|453: St Luke, Gillingham, Kent|
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Mystery Worshipper: Sarum Sleuth.
The church: St Luke, Gillingham, Kent.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Red brick perpendicular of 1908. Definitely better inside, where the whitewash has been applied. Better furnished than many Anglo-Catholic churches, with some work by Sir Ninian Comper and Sir Edwin Lutyens (whose brother was a former vicar).
The church: It is one of the very few churches in Rochester Diocese that comes under the episcopal care of the Bishop of Fulham. The young people in evidence were mostly involved as servers or choir members.
The neighbourhood: Typical Medway Towns: run-down and neglected.
The cast: The celebrant was the priest in charge, Rev. Robert Featherstone. The preacher was Rev. Patrick Allsopp.
What was the name of the service?
Parish Mass on the Feast of the Holy Family.
How full was the building?
Pretty empty, unfortunately: 14 in the congregation, eight in the choir, six servers and two concelebrants. However, it was the Sunday after Christmas, and the parish has gone through a dreadful period from which it is only just beginning to recover.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A welcoming lady gave me the necessary books. One advantage of a small congregation became obvious at the Peace, which I must have exchanged with most of the congregation. Afterwards several people directed me to coffee in the church hall.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was a pew, and was surprisingly comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father..."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Mass Book (Roman Rite), Redemptorist weekly leaflet, English Hymnal: very nice to find a church that still uses the old version!
What musical instruments were played?
Electronic organ which regrettably sounds as though it is fast reaching the end of its days. The choir were situated in an acoustic dead spot in the south aisle, which negated their valiant efforts.
Did anything distract you?
A ghastly sound system that amplified the clergy too much. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect on the lady who offered the intercessions, as she was almost totally inaudible. The celebrant's white chasuble made me think it was the wrong season: it looked very similar to Lenten array. The thurifer stationed himself in front of the altar for the proper preface, thus obscuring the view.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Post Vatican II Roman, although there were a couple of English hangovers that I wasn't expecting. It was all very functional and matter-of-fact, sparing us the ghastly self-conciousness so frequently found in Anglo-Catholic sanctuaries.