|420: St George's Cathedral, Perth, Western Australia|
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Mystery Worshipper: A Coot by Any Other Name.
The church: St George's Cathedral, Perth, Western Australia.
The building: Victorian Gothic Revival style (so the history says) with a jarrah nave altar, a rood screen-covered chancel arch, through to a hanging lamp of presence, a tatted-to-the-max alabaster reredos and a white sandstone high altar. The choir is lit by rows of candles each of which, sneakily, has a small light at its base. Comprehensive architectural and historical information can be found on the webpage.
The church: Congregation mix was unremarkable when I attended, Anglo-Australian ethnicity except for one Chinese-Australian choirboy. The youngest congregant was aged 30ish, but 40s, 50s and 60+ were equally represented. In addition to the faithful life-long congregants, the cathedral is said to be the place of repose for wounded ducks and people who have quarrelled with their parish rectors or are unsatisfied by their local churchmanship. I expect most come from outside the parish boundaries.
The neighbourhood: The cathedral is located in the heart of the central business district, on busy St George's Terrace. During services there is free parking in the Law Chambers car-park. Opposite is the Supreme Court and Supreme Court Gardens which can be rough occasionally.
The cast: The Dean the Very Rev. Dr John Shepherd; the Precentor Rev. Canon Nigel Mitchell; Canon Pastor Rev. Canon Theresa Harvey. Address given by Mr Peter Stewart.
What was the name of the service?
Choral evensong on the Feast of St Frideswide.
How full was the building?
Very sparse! 40 congregants in a building that seats 900 and 31 of the cast sitting in the choir.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
An usher handed me the combined service book and the hymnbook with a warm, dignified greeting.
Was your pew comfortable?
A bit of a creaky, single-bar-at-the-back job. Serviceable, but could be nightmarish in an extended festival.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Sacred. I arrived about five minutes early and the cathedral bell-ringers were still going at it. People quietly took their seats or knelt while the organist played a prelude. There was no chatter.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Service booklet/pewsheet; and New English Hymnal.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ (with four consoles!).
Did anything distract you?
I rather thought I might have to covertly cry during the sermon, which started off sounding like just another rant about refugees. The church blithely ignoring the need and inequity in its own backyard is getting to me at the moment.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Restrained, reverent and formal.