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476: St Benet's, Cambridge, England
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St Benet's, Cambridge, England
Mystery Worshipper: Duvet.
The church: St Benet's, Cambridge, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: A fairly typical non-cruciform Anglican Church, with a bell tower (ground floor ring) at the West End. Currently building work is in progress to create a new room to the south of the tower.
The church: This is the Anglican Franciscan Church in Cambridge. The eucharist is said daily at 8.00am and the sacrament of reconciliation and spiritual counsel are available.
The neighbourhood: There are many other Anglican churches in the vicinity – St Botolph's, St Edward's, Great St Mary's and Little St Mary's – to say nothing of the chapels of assorted Cambridge colleges.
The cast: The preacher and celebrant was Brother Martin SSF. Another brother welcomed us and gave the notices before sitting in the congregation, but his name wasn't given.
What was the name of the service?
Sung Eucharist.

How full was the building?
The pews weren't cramped but were fairly full and there were people sitting on chairs in the north aisle and the ringing chamber.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
When I went to get books (I'd been ringing before the service) the person handing them out said, "you're staying, are you?" (as most of the other ringers went out the door), and someone else commented, "that's good".

Was your pew comfortable?
For a pew in an Anglican church, yes. I didn't notice it particularly.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Most people were quiet but there was a fair amount of chatter at the back, which was slightly distracting.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning and welcome to you."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The New English Hymnal, which was in the pews. The eucharist setting was taken from the back of this. Tidings, the weekly notice sheet, which had the canticle in it, with the music of the response. There were also copies of the Revised Common Lectionary in the pews so you could follow the readings if you wanted.

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?
For once, no. Generally, I'm easily distracted, but the service flowed well and kept my attention.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
High Anglican, but not overly so. Most of the congregation crossed themselves at appropriate points and we had servers (both female) who acted as acolytes at the Gospel procession (to the lectern), but no crucifer and no incense.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
13.5 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
John the Baptist's question: "Are you the one who is to come or shall we look for another?" The preacher put the question in context: where John was in prison; his earlier faith in Jesus; the Messianic tradition in Judaism (with reference to the Qumran community and their idea of two Messiahs). He also talked briefly about doubts, recognizing that they are a common part of human experience, and ended with the idea that the incarnation shows God's belief in us.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Communion. Having received, I returned to my seat and in the silence that followed as others went up to receive, I felt a deep peace and the sense that God was there even if we can't answer people's criticisms of the sources of our belief or questions about why God created a world with so much suffering.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Nothing was really hellish. I think the worst thing for me was trying to put my coat back on at the start of the intercessions because I was getting cold, but I didn't want to distract others and putting a coat on while kneeling between pews isn't always entirely straightforward.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I returned my books and then made my way to the coffee in the north aisle and stood around. For a while no one talked to me, though there was plenty of chat going on. But then someone smiled as she went to join the coffee queue and came and talked to me for a while. The brother who'd opened the service also talked to me. So in the end I felt welcome.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Coffee in glass mugs, biscuits and orange squash. Good choice of biscuits, including fig rolls.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – I really liked the service. The liturgy was said with meaning, due attention was paid to the season, and people were friendly. I might make this my out-of-term church.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The sense of peace I had after communion.
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