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!
1087: Trinity Hall Chapel, University of Cambridge, England
Other reports | Comment on this report
Trinity Hall Chapel, University of Cambridge
Mystery Worshipper: Mr Ricarno.
The church: Trinity Hall Chapel, University of Cambridge, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Hidden in a corner of Trinity Hall's principal court, this is the smallest chapel at Cambridge. From the outside, there's very little to tell you it's a chapel at all, but once you walk in, the pews, candles, organ and altarpiece do rather give the game away. A rather plain chapel, apart from a richly-coloured painting above the altar – this reporter, however, couldn't figure out what it was depicting.
The church: Being a college chapel, the congregation are mainly students and fellows of the college. I imagine there's a fair mix, therefore, of different traditions coming together in these services.
The neighbourhood: Well... it's in a Cambridge college. This means it has the distinction of being surrounded by 14th century buildings and set upon by students and tourists who mistakenly think they're in Trinity College and spend their time asking where to find the Wren Library. Misdirecting such requests has risen to an art form at Trinity Hall.
The cast: The Rev. Dr Jeremy Morris, dean and chaplain.
What was the name of the service?
9.00am Eucharist.

How full was the building?
Mostly full. This was a joint service with members of Clare College, neighbour of Trinity Hall. Despite the chapel's rather cosy quarters, they manage to pack in more people than Clare do at their service!

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A student handed me a service book and directed me into the chapel.

Was your pew comfortable?
The pews were quite smooth with no cushions, which meant I nearly slipped onto the floor on a couple of occasions. There were fixed kneelers as well.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Fairly quiet, but a couple of congregants had brought children and babies with them, and this raised the noise level somewhat. One lady in the congregation wore the kind of t-shirt one could only ever wear in a Cambridge college. It bore the words of Catullus' Poem 85 (Odi et Amo).

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning and welcome. An especially warm welcome to those of you from Clare visiting us this morning."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Common Praise and a specially-made booklet containing all the services used in the chapel.

What musical instruments were played?
Just an organ. Played very well, presumably by an organ scholar.

Did anything distract you?
There was one particularly strident and out-of-tune voice in the congregation which I was constantly trying to track down. And, as one might expect, baby-noises sometimes broke poignant silences.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Hmm, I'd say fairly stiff-upper-lip: well sung, and the liturgy was said enthusiastically, but there were no smells 'n' bells high church shenanigans. Like a school assembly, but much more inspiring.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
10 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – I thought the chaplain rather cleverly side-stepped the controversy between faith and good works instead of going into an expository lecture about their history.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
In Romans we read of justification by works. Jesus teaches us that only those who do his will are going to be let into Heaven. There's tension between these two concepts, but the eucharist combines the two.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The offertory hymn was Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness. Having been to a Corpus Christi mass earlier that week, I took special meaning from this hymn. It was one of those spine-tingling moments. Oh, and it was very well played and well sung.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The intercessions were – well – dull, and very quiet. It's not very often that I find myself waiting for this bit of the service to be over, but the gentleman leading them spoke very softly and left long silences for personal reflection. Sadly, I wasn't aware of what I was meant to be reflecting on since I couldn't hear him over the baby-noises.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Everyone was invited to a cooked breakfast in college after the service, and so after handing in my hymnbook I joined the other chapel-goers for this veritable feast. While the atmosphere there was generally chatty, I didn't manage to strike up a conversation with any of the regulars until just before I left, which was a shame. There was also a walk to Grantchester leaving at 11am but I had to head off by then.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
It was drinkable, and came in large jugs. I soon realised we were supposed to pour it into smaller china cups at our places on the table rather than drink it from the jugs. More appealing were the sausages, beans, bacon and eggs – not the kind of after-service coffee for a calorie-counter or a vegetarian, but I was in my element.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – I'd be more than happy to come here regularly were it not for college loyalties.

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 lady with the Odi et Amo t-shirt. I studied this poem at A-level and found it intriguing that one could buy ancient Latin poetry in t-shirt form. I'm going to try to find one for myself, now.
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 2005
Surefish logo