|295: St Mary's, Nantwich, Cheshire, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Woody Slim.
The church: St Mary's Parish Church, Nantwich, Cheshire, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Beautiful old church situated right in the centre of Nantwich. Nantwich is a very respectable, well-off, small town in Cheshire. The church is around 400-500 years old and quite stunning to look at inside and out.
The neighbourhood: The surrounding buildings include a small indoor market, the local Conservative club and a fantastic bakery from which the most wonderful smell was emanating as we walked in!
The cast: Rt. Rev. Nigel Stock, Bishop of Stockport, Rev. Peter Chantry, miscellaneous curates, wardens and a large choir. Plus eight confirmation candidates.
What was the name of the service?
Confirmation and Holy Communion.
How full was the building?
Fairly full. About 200-300 plus.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were greeted fleetingly by the slightly flustered-looking vicar as he rushed out of the church on a last minute mission! And then properly greeted by a couple at the door who gave us our service sheets.
Was your pew comfortable?
It wasn't too bad, a little bit hard perhaps. I had an uncomfortably numb bum by the end of the service!
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
A low rumble of chatter as the church filled up.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"On this special day, welcome to our service of confirmation."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The whole service was conducted from a special service booklet, printed from the standard Anglican service book.
What musical instruments were played?
A huge organ!
Did anything distract you?
I did wonder at the bishop's fleeting resemblance to Robert De Niro in funny glasses. Also, after the bishop had finished confirming the candidates, the altar for communion was rolled on from the side of the church. My neighbour promptly leaned over to me and said "Hey it's on casters it's just like meals on wheels!" This had me stifling laughter for about five minutes.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
As you would expect from a confirmation service in a fairly traditional Anglican church, the worship was fairly high Anglican. Although there was some gentle ribbing of the vicar by the bishop, which was quite amusing.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 Bishop Stock surprised many in the congregation by fishing around inside his robes for a few minutes in the middle of his sermon before producing a comic relief red nose... which disappointingly he didn't put on.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The importance of God's word and of standing up and speaking the hope of Christ; and the fact that regardless of the situation, Christ is always with us.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
On the whole, the service was excellent It was really good to see eight people committing themsleves to God through confirmation. However, the sung blessing at the end was particularly wonderful beautfully sung by the choir (who were very good throughout).
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I have to admit I felt that the service was in danger of suffocating under the weight of tradition. There was lots of bowing by all the participants. Even though I am an Anglican and used to traditional services, I actually spent a good chunk of the service confused as to when I should be standing, sitting, kneeling or which direction I should be facing!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
There was coffee and biscuits served next door. The bishop greeted everyone as they came in and I had a little chat with the vicar and the curate, who struck me as jolly nice people.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The coffee was served in proper cups and saucers. I don't know whether it was due to the occasion, but there was a good selection of tasty biscuits on offer.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 As the service was a confirmation, it's difficult to judge what the normal weekly worship is like. However, this is a stunning church building and the people seemed very friendly... so 7 it is.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. Although the ritual might have been a little much at times, the service was quite moving.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I know this is terrible but the idea of the communion altar on casters being "meals on wheels" will be making me chuckle for ages!