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49: St Bartholomew's, Brighton, England
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St Bartholomew's, Brighton, England
Photo: David Gray
Mystery Worshipper: Corpus Cani.
The church: St Bartholomew's, Brighton, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: The tallest parish church in England. The building is very Victorian and rather like sitting in the turbine hall of a disused power station.
The neighborhood: Downtown Brighton – handy if you need to nip out during Mass to buy secondhand furniture.
Today's cast: Fr Vickery House (Vicar); Fr Herman Annis (Assistant Priest).
What was the name of the service?
Solemn High Mass, Easter Vigil and The Service of Light.

How full was the building?
A little under half, but it is a vast building. There were almost as many people in the altar party as in the congregation!

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, even though I was late (beware the one-way system in Brighton!), a little old dear thrust a service sheet and a candle into my hand and whispered at me for ten minutes. I havent the vaguest notion what she was on about.

Was your pew comfortable?
There were rows of plain wooden seats on an uneven and slippery tiled floor.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Brethren: on this most holy night, in which our Lord Jesus Christ passed over from death to life..." (the introduction to the Easter Vigil).

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Just the service sheet.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ. There was a good choir, with the exception of the obligatory strident tenor.

Did anything distract you?
My seat rocked on the uneven floor every time I sat down, stood up, or breathed, and the seat in front slid across the floor every time I leant against it while I was kneeling. The moral: don't slouch when kneeling. I was also distracted by the unfortunate woman in front of me at Communion, whose purse dropped from her bag and showered servers galore with all her loose change.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It made the medieval Popes look lower than a snake's nether regions. This was living proof that there are still parsons who know what to do with a biretta. Genuflection was beautifully choreographed and there were numerous gratuitous processions, hefty censing and much chucking of water with the Holy Pastry Brush.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
No sermon of any description this time.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
On other occasions I've been here, full marks for entertainment value. Some wonderful old loonies gushing from a huge pulpit.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The theme of the service – the Resurrection – was fairly straightforward.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Nothing was like being in heaven: I was in heaven! I especially enjoyed the vicar's assertion before a procession: "As we return to the sanctuary, you will be sprinkled with Holy Water... liberally."

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
That bloody chair.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Everybody very busy hugging their friends and muttering in Greek – no time for the weary traveller.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
No refreshments, but I found a great Italian restaurant on the seafront.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6. The worship was like wearing white tie and tails. It was divine, but it wouldn't do for every day. And it wasn't the friendliest of places for visitors. I've been here four times in the last five years and have never once spoken to a priest.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
On the whole, yes. It's rather like a one-night-stand: great at the time, but you don't want to hang around after the cigarette. Not recommended as a first experience of Christianity, but for the old hand it is a reminder of the glory of the Resurrection.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The experience of a glimpse of heaven.
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