Ship of Fools
  Bulletin Boards
  Mystery Worshipper
  Caption Competition
  Gadgets for God
  The Fruitcake Zone
  Signs & Blunders
  Born Twice
  About Ship of Fools
  Support us!
  Contact us!
698: St Wilfrid, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England
Other reports | Comment on this report
St Wilfrid, Harrogate
Mystery Worshipper: Sarum Sleuth.
The church: St Wilfrid, Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: One of the best 20th-century churches in the country. It is geometrical Gothic with stone vaults, central tower and ambulatory, through which the Lady Chapel can be glimpsed. Surprisingly light inside.
The church: There was a reasonable range of ages represented, although the majority appeared to be middle-class, elderly ladies. Comparatively few children present, although they may have been in the Sunday School.
The neighbourhood: Pretty well what one expects in Harrogate; very comfortably off with lots of large detached houses.
The cast: The celebrant was the vicar, the Rev. Mark Sowerby. The Rev. Robert Thompson assisted and preached.
What was the name of the service?
Sung Parish Mass.

How full was the building?
It felt half-empty, but in actual fact the congregation must have numbered at least 160, with probably another 30 in the chancel. I suppose this is one of the disadvantages of churches on this scale: they rarely if ever seem full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
So many people took the trouble to speak both before the service and at the peace I lost count. No faulting this church in the friendliness department!

Was your pew comfortable?
Comfortable chair.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet to begin with, and then the organ played discretely. No bells, unfortunately, as no ringers turned up.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father...." However, the notices were given out five minutes before the proceedings commenced, and everyone then joined in the Collect for Purity.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Eucharist Booklet (Common Worship, Order 1), and the New English Hymnal.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ. The choir was pretty large, with boys, girls and men. They were more than competent, singing a setting (Sumsion in F) and a Mozart motet.

Did anything distract you?
Not a great deal, but I did find the superb painted pulpit rather more interesting than the sermon! Though it was rather strange blessing the incense for the Gradual at the end of the psalm between the first two readings.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The overall impression was very Anglican, despite the six lights above the altar. This is probably more marked normally, as they usually have a proper high mass with three ministers, but were rather short this week. They did field a full team of servers, clerk, crucifer, taperers and thurifer with boat boy. Some of the details were more Roman than English, and unfortunately the dreaded cassock alb was very much in evidence. There was none of the dreaded Anglo-Catholic fussiness in evidence.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
15 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – He moved his hands a lot but was otherwise unremarkable.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Based on the Gospel for the day, John 1:1-14, it linked the arrival of a relatively new vicar in the parish to the Incarnation.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Sitting in this glorious building.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Those cassock albs! It must have looked far better when albs and apparelled amices were still in use.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Several people spoke and directed me to coffee in the hall. Once ensconced there, some more people came over to talk.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Instant, and pretty horrible. At least there were some chocolate chip biscuits to take my mind off the taste.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – Not really an issue as I live 200 miles away, but if I was in this area I would probably come here, unless somewhere more Sarum was available, which I somehow doubt.

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 chancel gradually filling with incense.
The Mystery Worshipper is sponsored by, the internet service provider from Christian Aid. By offering email services, special offers with companies such as and, surefish raises more than £300,000 a year for Christian Aid's work around the world.

Click here to find out how to become a Mystery Worshipper. And click here if you would like to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.

Top | Other Reports | Become a Mystery Worshipper!

© Ship of Fools 2003
Surefish logo