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152: Liverpool Cathedral, England
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Liverpool Cathedral, England
Mystery Worshipper: Johnny Tambourine.
The church: The Anglican Cathedral, Liverpool, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: The most awesome Gothic construction possible.
The neighbourhood: To the north, the elegant Rodney Street, home to Merseyside's private medical practices. To the south, the poverty-ridden streets of Toxteth.
The cast: The Dean, the Rt. Rev. Rupert Hoare, formerly Bishop of Dudley.
What was the name of the service?
Choral Evensong.

How full was the building?
Seeing as the cathedral could house all the shellsuits in Liverpool with room to spare, it always seems empty. A good number in the stalls, though – cosy, not lonely.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. A lovely lady shook my hand and gave me the relevant bits and bobs for the service. She didn't say "alright!" in high-pitched scouse, which was a bit disappointing.

Was your pew comfortable?
The bit in front was just the right height to rest books on, with plenty of room. Ergonomical and liturgical, a nice combination.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Reverential, with the organ playing Prelude and Fugue in D by Buxtehude, apparently. This transformed into something thunderous when the choir and clergy entered.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome to Choral Evensong – may the Lord make his way clear to us."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Bible (unsure what version, although probably the biggest one I've ever seen), New English Hymnal, Evensong liturgy sheet with creeds and collects, and a service sheet with the list of personages and pieces involved.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ, and large male choir (including boys).

Did anything distract you?
The Chinese New Year celebrations nearby and tourists with camera flashes, who were promptly pounced on by people in robes. Normally, someone in the choir sounds as if they're having an asthma attack, but they didn't on this occasion.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Non-participatory with the exception of two hymns at the end. The choir sang excellently, bringing the best out of the modern setting of the Psalms. Engaging and beautiful.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
14 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8. Good points, with a rather dry delivery, although he gave an apposite illustration on aligning our will with God's.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Philippians 2:12-13. We are to act as regenerated, redeemed people, which is a scary prospect and responsibility. Yet God is helping us because this is what he wants.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The beginning of the Nunc Dimittis, where the music seemed to fall from heaven itself.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Trying to cross my legs and kicking the stall in front. Apart from that, nothing.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The venerable-looking clergy stood around, but were mobbed by a crowd of Brummies. I think you have to introduce yourself, otherwise they'll presume you're just another tourist.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
No coffee. You have to go to the morning service for that, though it has been known for an old lady to take me on her arm and buy me coffee and cake!

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7. Excellent service. The problem is that, being a cathedral, there isn't much of a sense of community. Excellent for visits, though, to restore the soul.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. It was reassuring to be at a place where things were done well, and we didn't have to pretend to be American.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The beginning of the Nunc Dimittis, where I thought my soul was being drawn up to heaven.
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