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2865: Holy Trinity Pro-Cathedral, Brussels, Belgium
Holy Trinity Pro-Cathedral, Brussels (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Meet and Right So to Do.
The church: Holy Trinity Pro-Cathedral, Brussels, Belgium.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese in Europe.
The building: The 1920s mostly brick pro-cathedral is hidden away in the courtyard of the Church House compound. Architecturally more a mid-size parish church, the pro-cathedral has a mix of Gothic Revival and Romanesque architecture with an apse. Renovations are underway to the Church House to provide a new entranceway that should make the pro-cathedral more accessible.
The church: The principal cathedral of the Diocese of Europe is located in Gibraltar, with another pro-cathedral in Malta; the chapter stalls are dispersed among the three churches but the bishop has his seat here in Brussels. Holy Trinity is a pillar of the English-speaking – in particular, the Commonwealth – community in the Belgian and European capital city. They sponsor home groups and hold two annual retreats, and contribute to mission work in several different countries. There are four services on Sundays, including a contemporary evening service, an African-focused afternoon service, and two morning services.
The neighbourhood: The cathedral itself isn't visible from the street. Rather, all that one can see is the Tudor Revival-esque entryway from the mostly quiet side street not far from a posh area of Brussels and within walking distance of the Royal Palace.
The cast: The celebrant was the Revd Canon John Wilkinson, associate chaplain and canon pastor. The preacher was the Revd Richard Frost, whose position at Holy Trinity was not identified. Both were rather plainly attired in albs with red stoles.
The date & time: Pentecost Sunday, 24 May 2015, 10.30am.

What was the name of the service?
Holy Communion.

How full was the building?
About 60 per cent full, especially after the school-age children joined their parents at the mid-point of the liturgy.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I arrived about 20 minutes early and the only person to welcome me was Canon Wilkinson. "Hello, I'm John Wilkinson," he said, and gave me a firm handshake.

Was your pew comfortable?
The simple wooden pews with a straight back weren't uncomfortable, although the leg room was greatly reduced by the permanently extended kneelers.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
A nightmare. It was like a social affair with everyone, including the clergy, loudly engaging others in chatter. I gave my best evil eye stare to two older gentlemen and their wives about five feet across from me, but to no avail – they continued to talk very loudly and distracted me from engaging in any real pre-worship prayer. Even the clergy could be heard from the back from the nave making small-talk with congregants.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome. Let us sing." The procession then commenced.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Almost all of the liturgy, except for the hymns, readings and Creed, could be found in a printed service booklet. In the pew were The Holy Bible, New International Version, a paperback copy of Common Worship Order One for Holy Communion, and the hymnals Sing Glory; Psalms for Today; and Songs from the Psalms.

What musical instruments were played?
The organ, except for a piano communion anthem.

Did anything distract you?
Half of the choir wore standard Anglican choir dress, including a red cassock with surplice and boy choristers in a ruff collar; but the other half wore red high school graduation-esque gowns.

Holy Trinity Pro-Cathedral, Brussels (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I would say it was on the lower end of broad church, though a handful of congregants seemed to be of a higher churchmanship. The liturgy itself was contemporary language with rather left-wing – at least to my ears – intercession prayers that invoked environmentalism to protect God's creation and blamed "religion" for the troubles in the Middle East (there was no mention of the Islamic jihadists murdering Christians). Also, I found it unusual that the gospel was read by a member of the congregation as opposed to one of the clergy, as I've always seen it done.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
20 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – The Revd Richard Frost began well but unfortunately didn't know when to stop. He ended up going all over the place.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
God speaks to all of us, if we listen.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Nothing. It was too lacking in churchmanship to gain a place in the realm above. I ended up reciting the traditional Prayer Book liturgy to myself to insulate me from what I perceived as a liturgically abusive service.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
There was no general confession or any expression of contrition whatsoever. I found this most disturbing. The service didn't feel Anglican at all. Methodist surely, but not Anglican, and certainly not cathedral worship – or, in this case, pro-cathedral worship in a city with so many ex-pat Brits. I also found it ironic that the website touts the 9.00 Book of Common Prayer service as being the church's most popular. You'd think they might decide to mimic what apparently works instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I have never walked out of a church before, but did so here after the post-communion prayer.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Coffee and a full alcoholic bar were purportedly offered.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
0 – The only time I would ever consider attending Holy Trinity again would be for the 9.00 service, which they claim uses the traditional Book of Common Prayer liturgy and has a large young adult attendance.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Only when I left.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
That I got up and walked away.
 
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