|221: St Peter & St John, Baddeck, Nova Scotia, Canada|
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Mystery Worshipper: Leo P. Faith.
The church: St Peter & St John, Baddeck, Nova Scotia, Canada.
The building: A white, clapboard parish church of modest dimensions and aspirations built in 1883.
The neighbourhood: St Peter & St John is located in the tiny resort town of Baddeck, which is on the shores of Bras d'Or Lakes ("Arms of Gold"), an inland sea, in the middle of Cape Breton Island in Canada. Until recently, Baddeck's only claim to fame was that it was the summer home of Alexander Graham Bell.
The cast: Archdeacon Peter McRae from the parish of Strait-Chedabucto "sat in" for the church's priest, who was on holiday. St Peter & St John, by the way, is one church of a "three point" parish.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
This is a tiny church. There are 10 rows of pews, each with enough room for four persons, on each side of the church, and so it can scarcely hold 85 people comfortably. I counted roughly 25 people who attended the service.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
The customary "good morning and welcome" when I picked up my hymnbook and Book of Common Prayer. Shortly after, an elderly women sat behind me and struck up a conversation. She was impressed by the fact that I live in Texas and somehow found my way to Baddeck.
Was your pew comfortable?
No. In 1883, on the edges on civilization, creature comforts were sacrificed to economy. So the wood pews are pretty much unshaped, straight boards whose only virtue is to discourage slouching.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
One large family kibbitzed and some stray conversations were prompted when the handful of locals inquired about the "whos and whys" of unfamiliar faces.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"I am the bread of life. Welcome."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Book of Common Prayer and a hymnal.
What musical instruments were played?
The country church organ wheezingly kept us on key.
Did anything distract you?
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
A direct, folksy service. The elderly woman who sat behind me read the readings from Psalm 51:1-12, got lost a time or two, and then forgot how much of it she was supposed to read. She puzzled about this for a moment or two and then announced the readings were done.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
I didn't wear my watch because of a rash. Probably no more than 10 minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 the archdeacon had an earnest quality and outdoorsy approach. With his trimmed grey beard, I imagined him in a woolen mackinaw, snow shoeing from church to church on Sunday during the winter.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It was the 45th anniversary of Hiroshima. Fr. MacRae recalled he was in summer camp in 1945 and that the "cowboy and indians, good guys versus bad guys" ethics characteristic of nine year-old boys at summer camp had to give way to a more complex morality, one that recognized that God redeeems and cannot be called on to destroy.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Our small congregation sang with vigour, gusto, and familiarity with the hymns. It was infectous.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I signed the guest register and when people saw I was from Texas, there were questions about the purpose of my visit. Since this Sunday was also in the middle of the summer season in Baddeck, a goodly share of the congregation was from out-of-town. So there was chatting back and forth about where we were from and what we were doing.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
No after-service coffee. There is hardly room for a coffee pot or urn, the church is so small. Instead the local parishioners repair to a coffee shop with a good bakery in the center of Baddeck where you can sit outside depending on the weather and talk and watch this part of the world go by.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 the only hitch to thinking about making this church my regular church is the daunting prospect of living through a Canadian winter on Cape Breton.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I'm glad I went.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The sermon wasn't outstanding, but it came as a surprise to me. The "hook" was summertime and camp but the point of course was grave and somber.