|940: Holy Trinity, Melbourne, Australia|
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Mystery Worshipper: Adeodatus.
The church: Holy Trinity, East Melbourne, Australia.
The building: Consecrated in 1864, the present red brick building was rebuilt after a disastrous fire in 1905. Pleasant and peaceful inside.
The church: A small local parish church. There were no children present and I don't think there was anyone there under 50. I was told that a luncheon is held periodically to which others are welcome. I am not sure if the congregation has the numbers or energy to do much in the way of outreach to the community however, it's hard to tell from a single visit.
The neighbourhood: The building faces one of Melbourne's most beautiful parks. Almost next door is a large Hilton Hotel. Many of the houses nearby are some of the city's earliest, and the area has been very much gentrified.
The cast: Fr Matthew Dowsey, SSM. The pew sheet explained that he was chaplain at one of the city's hospitals and filling in for the incumbent who was on holiday. There were two male helpers who did the readings and intercessions. I wondered if perhaps I had stumbled into a congregation opposed to the ordination of women, but then a couple of women distributed the cup at communion, so I was no doubt mistaken.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
About 30 something under half full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I received a smile at the door as I was handed the worship material.
Was your pew comfortable?
A normal wooden pew. I didn't feel uncomfortable, as I had plenty of room on either side.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very quiet. Only one couple was talking, and that was sotto voce.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"My name is Matthew Dowsey..."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
A Prayer Book for Australia,and Together in Song (the ecumenical hymnbook used in most mainline Australian churches). Plus a pew sheet.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
Nothing distracted me indoors. The noticeboard at the entrance looked very tired, which maybe reflects the feelings of a small, struggling community. The small garden area needed a bit of attention.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Traditional, dignified and moderately Anglo-catholic (there was no incense, at least on this occasion, or unnecessary dramatics).
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 The sermon was thoughtful and delivered gently. At first I thought it was all going to be read from notes, but after a short time the preacher spoke directly to us. Maybe he was a little nervous to start with. Anyway, I continued to think about its content later, which I don't always do with some much longer and more erudite sermons.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon dealt with the role of fear in the present world and in our own experience. The speaker spoke of his own fears and the anxiety we have about change. In the Gospel story, Zacchaeus was enabled to overcome his fear by accepting Jesus' initiative of friendship. Following Christ involves allowing our fears to be transformed by hope and courage. This is the path of discipleship.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I enjoyed singing the psalm responses. The organist, who had a good voice, acted very capably as cantor.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Nothing, really. Oh yes, that sign outside.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A retired priest invited me to join the other parishioners for morning tea.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Without a doubt, the best I have experienced for many a year. Homemade fruit cake, slices, etc. And the tea came in attractive, unchipped, blue and white china cups. What a change from cheap biscuits and paper cups. Other churches, please take note!
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 Although I come from a reformed background, I felt very much at home in this service, partly because I was familiar with the sung responses and the hymns. If I lived reasonably locally, I would be happy to worship here.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
It definitely did.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?