|708: St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, Australia|
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Mystery Worshipper: Sir Rupert Orangepeel.
The church: St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, Australia.
Denomination: Anglican Church of Australia.
The building: This is a large, twin-towered, Victorian, Gothic-revival cathedral. Inside it is quite bright for a church. There is a delightful ceiling, and lovely, simple, stained-glass windows, depicting events both in the life of Christ, and also in the foundation of the church in the south Pacific. The sanctuary is quite understated. There is a large marble reredos depicting the transfiguration, but no communion table. In the middle, at the front of the choir, is a large Bible in a glass case. According to the pewsheet, this was an original edition of the Great Bible, given to the cathedral in 1953 by St Andrew's Barnwell, Gloucestershire. It was in such a prominent posisition because, "it is the central part of our culture as the Anglican Church. It is the central symbol of why the church gathers – to hear the word of God."
The neighbourhood: The cathedral is right in the centre of Sydney's business district, so despite its size, it is dwarfed by skyscrapers around it. Very few members of the congregation live in the area. Fortunately, the cathedral is on the major bus artery and next to the busiest railway station in Sydney.
The cast: The Very Reverend Dr Phillip Jensen, dean of Sydney, and some unnamed clerks.
What was the name of the service?
A Celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia.
How full was the building?
Comfortably full. There was no room in the nave or aisles in front of the choir, so I went up to the gallery, which was fairly full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was smiled at and handed an order of service. That's all.
Was your pew comfortable?
In the gallery the seats were cinema-style, with flip-up bottoms and padding, so very comfortable. Unfortunately they had no kneelers though. Downstairs, the seating was standard pews.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The cathedral hummed with quiet gossip. There was lots of movement at the back of the cathedral, with people arriving, choristers and clerks milling, and others going about their business.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"I was glad when they said unto me: We will go into the house of the Lord" – Parry's coronation setting of Psalm 122, complete with cries of "Vivat Regina Elizabetha!" The first spoken words were: "While we remain standing let us join together to sing our national anthem."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Printed order of service.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ and choir.
Did anything distract you?
The chatting during the opening organ part of the anthem "Zadok the Priest". Dean Jensen's description of the Great Bible as a "relic" also perturbed me slightly. Finally, I love Wesley's "Jesus the name high o'er all", but what was it doing in this service?
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
This is a fine, upstanding evangelical cathedral: none of that papist nonsense here, thank you. However, Her Excellency the Governor, after reading the second lesson, genuflected (to what?) before resuming her seat. Overall, we had an introit, four hymns, a sung canticle, said prayers, two national anthems and a religious one. One practice that I quite liked, was the choir leaving their stalls and standing with the congregation during the hymns as a not-too-subtle cue for us to join in.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Solid delivery and well-structured content with good examples from throughout history. Dean Jensen couldn't resist an aside comparing the modern media with the Pharisees and Herodians in the second lesson.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The text of the sermon was Mark 12:13-17 ("Render to Caesar..."). Government is our attempt to be the image of God without God. This can be seen throughout history, in instances ranging from the Tower of Babel, through Israel's demand for a king, to today where Tony Blair is blocked from sharing his faith by his political advisers. Today the state is the provider of all things, not God. Christ is a king who is totally different and leads a totally different kingdom. Christendom confused the institutional church with the kingdom of God and thus had the state under the church. Today we talk of a separation of church and state, but this can't be as there are universal, absolute truths that apply to governments. On what coins do we see God's image? We see it in ourselves and thus we should render ourselves to God.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The opening introit, and also the view from the balcony of the light cathedral and east window.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The choir seemed to give up after the first section of the anthem "Zadok the Priest". The second part ("God save the king...") seemed a huge drag and they couldn't be bothered. It was terrible!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was ignored. Eventually I went down from the gallery, found a cup of tea, stood around and was ignored a bit more. Then I left. At the door the dean and a clerk gave me a warm farewell.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
It was milky tea in a plastic cup.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 A bit difficult to say. This service was wonderful. However, it wouldn't be like this every week.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
How could one sing "Jesus the name high o'er all", and not feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The view from the gallery over the bright church to the east window.