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2280: Exeter Cathedral, England
Exeter Cathedral (Exterior) Photo: Rüdiger Wölk, Münster
Mystery Worshipper: Lambert.
The church: Cathedral Church of St Peter, Exeter, England.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese of Exeter.
The building: The cathedral is almost completely in the English Decorated Gothic style, and the uniformity of its architecture makes it almost unique in England. The present building dates from around 1400 and retains features from an earlier Norman structure. It was ravaged during the dissolution of the monasteries and the English Civil War, but restored and refurbished over the years. In 1942 the cathedral suffered a direct hit during an early morning air raid and was severely damaged, but many of its priceless treasures (including 13th century misericords and an astronomical clock) were spared, having been previously removed against just such a contingency. Subsequent repairs uncovered artifacts from the original Normal cathedral and the ancient Roman city.
The church: This is the cathedral for the Anglican diocese of Exeter. It offers not only the traditional Anglican services but also Holy Ground, a "simple, contemplative and creative" alternative service held the second Sunday evening of each month.
The neighbourhood: Exeter is an historic city, the most south-westerly Roman fortified settlement in Britain. Heavily bombed during World War II, Exeter was rebuilt with little effort expended to preserve its historic past. The post-war buildings are generally regarded as being of little architectural merit, unlike many of those that they replaced. And then there is the cathedral. Attractively situated on the cathedral green, it is not tall, and so remains fairly hidden from neighbouring streets until you get up close to it. It is in the heart of Exeter city centre.
The cast: No names were given, but there were clergy, the music director, and the gentlemen of the choir.
The date & time: Sunday, 5 June 2011, 3.00pm [editor's note: This report was filed on 16 November 2011].

What was the name of the service?
Choral Evensong for the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

How full was the building?
There were about 40 people in the congregation. The service was held in the quire.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
The sidesperson handed me a service sheet as we entered the quire.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. There were cushions in the medieval pews on the back row. Several even had misericords, so you could sit down whilst standing up, but I didn't notice anyone taking advantage of this.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The organ played some short pieces quietly before the arrival of the choir and clergy.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"O Lord, open thou our lips."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Book of Common Prayer and English Hymnal.

What musical instruments were played?
The organ.

Did anything distract you?
We were seated next to a woman who expressed audible views about most aspects of the service. When one piece of pre-service organ music ended, and there were a few seconds of silence before the next one, she complained that the organist had stopped. During the final voluntary, she complained very audibly that it shouldn't have been called Transports de Joie by Messiaen, but rather Transports of Shock.

Exeter Cathedral (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Typical choral evensong.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
There was no sermon.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The formality and dignity of the service, in a remarkable building. The organ voluntary at the end was magnificent.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The distraction – see above.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing. We just left with everyone else.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There didn't seem to be any on offer.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – I would feel very at home here.

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?
The Madwoman of Exeter.
 
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