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1764: St George's, Whyke, West Sussex, England
St George's, Whyke, England
Mystery Worshipper: Fluffy Bunny.
The church: St George's, Whyke, West Sussex, England.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese of Chichester.
The building: Built in 1901 of red brick, with an extension added in 2002. At the west end there is a covered porch with a door on the south. Very light and airy on the inside and much more beautiful inside than the outside would suggest. There is a prominent statue of the Blessed Virgin near the main altar.
The church: St George's has featured Anglo-Catholic worship since the early 20th century. Indeed, their website includes a link called "Tat, what's that?" giving brief descriptions of various accoutrements of worship. They sponsor a variety of social and religious groups and celebrate mass throughout the week.
The neighbourhood: Whyke, formerly known as Rumboldswyke, lies on the outskirts of Chichester. The Portsmouth to Brighton railway line runs very near St George's, but I didn't hear a single train go by!
The cast: There was nothing to say who was conducting the service. The celebrant wore a green chasuble and stole, but a priest assisting him wore only a stole.
The date & time: Seventh Sunday after Trinity, 26 July 2009, 10.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Parish Mass and Baptism of Lottie May.

How full was the building?
Mostly full. At first I thought it was going to be mostly retired folk, but the church filled with a good variety of age groups.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
The sidesperson smiled a welcoming smile and gave us the service sheet and newsletter – but the people who came to sit right next to us ignored us! Perhaps we had sat in "their" seats?

Was your pew comfortable?
Not really. They were wooden chairs held together by planks so you could only move a row as a single block. However, I was pleased to see at least one space for a wheelchair user, so anyone in a wheelchair could be part of the congregation proper rather than relegated to the back of the church or somewhere deemed not to be a fire hazard!

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was a sign in the church porch asking us to "Speak to God before the service and everyone else afterwards" but few people took note of this. There was a steady buzz of conversation before the service started.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, everyone. I'm afraid there are an awful lot of notices and banns this morning." In reality, I thought the notices and banns were very brief compared to some churches I have visited where the priest reads all the notices that are on the news sheet, assuming, I suppose, that no one can read!

What books did the congregation use during the service?
An in-house produced Order for the Celebration of Mass plus a weekly news leaflet with the readings and responsorial psalm (which, interestingly, was neither sung nor said but must have been included for our private use). The hymnals were New English Hymnal and Celebration Hymnal for Everyone.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ.

Did anything distract you?
Noisy children – and there did not seem to be much parental control. Uncomfortable seats.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Middle to high, with bells but no smells. There was a selection of servers with bells and candles as well as the processional cross. Little Lottie May behaved very well throughout the baptism. We were told that her family are regulars at St George's, so it really was a welcoming of someone into the church family. There was a lot of flash photography during the baptism, which started at the main altar and then moved to the back of the church where the font was situated. There was a large party with the family, which was probably why the church was so full, although when chatting after the service we were told that the church normally has a good attendance.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
10 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – Apart from the opening remarks, which were a personal anecdote, the rest was read as a prepared statement.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The preacher told us of how some years ago he had worked as a medical orderly on a ship whose sailors had caught the Spanish flu, and how he himself had caught it as well. He then talked about the decision by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to suspend administration of the chalice until the end of the current swine flu epidemic. He said that this is acceptable although communion under both kinds is the norm.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The ambience of the inside of the church was very peaceful. The choir sang a lovely anthem by John Rutter, I Will Sing with the Spirit. The organist was amazing, playing with one hand and two feet whilst conducting with the other hand. Also, during the exchange of peace, it was suggested that we bow to one another rather than shake hands. This caused a lot of merriment as we all looked like we had been transported to downtown Tokyo!

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The uncomfortable seat. I also thought there was a bit of a lack of liturgical flow.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
People who knew us came over to speak to us (we weren't expecting them as they were also visitors that day).

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Tea and coffee served in white china cups and saucers by cheerful ladies in the kitchen. I don't think it was fair trade, as the coffee was a well-known popular brand.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – Neither Mr Bunny nor I are particularly keen on going back due to what we perceived to be territorial behaviour. Not even a "Good morning" from out seatmates!

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I think so. We had an enjoyable morning despite the unfriendliness of the congregation.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Bowing and smiling to each other at the peace.
 
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