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773: Craigiebuckler Church, Aberdeen, Scotland
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Craigiebuckler Church, Aberdeen, Scotland
Mystery Worshipper: Pictspotter.
The church: Craigiebuckler Church, Aberdeen, Scotland.
Denomination: Church of Scotland.
The building: Grey granite, Gothic type building, designed by A Marshall MacKenzie and opened in 1883. At the east end is a small wooden altar, swamped by a vast brass collection plate. The apse is lined with 13 mysterious padded seats built around the inside of the curve. There is a decent font at the west end, though the baptism which took place during the service was conducted from a small wooden sundial-scale structure, with a tiny silver quaich perched on top for the holy water. Most of the service was conducted from a sturdy music stand. A stole was draped over the edge of the pulpit, but not worn by the minister. The church was decorated for Christmas, with ornate arrangements involving evergreens and gilded fir cones attached to the walls.
The neighbourhood: Craigiebuckler is an achingly respectable suburb on the western edge of Aberdeen. The area is dominated by privately-owned bungalow-style housing. Granite chippings are much favoured in front gardens, and if I lived here, I wouldn't dare put my bin out on the wrong day or fail to clip my hedge weekly.
The cast: The Revd. Kenneth L. Petrie, minister.
What was the name of the service?
Morning Service.

How full was the building?
Packed, except for a few single spaces.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I got a handshake at the door, where a book and leaflet were given to me.

Was your pew comfortable?
Pews were closely spaced, with no kneeling aids. The padding on the pews was thick enough to suggest that a protracted sermon was to come.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very loud chatter and much waving and gesticulating. There were several children present and they behaved extremely well.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning!"

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Psalms and Church Hymnary.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ and elderly adult choir who warbled their way very competently through the introit.

Did anything distract you?
Everybody was so well dressed that I felt more shabby than usual. Sunday best is still in vogue at higher latitudes. Lots of the men had a tweed pork-pie hat on the pew beside them. Even the children were very smart, with one small girl sporting a swansdown-and-paste tiara, and a little boy a Braveheart kilt outfit. There was a discrete smattering of adult kilts too.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I hadn't ventured into the Church of Scotland for many years, though the style soon became familiar. People were happy, though not clappy, and didn't look as though they were likely to become so. I suspect the service was atypical, it being the first Sunday after Christmas (the Feast of the Holy Family where I come from). There was an infant baptism, and three five-minute meditations rather than a stonking sermon. We sang a selection of carols not used by the congregation yet that year, and each was preceded by a vignette of its history.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
3 x 5 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – The Revd. Petrie has a perky, wide-awake look, due in some measure to his Woody Woodpecker haircut. Disappointingly, he wore neither flapping gown or starched bands, merely a suit and grey clerical shirt. His sermonettes were well researched and easy to listen to.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Each five-minute slot was a meditation on one of the people involved in the presentation of Our Lord in the temple: Simeon, Anna and Our Lady. Each was excellent and put a different slant on the incarnation.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The minister took the baby baptized during the service up and down the aisle to introduce her to her new family.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Fear of a long hellfire-and-damnation sermon. It never materialized, but was a real worry.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We filed out past the minister, who was very friendly. I lurked and lingered and although nobody was hostile, no one bothered to speak to a stranger. However, it was raining, and people were keen to rush to their cars to preserve their finery.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There didn't seem to be anything on offer.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 – What they do is done very well. It felt like a lively community. Their reserve towards a visitor was a little worrying. I come from a more sacramental tradition, and would find the change nigh impossible.

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 story of the writing of "It came upon a midnight clear".
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