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Chapel, Gloucester, England
|Mystery Worshipper: St Hilda.
The church: Mariners'
Chapel, Gloucester, England.
of England, Diocese
The building: A small, stone building, built in the 1840s. I would guess the
building is largely unaltered since its creation, except for
the addition of some rather lovely stained glass windows in
the 1990s, including one of Jacob's Ladder. The interior is
plastered and painted cream, with boards with the Ten Commandments,
the Lord's Prayer and Creed upon them. The pulpit has what
appears to be a ship's wheel on the front of it. The whole
effect is rather lovely.
The church: The church was originally constructed to minister to the waterfront
community in 19th century Gloucester (the usual problems:
blasphemy, drunkenness and rough living). It is an extra-parochial
chapel, and is now under the trusteeship of the Church
The neighbourhood: Gloucester Quays used to be the port area of
Gloucester, which was Britain's most inland port. Since the 1980s the
area has been refurbished and gentrified: the old warehouses have been
mostly converted to housing. The nearby dock now contains houseboats.
There is also a large designer outlet nearby, two museums and an
antiques centre. The area near the chapel is now pedestrianised, and
with people strolling to and fro on a Sunday afternoon it had a
purposeless, ominous air.
The cast: The celebrant was a retired priest who introduced himself to
me only as Chris.
The date & time: Feast of Christ the King, 20 November 2011, 3.00pm.
What was the
name of the service?
How full was
It is not a large building, but there were only nine in the
congregation, so it was pretty empty, I'm sorry to say.
welcome you personally?
No. I managed to walk in and take my seat without anyone greeting
me. Later one of the church members did say hello in a rather
vague way to me.
Was your pew
Not particularly, but I've sat in worse.
How would you
describe the pre-service
An interesting mixture. There were two church members sorting out the
sanctuary area, chatting away, later to be joined by the celebrant, but
it was, despite this, rather peaceful.
What were the
exact opening words of the
The celebrant opened the service with the Lord's Prayer.
What books did
the congregation use during the
Mission Praise, plus
Sunday service books containing liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer and the 1980 Alternative Service Book. There were also pew
Bibles (New International
instruments were played?
Did anything distract
I was admiring the lovely stained glass before the service
began, but during the service I was distracted trying to work
out what the subject of the "east" (actually west-facing)
window was. Due to the chapel being slap bang next to a large
warehouse, no light shone through the window. Also, as I struggled
to travel back in time and recall the Common Prayer
communion service, I was delighted to be brought back to the
21st century by the sound of a mobile phone going off.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
During the service I had a problem
trying to work out which page we were on in the Prayer Book.
The service followed the old 1662 rite, but as the Prayer
Book contained liturgy (now redundant) from the Alternative Service Book I was completely
lost to begin with. Fortunately a strict Anglican upbringing
meant I was able to recite most of the responses off by heart.
The service followed the traditional course of an Anglican
communion service, with set prayers and responses read by
clergy and congregation interspersed with hymns. The hymns
were played very loudly on the organ, and accompanied very
loudly by the organist's singing. It didn't really matter
what the congregation did in the singing department as a result.
long was the sermon?
On a scale of
1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Chris was a retired clergyman (he told me he only
came once a month to celebrate communion) but he was an enthusiastic
and rather dramatic preacher.
In a nutshell,
what was the sermon
This being the feast of Christ the King, the subject of the sermon was
the kingship of Jesus. Our preacher looked at what sort of king Jesus
was – how he has authority but he is merciful and forgiving. He
concluded by saying that we are Jesus' envoys to the world, and Jesus
can be a king for the world through us.
Which part of
the service was like being in
The peaceful atmosphere and simple but beautiful interior of the church.
And which part
was like being in... er... the other place?
Scrabbling through a prayer book trying to find where we were. A few
page numbers would not have gone amiss.
when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I wandered to the back of the church, where the priest introduced
himself and made polite conversation. I was also offered a
cup of tea by one of the church members.
How would you
describe the after-service
The tea was hot and served in a china cup. It was accompanied by a
How would you
feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
6 – I loved the church, but I'm not really a Book of Common Prayer fan.
Did the service
make you feel glad to be a
I felt very glad to be a Mystery Worshipper – to be
visiting this beautiful old church – but I felt slightly
sad also at such a small congregation.
What one thing
will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The stained glass window of Jacob holding his ladder – exactly
like an ordinary ladder.
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