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803: St Peter's, Penhill, Swindon, England
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St Peter's Penhill, Swindon
Mystery Worshipper: Leo.
The church: St Peter's, Penhill, Swindon, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: A 1950s brick council estate church whose interior has a light, vast, soaring feel and excellent acoustics.
The church: It describes itself as being within the liberal catholic tradition which welcomes all ages, traditions and stages of belief to find God in beauty, peace and love, at all stages of life, both happy and sad.
The neighbourhood: The parish is among the most deprived housing estates of Wiltshire.
The cast: The Rt. Rev. Michael Doe was the celebrant. The preacher was hospice chaplain Canon Brenda Dowie.
What was the name of the service?
Eucharist for the Feast of St Luke.

How full was the building?
About a quarter full. I counted 40 people.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, someone asked me, "How are you?"

Was your pew comfortable?

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Noisy at first. Everyone seemed to know each other and caught up on news, but they became silent for the last five minutes before the service began.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A special service sheet. The church normally uses the Celebration Hymnal.

What musical instruments were played?
A one-manual organ

Did anything distract you?

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Low-key bells and smells.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
15 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – I had to tune into a pleasant Scottish accent.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
A prayer (the collect) earlier in the service had talked about "wholesome medicine". Our society thinks of health as the absence of illness and promotes dissatisfaction and dis-ease. We need to travel with others, as when Jesus sent 70 of his followers out on missions, staying where we find fellowship, and moving on where we sense people are not ready to hear us.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The last hymn, "There's a wideness in God's mercy... but we make his love too narrow..." It was good to sing this in the weekend following the primates meeting, which threatened schism in the church.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Possibly the poor singing – but I am used to a church with a highly-trained choir, and need reminding that they're a rarity these days.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nobody spoke to me at first, so I decided to make the first move instead.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Good and hot.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – It has a neighbourly, local feel to it, which was a good contrast to the city churches I am used to.

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 woman I met outside having a cigarette. She told me she loved the church and its community, but felt a bit pressured at the moment. The frontals and hangings would have to be changed from red back to green, with the change of the church season, and she didn't know when she'd get her ironing done.
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