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Cathedral, Gloucester, England
|Mystery Worshipper: St Hilda.
The church: The
Cathedral Church of St Peter and the Holy and Indivisible
Trinity, Gloucester, England.
of England, Diocese
The building: An absolutely stunning example of an English cathedral. Gloucester
is not overly built-up, so you get some lovely views as you
drive around the town and immediate vicinity. The cathedral
was founded in the 11th century, and sitting in the nave I
spent a lot of time gazing in awe at the massive Norman piers.
There is also some good stained glass, though most of the
best was not visible from my seat. The cathedral cloisters,
a remnant of its former existence as St Peter's Abbey, are
famous for their exquisite fan vaulting and their appearance
in many Harry Potter
The church: It operates as the headquarters of the diocese. It
also has an education centre, a café and a shop, and is a focus
for tourism in Gloucester.
The neighbourhood: The cathedral is near the main shopping area in Gloucester,
but is separated from it by the cathedral close. The close
is surrounded by many fine buildings, mostly from the 17th
and 18th centuries, though some date back to the days of the
Abbey. Gloucester is a delightful city, the county town of
Gloucestershire. Now, however, it is somewhat overshadowed
by its more worldly neighbour, Cheltenham. It still has many
ancient, half-timbered buildings and retains many traces of
its history as a market town and port.
The cast: It was an ecumenical service led by the church leaders of Gloucester,
including the Rt Revd Michael Perham, Bishop of Gloucester;
the Rt Revd John Went, Bishop of Tewkesbury; the Rt Revd Declan
Lang, (Roman Catholic) Bishop of Clifton; Major Sam Edgar,
divisional commander of the Salvation Army, West Midlands
Region; the Revd Ward Jones, chairman of the Bristol Methodist
District; plus other Free Church and Anglican clergy. The
preacher was Dr Paula Gooder, a New Testament scholar, lecturer
The date & time: 16 January 2011, 3.00pm.
What was the name of
Ecumenical Celebration of the Christian Scriptures. The whole
point of the service was to commemorate the 400th anniversary
of the publication of the King James Bible.
How full was the building?
The seating in the cathedral is just in the main nave area,
not the transepts, and this seating was almost completely
full – there were several hundred worshippers (and a
lot of clerical collars!).
welcome you personally?
No, just a smile from the person who handed me my service booklet.
Was your pew
The seating consisted of modern wooden chairs attached in
rows. They were more comfortable than they looked.
How would you
describe the pre-service
I arrived unusually early, as I realised the building was
fast filling up. When I arrived, the choir were rehearsing
in front of the screen, and there was a general buzz of conversation.
When the choir departed (for a team talk, maybe), the organ
filled the noise gap. On its website the cathedral is described
as "a haven of peace and a place for reflection and prayer".
I have to say I found it neither on this occasion.
What were the
exact opening words of the
"Come to me and listen to my words: hear me and you shall have life."
What books did
the congregation use during the
The specially printed service booklet.
instruments were played?
As the service progressed, I became slightly concerned and
distracted by the lack of discernible Christian symbols in
the nave (where the whole of the service was held). The only
cross I could spot was the processional cross. The most prominent
object was the magnificent organ, over the screen, so that
we seemed to be worshipping organ, rather than God. I think
the cathedral staff should consider addressing this.
Was the worship
stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Typical Anglican cathedral fare: a selection of fairly modern
hymns sung by the congregation and some anthems and psalms
sung by the cathedral choir. These were interspersed by readings
and prayers read by various representatives of church denominations.
long was the sermon?
On a scale of
1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – Dr Gooder's appearance is rather striking, with
her hair arranged in flowing locks. She has an engaging manner
and illustrated her points with personal anecdotes, but there
was an obvious wealth of learning at her disposal. Certainly
worth travelling 20 miles to hear.
In a nutshell,
what was the sermon
Dr Gooder addressed the question "Why read the Bible?" Her
answer was that we read to discover more of God, more of ourselves,
and more about the world in which we live. As we do so, it
becomes clear that it is not so much us reading the Bible
as the Bible reading us. We should find a place in our lives
for regular Bible reading.
Which part of
the service was like being in
The cathedral building is just magnificent. I'm sure there'll be some
Norman pillars and arches in heaven.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
The choral singing. There was a particularly dour unaccompanied
psalm, during which a large Bible was brought up to the lectern
– this felt extremely alienating. While it may not have
been exactly infernal, it didn't feel much like worship as
I recognise it.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
It's very difficult to stand out as looking lost in a cathedral
where many people were standing round looking a bit lost.
However, I wandered slowly down to the back and stood next
to what I can only describe as a water feature. No one spoke
How would you
describe the after-service
Alas, there were no after-service refreshments. Sadly by this
time the cathedral café was closed, as were all the
cafés in the surrounding streets.
How would you
feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
4 – I would have felt more enthusiastic about the cathedral were
it not for the choir.
Did the service
make you feel glad to be a
It made me feel grateful for my Christian heritage, as exemplified by
the King James Bible.
What one thing
will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The beauty of the building. I shall return to enjoy the building on
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