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|1960: St John
the Baptist, Ripon, North Yorkshire, England
St John the Baptist, Ripon, North Yorkshire, England.
Church of England, Diocese
of Ripon and Leeds.
The original church, dating from 1109 (I was told very pointedly
that the parish is over 900 years old), was the chapel of St
John's Hospital, given by Archbishop Thomas II of York "for
the love of God and St Wilfrid" to the poor of Ripon. The
details of the usage to which the hospital was to be put was
the subject of much controversy throughout the ages and ranged
from an almshouse to bed and board for schoolmasters. The original
chapel fell into disuse by 1722, and for the first half of the
19th century was used as a boys' school. The present building
dates from 1868 and is the work of the Leeds architect William
Henry Crossland, who designed country estates, schools, hotels
and shops as well as churches. It is of sandstone and is in
the late pointed style that was so popular in churches of the
period. There is a stone bellcote topped by a cross. The small
interior has plain white walls and is furnished with wooden
pews and decorated with attractive modern banners as well as
brass memorial plaques.
This is a small church that offers a quieter traditional alternative
to the busy evangelical concerns of its sibling Holy Trinity,
Blossomgate. The congregation tends to be small, the regulars
being supplemented by occasional visitors such as myself and
a family of four who were present at the service. There are
two celebrations of holy communion each Sunday.
Ripon, the fourth smallest city in England, was founded by St
Wilfrid during the time the Angles ruled Northumbria. An important
religious centre, the city was hit hard by the English Reformation.
It became known for its wool and cloth trade during the time
of the Plantagenets, and for the manufacture of spurs during
the 16th and 17th centuries, when spurs were a fashion ornament
as well as essential riding apparel. Today Ripon is visited
by tourists seeking out the historic religious sites and is
a thriving market city. From the middle ages and continuing
to this day, the Ripon Hornblower sounds the nightly curfew
from the four corners of the marketplace. St John's occupies
the same ground as the almshouses it originally served. I have
a feeling they may now be parish offices. It is located on Bondgate,
one of the streets by which one enters the city centre, and
thus slightly away from the immediate bustle of the market square.
The Revd Mark Tanner, vicar of Holy Trinity Blossomgate and
recently appointed area dean, was filling in for the usual celebrant.
The date & time:
Sunday, 11 April 2010, 10.45am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Nineteen plus organist and celebrant. In such a small church,
this amounted to a fair sprinkling of people.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A lady handed me the hymn book and service sheet. The vicar,
who was setting up, enquired where I was from and answered a
few questions about the history of the church. He also gave
me a leaflet on historic churches in the Harrogate district.
He wondered if I intended to stay for the service, and I assured
him that I meant to do so! A gentleman who later read the lesson
asked me if I was used to the old or new communion services.
His question rather puzzled me till he explained that it referred
to the Book of Common Prayer versus Common Worship.
St John's uses the latter, which is what I'm most familiar with.
Maybe he felt that someone interested enough to turn up so early
might be a dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist.
Was your pew comfortable?
Plain varnished wood with red carpet to soften it. Quite comfortable for what turned out to be a fairly short service.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
I arrived with half an hour to spare before the service. There
was a quiet bustle of preparation and chat, with some people
sitting in silence. I felt lucky in being able to sit on a bench
in the sunny churchyard and write a few notes without feeling
What were the exact opening
words of the service?
"This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and
be glad in it."
What books did the congregation use during the
There were pew Bibles, but see below. We were given the Complete
Anglican Hymns Old and New,and a service sheet. I noted
afterwards that there were copies of Hymns Ancient and Modern,
Revised on the shelves by the door.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
The vicar wore a surplice and black scarf, which seemed rather
funereal. I realised on closer inspection that the scarf had
motifs of flames and the Paraclete. And, most embarrassingly,
my mobile, which had been set to silent, vibrated just loudly
enough to disturb the family in the pew in front. Ouch!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Standard Common Worship, formal but relaxed. Made even
more relaxed by a member of the congregation who reminded the
vicar that there was an opening hymn we had not sung. "I'm getting
there," was his good-humoured response. Well, I don't like to
be deprived of hymns either, and Holy Trinity probably does
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 The vicar spoke clearly, keeping in mind the day's
gospel passage that was the basis of his sermon. But he spent
rather more time on the first two sections than on the last,
which gave me the feeling that within his sermon structure,
he may have been extemporising.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Using the doubting Thomas story, the vicar said that it was
necessary both to acknowledge and to share our difficulties,
and that this was part of growth. He then went on to mention
four things that he felt he needed more of: confusion (amazement,
surprise), joy, peace, and the Holy Spirit. The last received
a rather cursory mention.
Which part of the service was like being in
The beautiful spring day was a good start. The hymns were mostly
familiar and in reasonable keys.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
My mobile! Rooting in my handbag to locate the thing would have
created even further disturbance, so I had to wait for the vibration
to stop of itself. The communion hymn, which was obviously unfamiliar
to the congregation and had only two verses – not quite
enough time for us to learn it on the hoof. Also, while the
page numbers for the readings were announced, not every pew
had a Bible, and people were looking round for them.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Tea and coffee were served at the back of the church in real
cups and saucers. Sadly, I'd missed the Easter cake on offer
the previous week! Regulars were happy to chat. There was a
prominent fair trade poster on the notice board, so I presume
the tea and coffee were fair traded.
How would you describe the after-service
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 A friendly congregation, relaxed service and good music.
Just my cup of tea!
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Sitting in the churchyard in the sun writing my preliminary
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