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122: Blessed Sacrament, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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Blessed Sacrament, Ottawa
Mystery Worshipper: Augustine the Aleut.
The church: Blessed Sacrament, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: 1930s stone Gothic à la Eric Gill. Quite substantial, with interesting stained glass of the period and a stark 1960s altar, with green marble tabernacle (peaked like the Parliament Buildings' Peace Tower) and a spectacular east-end rose window.
The neighbourhood: The Glebe (Ottawa's version of London's Hampstead, Washington's Georgetown or Toronto's Annex) 1900-1950, full of substantial houses, with upper bureaucrats, upscale contractors; lots of volvos and cross-country skiing equipment; slightly (but not too) funky cafés, bookstores and toyshops.
The cast: Parish Priest Joseph LeClair, wearing a neutral gray chasuble (yick)...
What was the name of the service?
Children's Mass.

How full was the building?
Quite full, with about 500 in the congregation. Most of the congregants were couples with children, with a fair sprinkling of single parents, a couple of old biddies, and a few odd bods such as myself.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No, although I was about 10 minutes early. I don't think there were any greeters, although folks were very friendly, in a relaxed way, without affixing namebadges to me.

Was your pew comfortable?

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Noisy, but in a cheerful familial manner, and folks seemed relaxed and at home.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
From a young boy, standing with a group of four other children: "Welcome to Blessed Sacrament Church." Father Le Clair then asked us to greet our neighbours, which seemed to me to be a better time to do this than at the Pax.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The garish scarlet paperback "Saint Joseph's Missal". Most worshippers didn't refer to the missal, as they knew the service by heart.

What musical instruments were played?
A piano with amplifier. Hymn texts were shown on a screen on the epistle side of the chancel, fixed to the wall in a nicely designed frame.

Did anything distract you?
The collection was taken up by four hulking gentlemen in lumberjack shirts or leather jackets, which made me slightly nervous, until I remembered that the Irish were still well-represented in the local constabulary.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Happy but not clappy. It was relaxed and informal, without being disrespectful. As it was a Children's Mass, there was a fair bit of child-oriented participation. The priest, in the canon of the mass, added an informal commentary explaining his ceremonial actions, and the purpose of the rite – which was much less annoying than these things often are.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
Almost 10 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5... the sermon was disjointed and not that clear.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The parable of the evil tenants of the vineyard (Matthew 21) is not the most suitable text for a Children's Mass, although the priest did his very best with it. The other half of the sermon focused on a story of a woman who was buried with a fork in her hand, as there is an old Canadian custom of keeping one's fork for dessert after one's dinner plate is cleared away. The moral was that the best is to come.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The priest earnestly trying to teach the children about the meaning of their faith, and parents and friends sitting in support.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
None, really, aside from the Peace, which has always annoyed me, but which was quietly and respectfully carried out here.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was being dragged away for a brunch to celebrate the first communion made that day of the daughter of an old flame, who continues to be a good friend. I was introduced very briefly to about five people whom I will probably never see again, but who were very welcoming.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
No idea, but there were to be leftovers from yesterday's bake sale, which is usually a good sign in eastern Ontario, where bake sale goodies are the pinnacle of Ottawa Valley cuisine, with orgasmic date squares and soul-rocking fruitcake.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
If I had children and if I were Roman Catholic, I'd give this joint a 9. Kid-friendly locales are at a premium in Canadian society, and this place seemed ideal with its teaching focus and friendliness. As neither of these ifs apply for me, I will give them a 9 for friendliness and for making the often-slapdash proceedings of Roman churches agreeable, content-filled, and friendly.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
A bunch of cheerful and good kids on a brisk autumn morning.
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