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64: St Michael with St Paul, Bath, England
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St Michael with St Paul Bath
Mystery Worshipper: Barth Simpson.
The church: St Michael with St Paul, Bath, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Elegant, Georgian (like everything in Bath), with a stuffed partridge in the belfry that can been seen from Green Street. It's in the photo above, but far too tiny to make out. Go and have a look for yourself. Bath is always worth a visit anyhow.
The neighbourhood: The church is smack in the middle of the retail area in Broad Street, opposite the Podium shopping centre.
The cast: Vicar: the Rev Martin Lloyd-Williams. Preacher: the not-yet-Rev Jane Campbell.
Comment: We have received a comment on this report.
What was the name of the service?
Morning Prayer and Baptism.

How full was the building?
Just over half full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was greeted at the door and handed a satisfyingly solid wodge of books (see below). The Vicar also came over when I and my friends had taken a pew and greeted us.

Was your pew comfortable?
No. It was narrow and high-backed, producing a boxed-in feeling that suggested restraint was in order.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Chatty with incidental organ. It didn't prepare me for worship.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
'A very warm welcome to you all this morning...' (feedback)... 'I wonder if that might be turned down a touch?'

What books did the congregation use during the service?
'Mission England Praise', 'Mission Praise', a small, green ASB Morning and Evening Prayer booklet, the notice sheet (with two songs), and the service sheet.

What musical instruments were played?
Grand piano, semi-acoustic guitar, acoustic bass guitar, and two slightly self-conscious singers.

Did anything distract you?
There was a moment of potential comedy during the first reading, as the reader tried desperately to stop the unnecessarily-long embroidered bookmark from slipping onto the floor as he was reading. He almost lost it, but not quite. I wanted to stand up and cheer, but the pew reminded me not to.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
A somewhat subdued prayer-hymn scoobie snack (more than a sandwich, as we had a hymn after everything). I got the sense that everything had been 'turned down a touch'.

St Michael with St Paul Bath

Exactly how long was the sermon?
9 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8. It was well thought out, carefully structured and hit exactly the right note with the congregation (unlike the organist – see below).

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Knowing God's will for our lives is a matter of being open to his daily guiding and steering. A ship (dare one say a ship of fools?) featured heavily as a metaphor.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
It was a very caring atmosphere. People helped each other find their places in the songbooks, the intercessions addressed tough issues in a sensitive and realistic way, and even the birthdays included prayers that showed a real concern for the younger members of the church.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
'My Song is Love Unknown' became 'My Song is out of Tune', as the organist persistently hit the same bum chord in every verse. I was on the point of maniacal laughter when the Vicar looked straight at me. Aaaaargh!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I got chatted to by a German student doing a year out with the YMCA.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Nasty and not fairly-traded. I asked about this and was told that the fairly-traded stuff tastes disgusting. I restrained myself from pointing out that being conned out of a fair price for their produce probably leaves quite a nasty taste in Third World farmers' mouths.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5. It's got great potential and there was a sense of change about to happen.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
On balance, yes.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
That I need to be open to God's guidance on a daily basis.

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