|789: St Thomas, High Wycombe, Perth, Western Australia|
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Mystery Worshipper: The Coot rides again.
The church: St Thomas, High Wycombe, Perth, Western Australia.
The building: Tasteful modern building, brick and iron. Low impact environmental design (so low impact I drove right past it), exposed feature rafters, high ceiling, spacious and relaxed but with a definite feeling of Holy Ground.
The church: A mix of ages representative of the wider community. Always a good sign.
The neighbourhood: A pleasant and affordable suburb in the foothills to the north-east of the CBD and about 25km away. Schools, kindies and parks around the church indicate a young family demographic.
The cast: Bishop David Murray, celebrant and preacher. Fr. Steve Warren, rector.
What was the name of the service?
Patronal Festival Eucharist, including Confirmation and first Holy Communion. The Confirmation was of our very own shipmate, AdamPater.
How full was the building?
Comfortably full, about 60 people.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, I was very warmly welcomed by the usher who introduced himself and gave me the service booklets.
Was your pew comfortable?
Nice wide pews, comfortable and set on an angle facing the front.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Some greetings and chatter in the nave, the music group practising quietly, much happy excitement of children and others in the narthex. I busied myself going through my security blanket checklist of church and liturgical accoutrements. One has to when dealing with modern buildings.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning. Everyone would you stand please for the first hymn?"
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Pewsheet and custom service booklet.
What musical instruments were played?
Electronic organ for hymns. A trio of singers accompanied by acoustic guitar sang unobtrusively during communion.
Did anything distract you?
It is currently the liturgical Green Season, and I was distracted by the blue wall hangings behind the altar. These clashed with the red chalice veil with gold cross which matched the rector's stole exactly. I found myself contemplating that the wall hangings would be correct at least one season a year by Sarum use (Advent). The flower arrangements also caught my eye, quite luxuriant!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Prayer Book Anglican (APBA), quietly sacramental, contemporary but not in a loathsome try-hard way.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 Bishop Murray is a gentle, pastoral and spiritual man who preaches in an unaffected way. The duty of the Bishop is to protect the church against heresy. He does, I think.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The story of Thomas as a bonus for people in our time who have doubts about the resurrection, and for the church against attempts to discredit the resurrection belief. The resurrection is a mystery beyond comprehension which was proclaimed by the early church rather than explained and which cannot be reduced from the gospels. It is not just about giving life to the clinically dead but addresses the problem of evil, the dawning of the Kingdom of God and the triumph of the whole Christ in the creation. Christianity stands or falls by Christ's suffering, death and resurrection, thus Paul preached Christ crucified and our faith is vain without it. The risen Christ is the wounded Christ and appears when we are close to the wounds of humanity. Our doubts destroy our faith unless we are close to the wounds and life of Christ – Jesus must not only be seen, but his whole person grasped. We experience Christ's risen presence in the mystery of the eucharist, the church united, the love of Christians for each other, in caring for the natural creation and in the places we do not feel his love, we place him. We give thanks for the faith and doubt of Thomas.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Jasmin, the small strawberry blonde girl dressed in a long white dress with a set of clear plastic rosary beads around her neck and making her first communion, was a delight. "Do you wish to be welcomed to the holy communion?" asked the rector. "YEP!" she said.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
There was a healthy contingent of children, one of whom emitted several short, ear-piercing bat shrieks, but this was a reasonable trade off for the child friendly atmosphere. Most of the hellishness occurred pre-service and involved the Mystery Worshipper, an out-of-date street directory, a re-routed major highway and a set of keys locked in the car.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn't have a chance to look lost, people talked and smiled at me and I met our shipmate and confirmand for the first time.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Oh yes! Patronal feast fare never disappoints.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7.5 At 35km away, it's far too far for this to be a possibility. My tat proclivities were largely unsated, but the people were friendly and there were just enough crossings and bobbings that if I lived close by I would feel comfortable making it my home base.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Why, yes, I was glad. So nice to see a church of down-to-earth, friendly people getting on with it.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I met a shipmate in person for the first time. It was great! AdamPater's renunciations were memorable... for a moment it seemed he was trying to get out of repenting of his sins, but luckily he added his repentance to the rejection of selfish living!