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2572: St John the Evangelist, Montreux, Switzerland
St John, Montreux, Switzerland Photo: © demonpiccolo and used under license
Mystery Worshipper: Abed Nego.
The church: St John the Evangelist, Montreux, Switzerland.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese in Europe.
The building: St John's was the work of the Victorian English Gothic Revivalist George Frederick Bodley, who designed or renovated hundreds of churches all throughout England. Dedicated in 1877, the church is a fine example of the Bell Epoque style. As the 20th century wore on, however, the building suffered from wear and tear and the effect of ill-conceived efforts at patchwork, and most of its original beauty was lost. Toward the end of the century a massive restoration effort was begun, thanks to the generosity of local benefactors. The highly ornamented Lady chapel, including a lovely shrine to Our Lady, as well as stencilled decorations throughout the church and a finely carved crucifix, the centrepiece of the reredos, have all been brought back to their original glory. Restoration is ongoing, including renovation of the organ.
The church: They sponsor a monthly luncheon get-together as well as other fellowship and devotional activities. I assume that this church is used to welcoming visitors.
The neighbourhood: The church is situated in Territet on the shores of Lac Leman at the eastern edge of Montreux. The location is exceptionally beautiful, with spectacular views of the snow-capped Alps. Immediately behind the church is a tiny station, the terminus of the funicular railway steeply descending from the village of Glion high above.
The cast: The Revd Paul Dalzell, chaplain, was the celebrant. Peter Fairgrieve served as organist and choirmaster.
The date & time: Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, 7 July 2013, 10.30am. [Editor's note: This report was filed 1 August 2013.]

What was the name of the service?
Eucharist.

How full was the building?
Sparsely attended by about 30 people, even though their ranks were swelled by the presence of folk attending the Montreux Jazz Festival, and by those attending the Initiatives of Change conferences at Caux.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
The chaplain's wife introduced herself and greeted us warmly as she handed us service sheets.

Was your pew comfortable?
Regular pew.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
It was restless. Choir members came and went from their seats in the sanctuary. One even vested in full view of the congregation! Things quietened down somewhat as the organist played a chorale prelude by Brahms.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning!" This was followed by a discourse of welcome that included the words, "We're going to turn an aggregation into a congregation." Visitors were encouraged to introduce themselves to one another and to the regulars. And then, picking up a guitar, the chaplain proceeded to cajole us into joining him in a hearty rendition of the first verse of the Magnificat in Latin. When this came to a merciful end, the choir processed in and we sang the opening hymn quite lustily.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Service sheets and hymn books.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ, a 19th century instrument currently being restored.

Did anything distract you?
The fact that as a congregation we were shut out of the singing of the mass setting. This was a great pity as the setting – new to me – was the Festive Eucharist of Noel Rawsthorne, splendidly uplifting and well-rendered by the organist and choir. Why offer a congregational mass setting and then not give the folks in the pews any music? Aargh!

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Sloppy is the word that comes to mind. I felt as if the chaplain may have preferred a happy clappy atmosphere, but the setting lends itself to a more high church, catholic style of worship. Microphones were not on when they were needed, and left on when they were not needed. The choir's clumsy movement to the front pews in order to hear the chaplains's homily was distracting. The tug of war between the informality of Father Dalzell and the longstanding tradition of this church may be the reason that few people attend this place.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
16 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
2 – Father Dalzell is not a natural public speaker. Considering the naivete of his message, it was extraordinary that he had to keep referring back to his notes. Also, I fail to understand why a priest does not go to the pulpit the preach the gospel. Doing so from the aisle behind a music stand does nothing to enhance the message.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Father Dalzell took as his text the last verse of the gospel for the day: "Rejoice that your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20). He then described four signs that our names are indeed written in heaven: (1) that this church was "creating a space for people who want to find Christ"; (2) that the church was starting an enquirers' class; (3) that they had an intercession book that included phone numbers; and (4) the church would be holding forums. He concluded by saying that these things would not be well received but that it was important to "keep the main thing, the main thing."

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The singing of the communion anthem, Purcell's Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts. It was carefully rehearsed, well-balanced and beautifully in tune.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Father's lime green chasuble.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We were invited to tea or coffee in the social area
at the back of the church.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Unmemorable. Little trouble taken over the preparation of this event, and not especially welcoming.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 – If this is the only Anglican church in the area, I would have no alternative. But I don't think I'd be very happy.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Somewhat, though I felt as though we had been through the formalities rather than having participated in a royal banquet.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
That bellowy Magnificat that opened the proceedings. It was awful.

 
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