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2479: Bath Abbey, England
Bath Abbey (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Aileen.
The church: Abbey Church of St Peter and St Paul, Bath, England.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese of Bath and Wells.
The building: Much has been written about Bath Abbey, more than I can say in a Mystery Worship report. Let me only mention what impressed me the most: the vast height of the building, carvings of angels, the beautiful windows with their detailed illustrations, the memorials, the Christmas crèche.
The church: In addition to conducting regular worship services, the abbey also welcomes visitors. Guides are always happy to talk about the history of the abbey and its place in the Christian scheme of things. Cards and other mementos are offered for sale.
The neighbourhood: The ancient city of Bath traces its history back to Roman times. Nowadays there are many shops and plenty of old, beautiful buildings. There is also a river going along the town, and a hill to climb for spectacular views.
The cast: The Revd Dr Alan Garrow, vicar theologian.
The date & time: St Stephen's Day, Wednesday, 26 December 2012, 11.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Said Eucharist.

How full was the building?
Twelve people came to the eucharist while others sat or explored the rest of the abbey. It is a large building, where people can be hidden and quiet, and so all sorts of things can happen.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Two men welcomed me as I went in. Later, as I explored the abbey, two women said hello.

Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was really comfortable. I sat toward the front.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was quiet. and most of us prayed. I recalled to mind what I knew about St Stephen.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"The Lord be with you."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
We used a paper given to us, with all the readings and prayers.

What musical instruments were played?
There was no music. As I explored the area, I noticed the enormous organ high up above us. Very impressive.

Did anything distract you?
Hearing about the martyrdom of St Stephen brought to mind murders that are taking place in the world today.

Bath Abbey (Window)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I think that a said eucharist somehow makes clear the fact that there are so many prayers in the eucharist, and what they all mean.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
We had no sermon.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The peace was exchanged with the words: "Where two or three are gathered in my name," says the Lord, "there am I in the midst of them." I felt the presence of Jesus and it was like being in heaven with him.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I had been visiting friends and was sorry that I hadn't asked them to come along to church with me.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The Revd Dr Garrow, looking splendid in his red vestments, and others in the altar party smiled and chatted with me and each other. They were very nice to me.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Not in the church – I joined my friends at a nearby hotel and had really nice tea, coffee and biscuits.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – If I lived in Bath, I would definitely make the abbey my home church, as it seems excellent and spiritual.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. The words of the final blessing: "The blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always" made me want to rejoice.

Bath Abbey (Creche)

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The beautiful church and the kind people belonging to it, and God's love for me and others.

 
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