|Comment on this report, or find other reports.
|Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you'd like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.
|Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.
|1929: St Andrew's,
Cronulla, New South Wales, Australia
Andrew's, Cronulla, New South Wales, Australia.
Church of Australia, Archdiocese
A positively unique building. The domed chancel, bearing a striking
resemblance to the elephant enclosure at Taronga Park Zoo, has
earned this building the name locally of the Elephant House!
Opened in 1935, the church is in the Byzantine architectural
style and, while different from traditionally designed churches,
possesses an innate calmness that can only come from approaching
75 years of worship.
The church seems particularly strong in, and proud of, its foreign
missionary work, with members currently working in Addis Ababa,
southeast Asia, Tanzania, and a priest assistant who has worked
in both Africa and Thailand. A brief perusal of the notice board
and newsletter surprisingly didn't yield any information about
Sunday school, weekday clubs and societies or the like, with
the exception of the friendship group being in recess for April.
Cronulla is a very quiet seaside suburb of Sydney. Approximately
20km south of the main city center, it has a mixture of retirees,
young beach dwellers, and urban professionals not wanting to
live in the fast paced central business district. A peninsular
location, the suburb is surrounded on three sides by water.
It has possibly the best beach in the area, which runs all the
way up to Captain Cook's original landing point at the south
end of Botany Bay.
Strangely it was never announced, and the newsletter didn't
state who the celebrant was! The rector is the Revd Rich Wenden
and the priest assistant is the Revd Stephen Gabbott, so it
could have been either!
The date & time:
Easter Sunday, 4 April 2010, 9.30am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Did anyone welcome you personally?
The earlier service was still in progress when I arrived at
9.20 and didn't finish until five minutes before the 9.30 service
was scheduled to start. This meant that most of the 9.30 congregation
were hanging around outside waiting to go in! I had a chat with
some of the regular congregation members, and as we entered
I was handed a notice sheet as a steward said "Good morning."
Once in my pew, I was greeted by my neighbour, who commented
on the glorious April weather.
Was your pew comfortable?
Traditional wooden straight back pew, with very welcome cushion. Comfortable it most certainly was!
How would you describe the pre-service
Given the short time between entering and the service starting,
the atmosphere was a little rushed. The organist played a few
numbers; however, given either the acoustic or the lack of organ
power, the organ wasn't able to foster the kind of reflective
thinking that helps at the beginning of a service.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Christ has risen. Alleluia!"
What books did the congregation use during the
Hymns for Today's Church, An Australian Prayer
Book, The Holy Bible, New International Version,
and a notice sheet that also included two of the hymns.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ, piano and (I think) a flute.
Did anything distract you?
During the communion, there was the option of either taking
the sacrament from the communal chalice, or picking up a small
glass, offering it to the wine bearer and getting a small individual
portion of the sacrament. I've experienced the chalice in every
Anglican church I've ever been to, and in non-conformist churches
it's generally been the rack of glasses that are passed up and
down pews. But never before have I had the option of choosing
how to receive the wine. It was a little distracting, as the
glasses were being dispensed from the right hand side of the
aisle, right in the path of people leaving the communion rail.
There were a number of near misses as worshipers dodged each
other! Most people went for the glasses, so the poor chalice
bearer looked so despondent at being ignored by most people!
Also, midway through the service, a stunningly attractive woman
entered through one of the front doors. Most male heads swung
to her as she entered!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Although the service followed the Australian Prayer Book
second order for holy communion, it was not stiff or regimented.
The priest was fairly young and pretty laid back. There was
no sung service, which was a bit of a shame, it being Easter
and all. I'm pleased to say that there was no exchange of the
peace, which was wonderful compared to the usual awkwardness
that seems to happen. That said, I think with this particular
congregation, everyone was so inherently friendly that there
wouldn't have been any problems.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
5 The priest interjected a few slightly informal, pithy
statements from time to time, such as: "Now here's the good
bit", "That's great, ain't it?" and "Awesome, eh?" Also, he
kept asking the congregation to get in touch with him if we
found anything he said challenging. Given only regulars would
know who he was (see above), and the content of the sermon wasn't
overly challenging (see below), this seemed a little patronising.
It wasn't a bad sermon per se; it's just that there
wasn't anything in the subject matter that any but the youngest
members of the congregation wouldn't have heard before.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
Responses to the Resurrection. He covered two principal topics:
First, what does Jesus' resurrection mean for us? It is the
fulfillment of God's promises to us. God's Messiah has come.
Death has been swallowed up in victory. The life we live forever
will be glorious, Second, what does the Resurrection require
of you? Repent and believe. Live and experience.
Which part of the service was like being in
The overall atmosphere of the service was very relaxed despite
coming from the set Prayer Book. It really was fantastic to
witness so many people so completely at ease with their spirituality.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The last hymn, "At the Name of Jesus (Every Knee Shall Bow)."
As soon as I flipped to it in the hymn book, I was looking forward
to it. A veritable barnstormer of a hymn. The organist struck
up into Camberwell (which I personally think is a brilliant
tune for this hymn), and besides the organ being a little quiet,
all was going well. I noted that we were to sing all eight of
the verses. But at the end of the fifth verse, the organist
suddenly stopped! We all looked around, and the priest leaned
over and whispered to the organist (which everyone could hear
as he still had his mic on): "Keep going, we're not finished
yet! There's another three!"
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The service overran by 30 minutes and I had an appointment in
town, so I had to forgo morning tea, as it was advertised.
How would you describe the after-service
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 I think I'd be pretty happy to worship here regularly.
Yes, there are things that I think should be addressed (e.g.
having an 8.30 and 9.30 service every Sunday morning, although
I think as of next week it will be an 8.30 and a 10.15). The
people here really are very friendly and warm, and I think that
that is what makes a church a real community and inviting.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes. A full church, great people. Isn't that what being a Christian
is really about?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The choice of sacramental vehicle and the expression on the
chalice bearer's face!
|We rely on voluntary donations to stay online. If you're a regular visitor to Ship of Fools, please consider supporting us.
|The Mystery Pilgrim
| One of our most seasoned reporters makes the Camino pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Read here.
| Read reports from 70 London churches, visited by a small army of Mystery Worshippers on one single Sunday. Read here.