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631: St Ann's, Manchester, England
Other reports | Comment on this report
St Ann, Manchester City centre
Mystery Worshipper: Not just a shopper.
The church: St Ann's, St Ann's Square, Manchester, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: St Ann's was consecrated in 1712. It is in a prominent location amongst the shops. The building looks very dark and uninviting but actually seemed lighter and quite attractive inside for the service; having all the lights makes a big difference.
The church: Not so long ago there were very few people living in the city centre and before Sunday trading St Ann's must have been a very different kind of place on Sunday morning. Today as the service starts the shoppers are beginning to scurry around outside the church. The congregation at St Ann's is quite mixed but a lot of people seem to travel in from the suburbs and there aren't many people that look like they might live locally.
The cast: Roger Hill, the rector.
What was the name of the service?
Family Eucharist.

How full was the building?
There were two or three people in most pews. It felt like there was plenty of space but it didn't feel empty.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes I was told by a man outside the door not to go in yet or I'd be joining the choir on their procession! I then was ushered in and got a "good morning" as I was handed my books.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, there was a nice cushion on it.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I admit it – I arrived during the opening hymn. I'm not used to churches that start on time!

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Please sit down."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Hymns Ancient and Modern, revised 1950, and a locally produced service booklet. There were Books of Common Prayer around, but I didn't see the use of these, as all the words were reproduced in the service booklet.

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?
The prayer for the Queen as one of the first things we did seemed very strange and rather distracting, certainly to this republican. The person doing the first reading managed to drop the Bible which was nicely amplified by the PA system.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Formal Book of Common Prayer service with a good choir and limited congregational involvement.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
12 minutes.

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

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The preacher's brother received advice after a heart attack which included a hospital list of do's and don'ts. On this list was "don't go to church" – maybe they think church will be too lively! The church is supposed to be lively. We feel uncomfortable with this but God is with us in many ways. God is with us through his Spirit. Let us be open to the Spirit today and in the week ahead.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Waiting to receive communion with the sun shining through the stained glass and the choir singing.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Trying to cope with the 16th century language. The worst example was the intercessions, where a lay person led us in some very well thought through and pertinent prayers but then had to finish with a really long and fairly unintelligible prayer from the Book of Common Prayer, over which she got in a real muddle.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was shown where they serve the coffee and then left on my own for several minutes until someone else said hello.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Basic instant coffee and a selection of biscuits.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 – They use a different language to me and I prefer a church that encourages people to participate more.

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I was very impressed by the way the rector, during the eucharistic prayer, managed to sound as if it all made perfect sense and mattered to us. This is no mean feat when wrestling with the painfully convoluted and obscure language of the Book of Common Prayer.
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