|441: St Francis of Assisi, Paddington, Sydney, Australia|
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Mystery Worshipper: Sydney Spice Girl.
The church: St Francis of Assisi, Paddington, Australia.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: An eclectic combination of Victorian parish church with a basilica-style sanctuary, boasting Greek-style columns, a white marble sanctuary, and more statues than you see in most anglo-catholic parishes.
The church: The church is administered by the Franciscans, and caters towards servicing the more colourful residents of East Oxford Street.
The neighbourhood: The "would be" breakaway evangelical heretics of the Sydney Anglican Diocese St Matthias Centennial Park are a couple of doors up the road. I overheard a worshipper telling a group of clergy that the clergy at St Matthias does not really have much to do with St Francis' community.
The cast: Principal celebrant Fr. Peter McGrath, OFM, PP.
What was the name of the service?
Solemn Mass, Feast of St Francis of Assisi, Deacon.
How full was the building?
There were approximately 80 people in the congregation, and around 60 people in the sanctuary and choir. There was enough space between the members of the congregation so that fog lamps, used as proximity indicators, would have been quite effective after the initial incensing of the altar.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, I was given a warm greeting and a copy of the order of service. Evidently there had been a mix up with the introit and I was chased down the aisle with another woman who was flapping a sheet of paper in the air an addendum to the program.
Was your pew comfortable?
Sheesh, there is a Chiropractor across the road that is obviously making good money from this congregation.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I really dislike watching a servers' rehearsal 10 minutes prior to the service. One would hope that you would get your act together early in particular for a major festival. I saw three attempts at the Gospel procession.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome to Saint Francis on this great festival day."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Printed order of service.
What musical instruments were played?
Another disappointment an electronic device (organ) shrilled from a hidden side chapel. The Director of Music probably felt too embarrased to have it on display to the public. A lovely, but small historic organ sits in the chancel. I gazed at it and imagined that some of the sounds were from its pipes. I blinked and came back into reality after a few notes from the shrill box down the front.
Did anything distract you?
I am not a regular attendee at this church, however, I would assume that if you might have been, and are in the clergy or the altar guild, that you would wear shoes that did not squeak every time you moved. Being such a traditional service, I would expect sanctuary slippers for all.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I had not experienced a traditional Catholic service so full of anglo-catholic colour and movement in some time. I am led to believe that the parish would be in great favour with our current Archbishop of Sydney, a lover of ritual and formality. There was a sense that the servers were still learning the ropes, with some hasty instructions given to the crucifer prior to the service commencing.