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2907: St Giles, Northampton, England
St Giles, Northampton (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Blanik.
The church: St Giles, Northampton, England.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese of Peterborough.
The building: An ancient church dating back in parts to the 12th century but substantially enlarged during the 18th century. Of considerable beauty on the outside. It is cruciform with a tower at the crossing containing a ring of ten bells, newly fitted with bearings and tuned in 2004. The inside has been reordered.
The church: They seem to be a very modern and vibrant worship community. There is an Alpha course plus focus groups and prayer courses. They also have prayer meetings, senior fellowship, men's and women's breakfasts, a lunch club, youth groups and messy church. They budget about 17 per cent of their annual income for mission work.
The neighbourhood: St Giles is set in the middle of Northampton, in a small park area.
The cast: The Revd Diana Rees Jones, associate minister, together with the Revd Peter Scott, assistant minister. There were various other people involved in the worship but no names were printed.
The date & time: Sunday, 16 August 2015, 10.00am.
Comment: We have received a comment on this report.

What was the name of the service?
Communion Together.

How full was the building?
It is a large church and it was well over half full, especially at the start of the service. Spare seats available, though.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I wandered in through the peaceful churchyard to what can only be described as walking into a pub on New Years Eve. However, despite my hanging around the entrance, no one spoke to me at all. I managed to find a pew sheet and took a seat. After a couple of minutes someone came up. Excellent, I thought, someone to greet me. But no – seems I had taken their seat. "We sit there! Please, could you move?" I quietly moved to the corner.

Was your pew comfortable?
Some very comfortable modern chairs – well padded and very comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I have to admit it rather reminded me of the atmosphere of before a football match. Everyone was catching up on gossip, chatting about barbeques, and several were telling about how drunk they got the night before. I personally felt overdressed in my church clothes, as jeans were what most people wore.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning and welcome."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The hymns were on an overhead projector on a large screen at the front of the church.

What musical instruments were played?
A music group with a very nice if loud sound. It was not possible to see what the makeup of the group was because a pillar was blocking the view from my seat in the corner. There were several singers that decided they wanted to sing the music "their way" instead of how it had been written.

Did anything distract you?
I normally say a quiet prayer before a service, and ask the Holy Spirit to descend upon me. There was no chance of saying a quiet prayer here! Also, numerous people were texting throughout the service. That seems to be the norm here as well!

St Giles, Northampton (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Happy clappy would be an understatement! The service itself seemed to have no real form, and whilst it was a communion service, it didn't follow the normal format of Common Worship or BCP or anything similar.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
14 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
3 – The way in which the sermon was delivered meant that it didn't really flow. The many "ums" and "ers" suggested the Revd Diana Rees Jones was slightly nervous, and the point where she stuck her tongue out at us did get a laugh. The content itself to me was shallow, and the delivery very pointed.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was a 14 minute talk about inviting friends and work colleagues to their upcoming Alpha course. It had references to the founder of Facebook and the English businessman and investor Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, as "great leaders." She also praised how wonderful St Giles Church was.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
This was obviously at one stage a very gorgeous church. I spent many moments thinking about the worship that had happened in this church over the years, and how the style of worship must have changed in this very building.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Two things. First, trying to find parking was hell. Second, being a youngish lady, I am supposed to enjoy this kind of worship. I was so looking forward to going to this church. But I'm afraid I really didn't like anything here. I think it was mainly the lack of welcome, or lack of anyone speaking to me.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The pew sheet encouraged newcomers to stop by the information desk. So after the service I hung around the information desk. Many people were busy comparing social notes, but still no one approached me. After a few minutes I reached into my handbag and even sprayed a little perfume on myself, just wondering if maybe I smelled.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Whilst I believe there was coffee served somewhere, having spent the longest five minutes hanging around in the vain hope of even being acknowledged, I was happy and relieved to escape quickly back to my car.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
1 – Whilst it was good and heartwarming to see a church that is so busy, and has such an amazing programme of social events and groups, I personally found the worship shallow, of zero reverence. I was left with the impression that this was a social club and not a church.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
It left me more baffled than happy. A good play of the Christian songwriter Matt Redman on the CD player on the way home soon restored my spirits.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Being asked to move out of "their" seat by someone. I thought pew rents were a thing of the past.
 
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