Mystery Worshipper: The Old Man from Scene 24
Church: All Saints
Location: Roffey, West Sussex, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 10 June 2012, 10:30am
A fairly attractive medium sized traditional Anglican church building of locally quarried sandstone, completed in 1878. Well maintained lawn with clear signage by the road giving a good description of what the church is, and times of its services. A church hall is also on the grounds, separated by a ditch and accessible by a footbridge.
They sponsor Open Door, a fellowship group for seniors, as well as a Mothers Union. On Fridays they put on Noah's Ark, a service for babies and toddlers. Both morning and evening prayer are said during the week. There are three masses each Sunday, including family mass.
Horsham is a market town in West Sussex. Roffey, northeast of the town centre, dates back to the 13th century, and was an important ironmaking centre by the 16th century. Today Roffey is a quiet suburb, with an assortment of shops, pubs and restaurants.
The Revd Kevin Agnew, parish priest, led the mass.
What was the name of the service?Parish Mass & Holy Baptism
How full was the building?
About two-thirds say 60 people in total.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Although my watch said 10.29 (and is about a minute fast), the notices were being read out as I entered, so I was greeted with a hushed "Good morning" and a warm smile as I was handed the service sheets.
Was your pew comfortable?
We all had wooden chairs to sit on, which were handy for adjusting position if you needed a few extra inches forward or back.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The notices were almost done as I arrived, so it was fairly informal and pleasant. The banns of marriage were being read.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"So as we worship, let us pray the prayer of preparation."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
We were given two service sheets. The white one gave the running order of the service with hymns incorporated, sourced from Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England. The yellow sheet was an overview of the services that day as well as notices and service adverts and announcements.
What musical instruments were played?
A fine sounding organ, played well without any discernible mistakes.
Did anything distract you?
At the exchange of peace, I turned behind me and shook the hand of a lovely young lady who gave me a nice smile. My ego was pleasantly massaged. And the priest's well-mannered beard seemed impressively accurate.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Three fairly stiff-upper-lip 19th century hymns were sung in a mass that was pretty high up the Anglican candle. Although I'm a middle of the road guy, I appreciate high candle "theatre of worship" services, and this one was well presented and organised. We had plenty of incense. We prayed to the Blessed Virgin in front of her statue. After the baptism, the priest carried the infant candidate around the congregation for all to see and greet. After the service I discussed the worship with a member, who explained they like to evoke all the senses in worship. And they really did so with all the incense.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Pretty standard delivery that skipped along at a steady pace.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The gospel reading was Mark 3:20-35, where Jesus proclaims his family to be the believers and disciples, rather than his natural blood relatives. Our spiritual family is one of unity, contrasted with the division of the world. We must look beyond the material and value the kinship bonds of the church. We are called to love the Lord and each other.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The baptismal infant candidate was adorable her wide inquisitive eyes melted everyone's heart as she was carried about. It was very moving to witness a high church service punctuated with a very warm, emotive act of kinship that brought the congregation together in fellowship and joy, in keeping with the spirit of the sermon. The eucharist was also very moving, where I had a strong sense of the presence of God.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
In contrast to the young lady who smiled at me during the peace, one of her neighbours served me a dish of cold hard nothing, fixing her eyes straight ahead whilst the others all turned and shook hands. I'll get over it.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Just as I had gathered my items and was about to head for coffee, a lovely woman said hello and asked me if I was visiting. I shared a very warm and welcoming conversation with her. At coffee, another kind soul started a conversation with me, and I was made to feel very welcome. Then something very odd occurred. As she introduced me to another member of the congregation, she introduced me by name. I paused we hadn't exchanged names and she looked up and said, "I don't know how I know your name." Nor did I!
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Excellent! Best after service coffee I've had. We had to wait ages for it to be ready, but it was proper coffee served in a nice mug none of that polystyrene rubbish. The brothers and sisters of Roffey know their coffee!
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – As I mentioned before, I'm more of a middle of the candle guy, but I do appreciate high church and I was impressed with the warm welcome, coffee, and especially Father Agnew's moving moment with the baptised child. I'm also a little freaked out (in a good way) that someone knew my name at coffee without being told it. Maybe this is a sign.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
It well did! I left feeling welcomed, enthused and spiritually recharged. God is good.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The infant being paraded around the church, and the warm smiles that greeted her heart-melting eyes.