from Pantperthog to Knockando

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Church Review: St Mary the Virgin, Haddenham

I've often been asked if I'm a mystery worshipper for Ship of Fools, but I've always thought the reviews on there are often a bit naff. The site as a whole is kind of cliquey and I don't really feel like I fit. But, on Sunday we did go to a different church than normal, so I thought I'd review it.

Venue: St Mary the Virgin, Haddenham

Service-wise it was a simplified Anglican Communion, using a prepared liturgy which cut out some of the more florid language. Being a fairly full church on Sundays, this slimming down meant there was plenty of time for everyone to go up and get communion (and kids received a blessing which I thought was kind of nice), without the service feeling like it went on forever.

The preach was quite good too. The Rev Chris Denham started by contrasting the recruiting posters for World War 1, and the patriotic jingoism which ensued, with Churchill's 'blood, sweat and tears' speech at the beginning of World War 2.

He then commented on the kind of story you read in Alpha News where someone has lost their job, their marriage is falling apart, their kids are on drugs and they're contemplating suicide until they're invited on an Alpha Course and everything falls into place. He made it quite clear he wasn't knocking Alpha - in fact, his church runs a couple of courses a year. But his tongue-in-cheek comments weren't too wide of the mark. When compared to the text for the day, Jesus' harsh promise to anyone who would be his disciple, Alpha News is World War 1 recruitment. Jesus is echoed more by Winston Churchill.

It was a good point, well made, with a minimal amount of jargon to reinforce the point that being a disciple is both wonderfully life-changing and at the same time a hard road to follow. And, another plus was that he made his point, then got on with the rest of the service. He didn't belabour the subject, which a few preachers should learn.

Musically, it was a mix. One old hymn I didn't know, but it was OK. Mainly modern music songs but none of the 'trying to play a song written for guitars on an organ' you sometimes get. The pews were hard, but they can't rip them out because they've got medieval carvings on the pew-ends. Which summed up the general limitations of the church, but also it's strengths, in that in a place where God has been worshipped for centuries you get the sense of being part of something bigger than whatever is happening now.

Ratings:
Preach: 8/10
Music: 7/10
Surroundings: 9/10 for look, 2/10 for pews

And finally... kudos points for having toy bags hung on the end of certain pews to try and keep the kids occupied. It nearly worked.

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