|324: St Francis of Assisi, Hereford, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Churchmouse.
The church: St Francis of Assisi, Goodrich Grove, Hereford, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Built in the 1960s, the pews were removed two years ago and replaced by comfortable chairs. The building has a feeling of light, with modern stained glass windows and banners hung around the walls.
The neighbourhood: The church is situated on the outskirts of Hereford. There is new housing around, plus the inevitable Tesco and MacDonalds.
The cast: Rev. Peter Haddleton.
What was the name of the service?
Family Eucharist. This was a one-off occasion, with a visit to the church by "Living Hope", a music group of former drug addicts who have found faith in Christ. The group are from Hope House, which is the female wing of Teen Challenge in the UK. They had been performing at the Apostolic Church in Hereford, and members of that congregation joined the worship for this Sunday at St Francis.
How full was the building?
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Several people came and said "hello". I was there early and the books for the service were brought to me when the sidespeople were ready.
Was your pew comfortable?
Excellent. Very comfortable modern chairs... well padded!
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very friendly but noisy. People were chatting as if they hadn't seen each other for months, and perhaps they hadn't, what with the extensive rains and foot and mouth in the UK.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, welcome to St. Francis."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
An order of worship taken from the Book of Common Worship, Hymns Old and New and readings from new lectionary.
What musical instruments were played?
Piano and keyboard.
Did anything distract you?
The doors to the church were open, and what really distracted me was the squeeking of the loo door outside when the children made use of the facilities.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The regular members of the congregation included middle-of-the-road Anglicans in their 30s, and also those who were raised on the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and who now accept the contempory forms of worship. The visitors to the church were Pentecostal, so there were hands in the air and some clapping.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
There was no sermon.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The testimonies given by the girls who were former drug addicts. Each of the girls in the group told briefly how they had been abused, taken drugs and slipped further into trouble until they accepted the Lord. One of the girls spoke for longer, explaining how she had been sexually abused as a child, had no self-esteem, began to take drugs, how she stole to support her habit and turned to prostitution. Once she was accepted into Hope House she was rehabilitated without any pain or withdrawal effects. I found her testimony particularly moving as she is still so young.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I found the "sermon slot" a bit long. It was taken up with the group singing, which was interesting, but just too long.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Coffee was announced. I hung around but everyone was busy or in a welcome line, so I went and got some coffee and sat at a table. Eventually, some members of the junior choir came to talk to me.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Good. The church's May fair had been held the previous day, and we had the left-over cakes, which were very good!
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 If I moved into the area I would be quite happy to attend here regularly.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Definitely. Seeing how the Lord is working among us always makes you want to keep praising.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The moving testimony of the young girl.