Mystery Worshipper: The Revelator
Church: Derby Cathedral
Location: Derby, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 26 December 2010, 10:45am
A church was originally built on this site in 943. The tower survives from 1530 and the rest of the church and interior decor from 1725. The church was upgraded to a cathedral in 1927 and Derby was upgraded to a city in 1977. Inside, the church has very dark wooden pews and fittings; it has a set of choir stalls prior to the nave and a retro-choir behind the altar. The nave is ornate wrought-iron bearing various royal insignia, and the altar is contained beneath a cream and gilt ciborium bearing a Chi Rho. The ceiling is pale pink and gilt. At the left back corner there is a small room for children and the prayer candles are also kept in this area.
The Cathedral of All Saints has both a choral and a pastoral outreach to schools in Derby, and provides the chaplain to the university. They state they provide welcome and hospitality to pilgrims and those in distress. There is an embroidery workshop in charge of the design, restoration and maintenance of the cathedral's vestments and altar cloths, and which works closely with the university's textile department. In 2005 two peregrine falcons were discovered nested in the tower and the website has pages dedicated to following their progress.
Derby is a city in central England. It has a rich history involving Romans, Vikings and Saxons. In the 18th century the area played an important role in the Industrial Revolution, with many engineering advances. The Davy lamp was invented here and the 18th century artist Joseph Wright lived here, amongst others. Derby was upgraded to a city in 1977 and now has a population of around a quarter of a million. Its biggest employers remain engineering companies, along with more recent businesses such as internet banks. The cathedral is in the city centre, in what is now called the cathedral quarter, an area that also features museums, shops, cafes and wine bars. Near the cathedral there is an industrial silk museum and the 19th century St Mary's Roman Catholic church.
The cathedral's curate, the Revd Dawn Glen, presided. The preacher was the Very Revd Dr John Davies, dean of Derby. The deacon was the Revd Andie Brown, canon theologian.
What was the name of the service?Cathedral Eucharist.
How full was the building?
About a quarter to a third full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A lady said hello to me. I had bought my two year old daughter with me and I was very helpfully shown the children's room (a cosy-looking room at the back with toys in it) and I was also given the service booklet.
Was your pew comfortable?
My pew was covered with some nice hassocks that were comfy to sit on.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very quiet and reverential.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
There were no opening words – the service just started straight into the opening hymn: "Come, thou Redeemer of the Earth."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
A booklet specifically for this service was used. The booklet also contained a leaflet with notices and prayers for the week. The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, was in the pews.
What musical instruments were played?
The organ was used throughout. The organ was built in 1939 by John Compton, who also built organs for cinemas and theatres. The Cathedral Voluntary Choir sang the service. They sang in front of the nave but retired to the retro-choir during the eucharistic prayer. The hymns included "Good King Wenceslas."
Did anything distract you?
All my own doing this time. Despite the wee Revelator's impeccable behaviour, I was still a bit anxious and fretful that she might not remain this way, and was trying to keep her occupied throughout the service.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Nice semi-high service with procession, torches, cross and lectionary. Readers, clergy and choir wore red baroque vestments in keeping with the interior decor. The choir sang in front of the nave but retired to the retro-choir during the eucharistic prayer. The sung bits included the Creed, Gloria, Agnus Dei and Amens, but the consecration was spoken. No bells or incense were used.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Not quite an 8, I'm afraid. You don't get to be a dean if you can't preach, and he did convey the subject with feeling. But he sounded a bit like an old-school-type lecturer in places.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It was about stoning to death. The dean recalled personal experiences of having stones thrown at him by both Iranian Islamists and militant Protestants in Liverpool. He also reminded us that in some parts of the world stoning is still practised, usually against women. He talked about Jesus saving at least one person from stoning, and that mob rule is caused by fear and hatred. Jesus can redeem this.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
A nice organ improvisation after the gospel reading. The cushioned seating. Tasteful vestments. The helpfulness of the welcomers. During the communion, the warden directed me to the side of the rail where I could fit my pushchair. Finally, an honourable mention to the heating, which actually did!
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The organ was a bit underwhelming in places. Bizarre tasting communion wafers. The ceiling could do with a bit of a re-paint.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was thanked for attending, and was asked if I had enjoyed the service and if I would wish to attend again.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Not an after-service coffee kind of place.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – I was confirmed in this cathedral (1984) so have a bit of a sentimental attachment to it. I prefer a little more pomp, but as the smallest cathedral in England it had a warm, cosy, big church feel that was matched by the friendliness of the people.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The friendliness of the people.