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Church of Christ, Liverpool, England.
of England, Diocese
Massive. Designed by the noted English architect Sir Giles Gilbert
Scott, it is made of local Storeton sandstone on the scale of
Battersea power station! This is the largest cathedral in England,
visible for miles around. Surprisingly, although it looks every
bit as medieval as any of its older cousins, it is a work of
the 20th century. The cornerstone was laid in 1904 by King Edward
VII and the consecration took place in 1924 in the presence
of King George V and Queen Mary, but the cathedral was not completely
finished until 1978. The bells are the highest and heaviest
ringing peal in the world. The enormous interior features much
artwork and beautiful stained glass windows. The cathedral sucks
you in at the west end and, about two hours later, it blows
you out again onto St Jamesís plateau. Such is the attraction
of this huge place that people flock to it from all over the
world, not just Merseyside.
The cathedral sees itself as the focus of all diocesan activity.
As such, it takes pride in its liturgical and ceremonial expertise
and strong music program. In the cathedral gardens, St James
graveyard, is a spa Ė the Chalybeate Spring, discovered in 1773.
The Rodney Street specialists used to send patients here to
cure ailments ranging from headaches and heartaches to rickets
Georgian villas and terraced houses; student accommodation close
to the university. Rodney Street leads to the cathedral past
doctors and dental surgeries, specialist and consultants in
this and that (and the other), also barristersí chambers. There
are panoramic views across the whole city and beyond to the
The Most Revd and Rt Hon. John Sentamu, Archbishop of York,
preached. The Revd Canon Myles Davies, acting dean, presided.
Professor Peter Davies, of the Liverpool School of Tropical
Medicine, introduced the service.
The date & time:
Sunday, 22 April 2012, 3.00pm.
What was the name of the service?
The Healthcare Service.
How full was the building?
Not very full; about 130 folk in the nave.
Did anyone welcome you
The bells were ringing out across the whole city as I made my
way up to St Jamesís plateau that afternoon, the deep resounding
tones of the great tenor bell drawing us toward evensong on
a sunny Sunday afternoon in late April. But upon arrival there
was no welcome whatsoever. Rather surprising given that this
magnificent prominent building attracts thousands of visitors
from every corner of the globe each year. There are, however,
welcome notices in diverse languages on the way in. So, in view
of my flu-like virus, I headed outside to the Chalybeate Spring
to partake of the healing water.
Was your pew comfortable?
Red seated and backed chairs. The padded seat was comfy and
had a place to put one's books.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
A gentleman battled with his inside-out umbrella on the steps
at the west door whilst a coach spewed its passengers onto the
cobbled piazza of the cathedral car park. "Is there an
entrance fee, do you know?" enquired a foreign voice of
the coach driver. I failed to hear the reply, it being lost
to the wind. (There is no admission charge, by the way.) Once
settled inside, I found the atmosphere rather quiet, a bit subdued,
really. The organ was playing quietly in the background.
What were the exact opening
words of the service?
"Good afternoon. Welcome to the cathedral this afternoon
for the Healthcare Service."
What books did the congregation use during the
Printed order of service.
What musical instruments were played?
Huge five-manual pipe organ, an opus of the Liverpool firm of
Henry Willis. The instrument was completely overhauled in 1958-1960
and again in 1977. New stops were added in 1997 and 2007.
Did anything distract you?
A girl sitting near the front reminded me of Minnie Mouse. She
had black hair in two large circular bunches like Minnieís ears.
I couldnít stop looking at her.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Oh dear! Perhaps it's because the service was evensong, which
is not exactly a participatory service, or perhaps it's because
I wasn't in the best of health that day myself. But I'm sorry
to have to say that the Healthcare Service was, in the opinion
of this Mystery Worshipper, lifeless. Constipated. In need of
a dose of castor oil! I felt like I was sitting in the waiting
room of the doctor's surgery. The only things that impressed
me were the long green cloaks that the vergers wore.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
4 Archbishop Sentamuís style is somewhat disjointed and
difficult to follow. He is hard to understand, bless him, having
a pronounced accent. Plus the acoustics didnít help too
much delay and reverberation. I had come especially to hear
him preach but I couldnít really hear him at all!
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
The archbishop spoke on the theme of the Good Samaritan: love
of God and love of our neighbour. He quoted St Therese of Lisieux:
"We are the hands and the feet of Jesus." He compared
lawyers to rhinoceroses Ė they keep their heads down and charge!
Unkind words can kill and wound more deeply than being stabbed.
Be the neighbourly Samaritan!
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The interior of Liverpool Cathedral is vast and soaring, and
the light is truly wonderful. One feels very small. Looking
up, it is like a lift shaft to heaven. Thereís even an angel
popping his head round the organ blowing a trumpet.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I was feeling decidedly rough with a flu-type fuzziness. I kept
going hot and cold but I thought. "Well, at least Iím surrounded
by medics. They can scoop me up off the floor if I flake out!"
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Because of my malaise, I only hung around briefly, but the lady
behind me smiled and nodded as I made my way toward the exit.
The congregation were warmly invited for tea and coffee after
the service in the Lady chapel, as per the order of service.
I did not avail myself of the refreshments.
How would you describe the after-service
I didn't partake.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 Itís a spectator sport, I feel; one is removed from the proceedings and is an innocent bystander in cathedral worship.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
It made me wonder if I am a Christian.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The long green cloaks worn by the vergers.
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