|571: Christchurch with All Saints, Blackpool, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Redhead.
The church: Christchurch with All Saints, Blackpool, England
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Big, brick and red. I was slightly daunted by the "Make your goal Jesus" poster outside in honour of the World Cup. Inside, it was a little threadbare but quite your standard traditional Anglican look, with a nice area for tea and chat at the entrance.
The church: I had the feeling it was a good, close-knit community from the photos of the church weekend away and a match the baby photo to the adult photo competition board.
The neighbourhood: Remarkably ordinary, yet just five minutes walk away from the transitory, tacky extravaganza which is Blackpool seafront. Quite a relief.
The cast: Rev. Stephen Tranter, drafted in from the next parish for the day.
What was the name of the service?
Well, in one part of the noticesheet it was called Evening Praise (which it was) and in another part it was called Holy Communion (which it wasn't).
How full was the building?
We counted about 30 people, scattered around the building, unlike the nearby pubs. Not exactly bursting at the seams.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was utterly freaked by being 10 minutes early, unheard of generally, but we were greeted with a noticesheet, book and a smile and then left alone.
Was your pew comfortable?
Not bad. There were cushions, even if they were a bit tatty.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Subdued, a bit of whispering as people gathered but not much chat.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"You'll be pleased to know I'm not leading the service tonight," followed by some notices and a handover to Rev. Tranter for the God stuff.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
NIV Bibles and Songs of Fellowship.
What musical instruments were played?
Only piano but what a pianist. She thrilled, she thumped out the chords, she was a virtuoso. And she played the organ towards the end too.
Did anything distract you?
The woman in front of us who obviously dying for a fag all the way through the sermon getting up at the midway point with her roll-ups and heading out.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Sadly as a congregation we could not compete with the pianist for musical aplomb. More choruses than hymns, but finishing off gustily with "How great thou art".
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 He had a beautiful accent, which made the sermon almost like being told a bedtime story. It was very soothing.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Families are hard work and full of people making mistakes, just like they were in the Bible too. We need God's help.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I really liked the practicality of the prayers and of the sermon; the way in which the Bible was seen as a collection of stories to help us learn about life, not as a list of rules. He made real connections between the Bible and our lives today.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
There was nothing too hell-ish, apart from my self inflicted tiredness from the night before. I kept nearly slipping off my pew and jerking violently awake again.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I wasn't by myself so it made it easier to hang around afterwards. Lots of people asked if we were new or if we were here on holiday (which we were). The minister asked if we were on a hen night, which seemed unlikely. We did plenty of small-talking over coffee, had a discussion about why on earth we had come all the way from London to Blackpool, and browsed the bookstall.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The tea and coffee were both fine although not fairly traded. They were accompanied with plain, dull and very worthy biscuits.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 I'd like to try it again in the morning when I think there'd be more people. However I felt welcomed and enjoyed the service, and could imagine going back if I'm ever in Blackpool again (on a hen night perhaps?).
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, mostly. I love going to different churches simply to see the huge variety of ways to worship God, and of people in His family.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I'm afraid it's got to be the informal mid-service smoking break.