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What is this?
Since ancient times (ok, 1998), Ship of Fools has been sending Mystery Worshippers to churches worldwide. Travelling incognito, they ask those questions which go to the heart of church life: How long was the sermon? How hard the pew? How cold was the coffee? How warm the welcome?

The only clue they have been there at all is the Mystery Worshipper calling card, dropped discreetly into the collection plate.
If you would like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.
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In memoriam

Followers of this column knew her as Torold, Gregory the Grate, Brother Basil, and Dee Cyple, among other names. No church in the Merseyside or Wirral area escaped her notice, nor did the Jehovah's Witnesses convention held some time ago in Liverpool.

But this lovely lady passed to glory suddenly and unexpectedly, but peacefully, on 12 November of this year.

No detail escaped her sharp eye, yet she had something positive to say about even the most dismal of churches, neighbourhoods or services: "a beacon of hope in an otherwise somewhat neglected area;" "a really nice building if you look past the damage that the elements have caused;" "a cacophony of noise but I didn’t care – I liked it!"

Neither was she shy about letting us know what displeased her: "The reredos depicts the Last Supper framed by two jellyfish or are they meant to be draped curtains? I was once stung by a jellyfish!" "A small boy entertained himself by picking his nose and – no, I can't say it!" "A gentleman told me he was the only Christian at his place of business who went to church. Well jolly good, I thought, you are the reader after all!" "The rector wore no vestments. I thought he looked untidy – like his church."

But as much as she loved going to church, she loved the after-service refreshments equally. "I stayed and stayed I was having so much fun I thought I'd never get home!" just about sums up her every experience. She often wrote at the end of a report: "It was an afternoon to remember!"

None of us will ever again view a church service from our vantage point in the back row of pews quite the same now that her gaze no longer enlightens us. Her many contributions to this column will always be cherished. She will indeed be missed. But we know she is now having a grand old time of it ensuring that the Four Living Creatures aren't flapping their wings so loudly that she can't hear their "Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty." "They sing beautifully," I can hear her say, "but I'd hate to be their optician."

Recent reports

> Evocative, memorable: Sts Peter & Paul's, Buckingham, UK
> No smiles at Queen of All Saints Basilica, Chicago, USA
> Meaningful, heartfelt: Village Church North, Surrey, Canada
> Trendy, unfriendly: Village Church South, Surrey, Canada
> Positive, uplifting: Blessed Stepinac Mission, Chicago

> Warm congo, empty church: Grace Episcopal, Astoria, USA
> What would Granny say? St Stanislaus, South Bend, USA
> Memories at Christ for All Nations, San Francisco, USA
> Cake and fireworks at Laird Street Baptist, Birkenhead, UK
> Marriage explained at Restoration Anglican, Arlington, USA

> New organ dedicated at Christ Church, Liverpool, UK
> Evensong without hymns at Sheffield Cathedral, UK
> No one cared at St Thomas's, Toronto, Canada
> Strong Christian community: St Benedict's, Horning, UK
> Divine at center: Westminster Presbyterian, Eugene, USA

> Vision and potential at Ventnor Baptist, Isle of Wight
> Music and mosaics thrill: St Paul's, Clifton, Bristol, UK
> Quiet, oh so quiet! St Francis, Split, Croatia
> Incense triggers alarm: Blessed Sacrament Shrine, USA
> Living the faith at St George the Martyr, Birmingham, USA

Editor's choice

> Cake and fireworks at Laird Street Baptist, Birkenhead, UK
> Incense triggers alarm: Blessed Sacrament Shrine, USA
> Well done, Vicar! St Stephen, Birkenhead, Wirral, UK
> Nautical and nice: St Nicholas with All Saints, Wallasey, UK
> Transcendent moment at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

Comments, corrections and removals

For the latest comments on and corrections to Mystery Worshipper reports, please go here. Reports over two years old can be removed at the request of the church reviewed. Please email here for further details.

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Easter 2015
Easter 2015
Our Mystery Worshippers had a busy Holy Week: being poked with umbrellas, spotted but ignored, taking in glorious polyphony, and hearing the Resurrection compared to popcorn! Read all about how they got through it.

Christmas 2014
Christmas 2014
On Christmas Day 2014, our Mystery Worshippers ding-donged merrily their way to both of Liverpool's cathedrals as well as to churches in New Zealand, Arizona, Colorado and Texas. Read all about how the herald angels sang for them.

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