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84: St Thomas Corstorphine, Edinburgh, Scotland
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St Thomas Corstorphine, Edinburgh
Mystery Worshipper: Angus Tourer.
The church: St Thomas, Corstorphine, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Denomination: Scottish Episcopal Church.
The building: Large, boring, unattractive Victorian box.
The neighbourhood: Privet-lined Edinburgh suburbia.
The cast: Rev Michael Parker, Rector.
What was the name of the service?
Holy Communion.

How full was the building?
Half full – it was holiday time.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Parking the car on a very busy road was the first obstacle, but I was given help with that. The entrance to the worship area is dark and confusing, but I was given the literature I needed with a cheery welcome.

Was your pew comfortable?
The seats were perfectly comfortable, which was important as the service lasted 1 hour 27 minutes – although the great thing about communion is you get a leg stretch part-way through.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Before the service there was a sacred hubbub. It was quiet enough for me to look around and notice the slightly incongruous theatre lighting, and the banners depicting the Fruit of the Spirit. I noticed that two fruits were missing: amongst the love, joy, peace and all, there was no kindness nor self-control...

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome to St Thomas's Corstorphine this morning. Just as folk are arriving, we're going to sing a song."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
NIV Bibles, and a leaflet for Holy Communion called "An Experimental Service for 1996". It wasn't clear whether the experiment hadn't yet ended, or if the church council had simply forgotten that it ever was an experiment.

What musical instruments were played?
Guitar, bass, keyboard, violin, conga drums.

Did anything distract you?
Yes – the conga drum player. Why do Christians accept a lower musical ability on percussion than they ever would on, say, organ or violin? But I was able to thank God it wasn't a tambourine.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Hearty evangelical: full of meaty doctrine, but in poor BBC Radio 2 style.

St Thomas Corstorphine, Edinburgh

Exactly how long was the sermon?
25 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He spoke from Luke chapter 16 about salvation and stewardship... shrewdness came in there somewhere, too.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
We never quite reached heights of ecstasy, and when Anglicans tell God they are worshipping him with angels and archangels (as they do regularly, I understand) I think it's because God wouldn't be able to tell otherwise. But there was a general sense of warmth, of Christian truth being taught and received, and of a family worshipping together, which gladdened this cynical heart.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I bet they have overhead projectors in hell, and if they do I am sure they will put up Dilbert cartoons just too small to read the captions easily, talk while you are trying to read them, and then take them off before you have managed to do so.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I stood around looking lost for quite a long time in a room with many people in it, and no one spoke to me except a member of my family. I shooed them away so that I could be a proper Mystery Worshipper.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I was too late for the coffee, because I hung around looking lost for too long.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – once I was a regular, I'm sure they'd talk to me.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, until no one spoke to me at the end.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The conga drums.

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