|623: Christ Church, Bangkok, Thailand|
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Mystery Worshipper: Egeria.
The church: Christ Church, Bangkok, Thailand.
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The building: The church is a plain white building in what I think of as Anglican tropical Gothic, with the entrance under the tower so that worshippers could get out of their carriages and cars without getting wet during the rainy season. Inside, the building is also quite plain, with little decoration other than wall memorials to former parishioners. And it boasts the only pipe organ in Thailand, maintained by an Australian who works on it when he's passing through Bangkok.
The church: This is a very international community. The English-speaking congregation includes people from all parts of the world, and there's also a Thai congregation, with its own minister, which holds its service on Sunday afternoons. The church is also ecumenical members of other denominations are welcomed as members.
The neighbourhood: I suspect it was a popular area for expatriates a century ago. There's a convent just along the road and Roman Catholic churches not far away. Now it's an upmarket area of Bangkok, with a lot of bars and restaurants.
The cast: The vicar, the Rev. Stephen Gabbott. The service booklet had the good idea of listing everyone who took any part in the service, but it's rather long to reproduce here.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
About half full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were welcomed by the lady at the door who handed us the booklets containing the service, and during the notices visitors and people new to the church were invited to accept a pack of information about the church.
Was your pew comfortable?
It wasn't a pew, it was a beautifully comfortable wood and cane armchair. I liked it so much I wished I could walk off with a couple at the end and have them shipped home.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I missed it, as we arrived slightly late the information sheet about local churches the hotel had given me turned out to have only Roman Catholic churches. Luckily, we knew Christ Church wasn't far away, but we had to find it.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"The Lord be with you."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The printed service booklet, which contained everything hymns, readings and notices as well as the words of the service.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ and guitar.
Did anything distract you?
The announcement that "last Sunday there was another accident with the kneelers". I spent ages fantasising about what that might have involved.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Quite restrained but cheerful good singing and the impression that people were enjoying the worship in a decorous Anglican way.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
I have to admit I hadn't recovered from the shock of sitting for the Gospel (referred to as the second Bible reading) and I forgot to look at my watch. I looked at the end, though, and after doing a quick mental reconstruction of the service I worked out it must have lasted about 35 minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 His sermon was very lucid and Bible-based. I'm not used to sermons that long but I found it surprisingly easy to concentrate.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It was an exposition of the Gospel reading, Mark 10:1-22, considering divorce, the place of children in the Christian community, and then, at most length, the story of the rich young man who couldn't renounce his wealth.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The mixture of people there was an American family behind me, a Thai lady next to me, an African man in front of me, the vicar was Australian and the organist was Italian. A real foretaste of heaven.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The shock of being in a totally tat-free zone the vicar celebrated in his shirtsleeves, and as I said, we sat for the Gospel.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn't have much chance, as Egerius is an organist and went to look at the organ as soon as the closing voluntary was over, and we ended up talking to the organist. I also had a word with the vicar. Most people departed quite briskly for coffee in the hall next door.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I never got that far, but looking through an open door in the side of the church I could see people socialising happily in the hall.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 To judge from the notices and the information in the booklet, it's a very lively church with a lot going on and a lot of outreach. I'd miss my high church bits and pieces but I think I'd enjoy being part of such a vigorous community.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Very much so; there's something very moving about being one of a group of worshippers who come from all four corners of the world.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The lovely Australian expression the vicar used about the rich young man in his sermon "He was a man of high principles, someone who really wanted to serve God in the best way he knew whatever he was, he wasn't a ratbag."