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2878: St Barnabas, Liverpool, England
St Barnabas, Liverpool (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Rustic Lad.
The church: St Barnabas, Liverpool, England.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese of Liverpool.
The building: As one approaches, one notices a Neo-Gothic edifice on tidy grounds with a good clear notice board. It dates from 1914 but has undergone several modifications since then. The tower had been designed to hold a ring of eight bells, but there was only enough money for a single bell. The full ring was not installed until 2010, using bells recycled from closed churches. The church hall was closed in the 1960s, and so the interior of the church was remodelled to include a small kitchen and open space in the rear where pews once were. Clerestory windows brighten the interior. The east window is a memorial to the fallen of World War II. The carved wooden reredos depicts the Last Supper framed by two jellyfish (or so it seemed – I think they were meant to be draped curtains). The Lady chapel looks rather gloomy but features a very pretty Victorian stained glass window of Our Lady with Martha and Mary.
The church: They are part of the Mossley Hill team ministry. Paul McCartney sang in the choir here. They sponsor uniformed organisations: Girl Guides and Brownies, as well as a boys club and women’s organisations.
The neighbourhood: The church is on Penny Lane, immortalised in the famous song of the Beatles. It is a thriving area with a busy thoroughfare. Shops of every description abound – too many to list. From the church one can easily spot all the locations mentioned in the song: the barbershop, the shelter in the middle of the roundabout, the bank whose banker never wears a mac in the pouring rain, etc. Street upon street of red bricked Victorian/Edwardian terraced houses lead off the main road.
The cast: The Rt Revd Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool, preached. The service was led by the Revd Bill Addy, parish priest. Derek Atherton was the lay reader. Music was provided by the Gospel Canticle Choir – this church is well known for its music.
The date & time: Feast of St Barnabas, Thursday, 11 June 2015, 7.00pm.

What was the name of the service?
Service of Celebration with the laying down of a time capsule. The capsule was to replace the original one from 11 June 1912. The new capsule contains memorabilia of the church and a copy of this evening’s order of service.

How full was the building?
About three-quarters full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was running a bit late and a little man in a hat told me to "get into church!" He reminded me of a bookie's runner. Once inside, I had a warm welcome by a smiling man who gave me an order of service and a hymn book.

Was your pew comfortable?
It was adequate. Sitting on what is essentially a plank of wood was made more bearable by the pew runner. Roomy.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I arrived to find most of the church full and the seats taken. The organist was giving a fine rendition of a Buxtehude piece. Somebody was cackling at the back and there was a general pre-service rumpus from the congregation. It felt a bit like a concert hall!

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Please stand." Then the entrance procession came up the aisle to the wonderful sound of Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria, sung admirably by the assembled choir. Then, the vicar: “Please be seated. It is a joy and a privilege to welcome you here tonight and to welcome the Bishop of Liverpool.”

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Anglican Hymns Old and New. There was a printed service sheet with St Barney on the front containing prayers, readings, hymn numbers, and what the music was.

What musical instruments were played?
Pipe organ. The two manual opus of Henry Willis & Sons has been altered and repaired since its installation.

Did anything distract you?
I was wondering about the jellyfish, actually, throughout the service. I was once stung by one. Very painful.

St Barnabas, Liverpool (Altar)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Middle of the road worship – about half way up the candle, a bit like parish churches of yesteryear. A highlight was the placing of the time capsule, the bishop being properly verged to the kitchen area (formerly the porch) where the cornerstone is, as the choir sang Thomas Attwood Walmisley's Magnificat in D minor.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
8 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Short and sweet.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Friendship and the gift of sharing.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The choir’s rendition of Charles Wood’s Oh Thou, The Central Orb delivered the "tingle factor."

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Some of the words in familiar hymns had been altered. I wasn't the only one who found myself singing the "wrong" words!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was whisked away to the kitchen at the back by a man who was keen to show me the time capsule. He also proceeded to tell me his life history, but I did not mind.

St Barnabas, Liverpool (Placing of time capsule)

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Refreshments were being served: tea and coffee, wine, nibbles, cheesy whatsits, olives, and St Barnabas birthday cake. I had two pieces of that – boy, was it sweet! I had cream round my mouth that I only wiped off later.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – I wouldn’t hesitate to go here: welcoming, friendly, easy style of worship. Good music.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. St Barnabas' people have the right message and attitude here. A church looking forward to the next 100 years!

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The glorious Gloria and the marvellous Magnificat.
 
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