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1696: St Mary's, Sprotbrough, South Yorkshire, England
St Mary's, Sprotbrough, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England
Mystery Worshipper: Fluffy Bunny.
The church: St Mary's, Sprotbrough, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese of Sheffield.
The building: Built in the 12th century, this is a lovely old village church. In the tower are a ring of eight bells as well as an ancient sundial in working condition. The core of the nave dates from 1170 but the old chancel was replaced 100 years later by the more elaborate one that is still there. It is fairly small inside, but is light and has a beautiful mother-of-pearl inlaid ceiling as well as a number of monuments to the Copley family. There are some interesting stained glass windows, especially one depicting Faith, Hope and Charity.
The church: Their website describes them as a church of "lively and active mainstream Anglicans." They have established an ecumenical covenant relationship with Sprotbrough Park Methodist Church. The church hall is one of several venues that host the Village Quiz, an ongoing event in which residents compete for prizes by answering trivia questions on a wide variety of topics.
The neighbourhood: Sprotbrough stands on the limestone ridge above the valley of the river Don. Like a number of other places in the vicinity, it was for much of its history an "estate" village in the ownership of the local gentry, the Copley family, who from the 16th until the early 20th century lived in Sprotbrough Hall. Little evidence remains today of the Hall, which was demolished after World War I. Nearby attractions include the St Leger Horse Park, where the public can walk, cycle or ride horses into acres of open countryside; and Conisbrough Castle, the inspiration for the Ivanhoe story.
The cast: The Revd John Richards, rector; the Revd Katherine Jane Francis, assistant curate.
The date & time: Easter Sunday, 12 April 2009, 10.45am.

What was the name of the service?
Family Eucharist.

How full was the building?
Full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
The sidespeople welcomed us and, at our request, located full music copies of the hymn book for us.

Was your pew comfortable?
OK for the duration of the service, but not armchair comfortable. Old pews, but I have sat in worse.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Mingled with organ music was the quiet hum of people chatting to each other.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning and a very happy Easter to you all."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Complete Anglican Hymns Old and New and Common Worship.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ.

Did anything distract you?
In amongst the old stained glass are a couple of new windows, modern and attractive and quite different from the rest. The doors are also new oak, very pale in comparison to the rest of the wood.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Quite middle of the road. No fancy vestments or incense, good mix of hymns, old favourites and a few newbies. At the peace, lots of people left their pews to shake hands, and the rector seemed to greet every single person in the church.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
13 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – Father Richards was a very clear speaker and engaged the congregation. He had a quiet tone and I did not feel I was being harangued from the pulpit. In fact, he didn't use the pulpit (which did look quite fire and brimstone) but rather stood in front of the screen. I found his sermon very interesting.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
A discussion of the events of Easter and how each disciple needed to believe in slightly different ways, and how we will all encounter Jesus Christ in slightly different ways. We were challenged to take the Easter story out of church and share it, and to take a gift of chocolate to someone not in church.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The wonderful feeling of peace during the service, even when everyone was singing with gusto. There was time for quiet prayer and also time to celebrate our belief.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Feeling a bit like a fish out of water when the organ struck up a hymn not on the list. Also, the choir sang a piece which needed a little more rehearsal.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn't feel lost, out of place or ignored. There was an invitation to coffee after the service.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Because the service was later than I am used to, I had to fly to get lunch organised so was unable to sample the refreshments.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – Were I to live in the area, I could feel very much at home in this church.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Definitely.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The wonderful sermon.
 
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