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248: All Saints, York, England
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All Saints, York, England
Mystery Worshipper: Mr Forgetful.
The church: All Saints, North Street, York, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: All Saints is a small, stunning church on the south bank of the River Ouse in York, but in a generally untidy part of the city. Mentioned in the Domesday Book, various additions were built between the 12th and 15th centuries. Its most stunning feature is its collection of medieval glass, reputed to be the finest in any English church outside Gloucestershire. The large collection of saints' statues leaves no one in any doubt about this church's persuasion!
The neighbourhood: The thing about York is that you're never too far away from a church, no matter where you are. You're practically falling over them. The same applies to this locale. I counted at least three medieval churches in the surrounding area – two disused. Though boasting some rather grand Georgian buildings and a medieval hall, this part of York needs redeveloping to bring in into line with the more genteel nature of the rest of the city.
The cast: The celebrant was the Archbishop of York's Chaplain, Fr Michael Kavanagh. The preacher was a retired priest, Fr Raymond Hockley.
What was the name of the service?
5.30pm Sung Mass (English Missal Rite).

How full was the building?
Mostly full 10 minutes before the service, increasing as the mass began.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A retired chap greeted me with a warm "hello" and handed me the books.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, but no cushions! There were only a small number of pews, which probably accounted for the church feeling mostly full. I noticed that they were smaller than the usual pews, almost child size.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was bell ringing and a noisy hubbub from the back of the church, which was in close proximity to where I was. As the bell ringing stopped, the organ started and the congregation settled down. Two people arrived about two minutes before mass and carefully genuflected, lighted votive candles before a veiled statue of Mary and then, just as carefully, genuflected before sitting down. I was enthralled.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The New English Hymnal, a "Mass Book" (their own), and a mass sheet with plainsong propers, dates, hymn numbers, prayer requests and a prominent notice that said "All Saints maintains traditional Anglo-Catholic Worship."

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?
The preacher's cope was too big for him and he looked like a small boy in grown up's clothing! One of the servers had a very stooped posture and I was fixed on the way he held the candle at the reading of the Gospel. The number of statues and images was dazzling and my mind began to think of football scores: Mary 4, Sacred Heart 2. St Patrick 1, St Mary Magdalene 1. It was definitely the sort of place to gawp!

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Most definitely stiff-upper-lip, well-to-do Anglo-Catholic. Lots of standing up, kneeling, sitting down. Birettas taken off and replaced with meticulous flair and precision. The congregation seemed happy and bowed with enthusiasm.

All Saints, York, England

Exactly how long was the sermon?
16 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8. A very mild-mannered, Clark Kent approach. He was very gentle and seemed deep. Perhaps he saw me taking notes!

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Losing oneself and embracing the love of God. The choice we must make is either to rely wholly on ourselves or to seek God for the source of our help. Where is God? Within – he is our true self and we must lose ourselves if we are find him. We find love and he is love. Very enjoyable.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
In the main, the homily. I liked the preacher, even though his cope was too big.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Most disappointing were the prayers. They were entitled "Intentions" and were said in such a liberal manner that I didn't know we'd started. They looked scripted and I didn't know whether to sit or stand.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
No one said anything to me. Admittedly, I was with a friend and so I sneaked off to look lost. I got the feeling that this would be a difficult place to become part of if someone was new to the church.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Cold and dry. There wasn't any! I was thirsty, too.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8. I'm an old-fashioned kinda Catholic and I like my ceremonial and birettas.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The Kyries played and sung to the Missa de Angelis. Splendid organ playing.

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