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2170: St John-in-Bedwardine, Worcester, England
St John Bedwardine Photo: Bill Nicholls and licensed for reuse
Mystery Worshipper: The Yam Yam.
The church: St John-in-Bedwardine, Worcester, England.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese of Worcester.
The building: St John's is a medium-sized Norman red sandstone town church with a square tower. It dates from the 12th century but was much altered in the 1800s.
The church: The church has a number of activities for all ages, including a "toddler morning" Friday service suitable for very young children, and evening prayer service six days a week.
The neighbourhood: Worcester is the county town of Worcestershire. It is bisected by the River Severn. St John's grew up as a medieval suburb on the west (Welsh) side of the river. St John's is a little way away from the centre of Worcester, being on higher ground to escape flooding (I hope).
The cast: The Revd Christopher Stuart, priest in charge.
The date & time: Mothering Sunday, 3 April 2011, 10.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Family Service.

How full was the building?
Fairly full, approximately 100 people. Most pews have been removed from the north aisle. This, plus the fairly large number of people present, prevented everyone from sitting at the back in the usual Anglican manner.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Four people said hello. One looked a bit worried and said, "All right?" (the kind of thing I'd do if I were put on welcoming duty). One gave me books and a service sheet. The priest then welcomed the Yamlet and me and invited us to sit anywhere we liked. (Mrs Yam joined us later.)

Was your pew comfortable?
Victorian pew. Fine.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Busy. People arriving and chatting and lots of small children making a noise.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome!" (We were warmly welcomed.)

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A service booklet for the day (liturgy, slimmed down Common Worship), plus a sheet with the collect and readings and the Complete Anglican Hymns Old and New.

What musical instruments were played?
An organ which was played well. There was also a choir of about a half-dozen but I was not able to hear them very well.

Did anything distract you?
During the service Mrs Yam whispered loudly, "Are you being a Mystery Worshipper?" thus causing me some consternation. There was a church library a few yards away. I saw Bishop Gene Robinson's face on one book, which made me think the church's outlook may be fairly liberal (not a problem).

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Middle-of-the-road Anglican. Liturgical (eucharist) but geared to family worship. There was a robed choir, and a vicar in a chasuble of Lenten purple. The hymns were mostly 20th century (e.g. "Tell out my soul," "Be still my soul," "Shine Jesus Shine"), not sung with great gusto. The children – and there were quite a lot – led prayers and helped give out flowers to all the women present. Some children were to be christened shortly and their parents stood at the front for some prayers and responses.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
6 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – The priest in charge was concise yet gave a good message.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Some biblical examples of courageous motherly love (such as Moses' and Jesus' mothers). He compared the unconditional love of a mother to the love of God. Those without the love of a mother still have the love of God.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Quietly singing "Be still my soul" after communion.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The peace. Some nearby shared it, but some were rather rooted to the spot, staring at the floor. I suspect they didn't like it! Not everyone does, but if your church does it, I think you just have to do it! It was hardly hellfire territory, though.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Some elderly ladies cooed over the Yamlet. A lady chatted to Mrs Yam about the area. We weren't swept off our feet, but the church felt like a relaxed and friendly place.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There were green pottery cups and saucers. I've no idea if the coffee was fairly traded. I would suggest they have some squash for the kids.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – A number of young/youngish families were present and I felt I quite blended in. The service was a Mothering Sunday special, so it may have been busier than normal. Small children were welcomed and catered to, which is important to us. All things being equal, I would go for a different style of worship. I liked it though.

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Unfortunately, probably the peace!
 
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