church which has just started working with the Anglican Trinity
Theological College. Unlike the other clergy, he was not sporting
a clerical collar, but a smart black suit. Despite looking not
completely at ease in this Established Church setting, he was
Was your pew comfortable?
A very comfortable grey padded chair. In a cunning move, St
Matthew's has the comfy padded seats in the front and middle,
and wooden pews on the outside. So, unusual for a Church of
England service, most of the people were relatively near the
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
It was reasonably quiet with a small amount of chatter as people
said hello to friends whom they might not normally expect to
see at church.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good evening and welcome to St Matthew's for this service
What books did the congregation use during the
No books were used – everything, including the readings, was
projected onto a white screen in slightly garish colours.
What musical instruments were played?
A grand piano, guitar, bass guitar and drum kit.
Did anything distract you?
The odd arrangement of the building was puzzling; it confused
me throughout the service. Bishop Lee also struck me as enthusiastic
and cheerful, attributes I have not often (if ever) observed
before in the episcopacy. This led me to wondering how he pulled
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Happy clappy, but in a reasonably controlled Anglican kind of
way. The songs sung were neither cutting edge contemporary worship
nor ancient. The student leader did encourage us to call out
our praises to God at one point, but this was not the feel of
the service as a whole.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 Bishop Lee walked around the carpeted area in front
of the altar. He had a relaxed but sincere and engaging approach
and was very easy to listen to. I have no doubt that in the
main this was one of his stock sermons, but he made it feel
like it really applied to the congregation on the evening.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
That we need to re-imagine mission. This doesn't mean doing
something new, but doing the same things in a different way.
He loosely referred to Luke 10:1-12 (Jesus commissions the 72
and instructs them on how to behave) and reminded us of how
the Star Trek image had been re-imagined from film to film (the
same characters and ship used differently). He also mentioned
how the energy drink Lucozade had moved its brand from being
a tonic for ill people to a healthy life style drink for everyone.
All of this mirrors what the church needs to do.
Which part of the service was like being in
The choir sang a beautiful piece about service during communion.
I was very pleasantly surprised at the quality of the singing,
something that rarely appeals to me.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
There was some confusion over when those being commissioned
should be given their commissioning certificates. This led to
various announcements about when this would happen. Eventually
the bishop just gave them out at the end.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A buffet meal was advertised, so I hurried down to grab some
of that. I was greeted by various acquaintances who had also
come to support those being commissioned.
How would you describe the after-service
No coffee, but reasonable quality squash (fruit drink). I don't
think it was Lucozade, though.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 I appreciated the blend of Anglicanism and a lively
and friendly style of worship. But I do fear that such a safe
middle ground might seem a bit too nice!
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Bishop's Lee's illustration using Lucozade.
|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.