Mystery Worshipper: Fluffy Bunny
Church: St Leonard & St Jude
Location: Doncaster, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 4 April 2010, 10:00am
A modern building consecrated on 5 November 1960, although work on the church hall started in 1939 and this was used for worship until the church proper was opened. It is quite plain and airy inside, mostly white, stone and red brick with a striking wrought iron cross behind the altar along with beautiful railings, behind which appeared to be some lower area.
Although part of the Diocese of Sheffield, the Monarch is the patron and there have only been four priests in total.
Doncaster is in South Yorkshire, about 20 miles from Sheffield. It is home to the Dome Leisure Centre, an arena with a swimming complex, bars, an event venue, and the United Kingdom's first ever split level ice skating rink. The church is located opposite an Aldi supermarket, which made parking very easy on Easter Sunday, as the shop was closed and we had use of the car park. The road is extremely busy, even on a Sunday morning with the supermarkets closed.
The Rt Revd Martyn Jarrett, Bishop of Beverley, was the celebrant and preacher. The bishop was assisted by the Revd Norman Pay, vicar.
What was the name of the service?Feast of the Resurrection Easter Day Mass.
How full was the building?
Almost full, and with a real mix of ages, from the elderly to the very young with all ages in between. In front of us was a whole row of late teens, early twenties, who were obvious regular attendees.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Sidespeople welcomed us, gave us our books, and said that we could sit anywhere we liked. "There are no reserved seats apart from the choir," we were advised. We asked where a good spot would be to watch the proceedings. I also asked if they had a booklet about the church. The vicar sought me out before the service and gave me a very out-of-date booklet that had been put together in 1964 to celebrate the Silver Jubilee. It was very kind of him to go to the trouble, though.
Was your pew comfortable?
Surprisingly it was comfortable, although it didn't look as if it would be. The kneelers looked a bit thin, so Mr Bunny and I adopted the Anglican squat position when we had to kneel. However, a lot of the prayers were said with us standing rather than kneeling.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was a happy buzz of people chatting. A couple of minutes before the service was due to start, the vicar entered and rang a bell. I immediately expected the entrance procession and was about to stand, but just then the vicar said, "We'll have a couple of minutes quiet before the service" and then disappeared. Whilst sitting quietly I was aware of the smell of candle wax and concrete!
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. There are no news sheets. Times of mass are as usual."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The New English Hymnal and a specially printed booklet with the service music, psalms, etc.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ and violin.
Did anything distract you?
At one point it sounded as if an entire chapter of Hell's Angels were driving past with a loud and throaty sound of engines. The children seemed to have very noisy toys and it sounded as if there was a lot of building (or demolishing) going on. The music for the Agnus Dei was a little too upbeat for my taste.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was extremely eclectic. The mass was definitely high church, but the music was a real mix of old and new. There were lots of bells and censing, and we were all sprayed with baptismal water as we renewed our baptismal vows. A Hail Mary was said and we ended the service with Regina Coeli, something I had not done before. A new experience.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The bishop was a very clear speaker and his sermon had form. It was easy to follow his train of thought.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He saw and he believed (John 20:8) so what? People now put faith in unlikely things. People think that money will make them happy. When you are in the Isle of Man, you are told to say hello to the fairies or else you will have bad luck. But people still have car accidents. Many New Testament passages speak of fear: Gabriel told Mary not to be afraid; Joseph was told not to fear marrying Mary; the disciples were told not to fear on the Sea of Galilee during a storm. After Jesus was arrested, the disciples were even more frightened, to the extent of forsaking him and fleeing. Simon Peter denied him three times after avowing never to desert Jesus. On the first Easter morn, when Jesus' tomb was found empty, they were also afraid. But the circle of sin is broken by Easter. The disciple who entered the tomb saw and believed and knew fear was over. Jesus is risen from the dead. All God's love is in Jesus and is true forever. Love and victory over evil are true forever. The gift of Easter is ours to take home forever. Not even death stops this promise. There will still be terrible things ahead in life. We do not know what is to come, but we can all face the future in hope and trust, as God's love is stronger than evil.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The friendliness of the congregation and priest. We both felt very welcome.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The noisy children's toys. Also, the choir's communion motet began in "the other place" as they were out of tune with each other. But once they got it together, they redeemed themselves.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We were repeatedly invited to join everyone for coffee, but I had to rush back for Easter lunch. Full marks for hospitality, though. We were seen as new faces and not ignored.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – The congregation and priest were very friendly, but I'm not sure I'm quite ready yet for church as high as this.
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 happy, friendly people.