Thursday 1 August 2019

Mystery Worshipper: St Jude-in-the-Marsh

Mystery Worshipper: Brampton Valley

Church: St Jude in the Marsh

Location: Banburyshire,UK

Date of visit: Sunday, 28 July 2019, 10:00

What was the name of the service? 

Parish Communion

How full was the building?

7 people, not counting the vicar. In a church built during the great Wool boom, that would hold 500.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Someone waved vaguely at the pile of service and hymn books, and went off to put a bucket under the drip in the Lady Chapel

Was your pew comfortable?

Obviously not.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

There was clearly an "atmosphere" between the vicar and the church warden, probably over the altar having been moved against the wall during the week.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

‘Hello. Can you hear me? I'm not sure how this radio mic works...’

 What books did the congregation use during the service?

Hymns Ancient and Modern, (New Generation that Will Definitely Last till the Parousia) (1921) and the Book of Common Prayer.

What musical instruments were played?

A badly tuned harmonium. As the organist (harmoniumist?) suffered from a dust allergy, we often ground to a halt in the third verses of hymns.

Did anything distract you?

The dripping into a tin bucket in the Lady Chapel. The organist passing out after "One More Step Along the World I Go" and the vicar's obscene gestures towards the church warden.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

Best described as "beaten down Anglican".

Exactly how long was the sermon?

7 minutes. It felt longer.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

2 — it was basically just complaining.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The pastor spoke told a couple of jokes, then complained that the diocese hadn't fixed the leaking toilet in the vicarage. He referred to the diocesan office as "bastards" and told us that Jesus would have had much the same opinion, and would be settling affairs at the end of time.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

When I passed into a kind of trance during the notices.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

When I woke up and realised that, after 30 minutes, the notices were still going.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

One of the worshippers said "You aren't from round here, are you?" and told me to get out of the village before the local farmer decided I'd make a good coffee table.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?


How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

0 - I didn't go under 100 mph until I reached civilisation.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?


What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?

Waking up on Monday morning and realising that these were good, Christian people who are keeping the church going under incredibly difficult societal and financial conditions. That I was judging people from my liberal, oh-so-clever perspective without engaging in just how bloody hard it is to follow Jesus' teaching when every second is spent on raising funds to replace the lead that was stolen off the roof. That I am basically a dilettante, mocking other Christians in their attempts to worship God in the circumstances they are in, while taking no responsibility for any such sacrificial mission in my own life. And the lack of coffee.

Want to support this blog? Want a good laugh? (or to shudder at death at any rate? Then here's two ways you can keep the Archdruid in doilies...

If you want someone to share the terrors of death while making you laugh, we have "A Hint of Death in the Morning Air" - 97 poems to make you wonder, laugh or shake your head sadly. At only £1 on Kindle. Or if you want to know what the people in the pews really think, and you prefer your words printed on paper, why not try "Writes of the Church"? The letters to the Church magazine the vicar  really didn't need.


  1. I suspect that a Mystery Worshipper in that parish, if discovered would have either been put in the stocks or been treated as a witch and suffered the ducking stool.

    Mind you, not all village churches are like the one visited. In my former Anglican Life, I belonged to a five church rural benefice in Canterbury Diocese with one Vicar and a Reader (Emiritus) and five PCC's and 10 Church Wardens, governed via a Benefice Council. I have to say, that they managed very well. Three services at least on three churches and sometimes four or five with volunteer lay leadership. I pitied the Vicar with all of the meetings and travel, but he made the most of what we had and when I was added to the Ministry Team, it was a 50% increase. Than we got a Curate and two Authorised Lay Worship Leaders and the climate changed from a long slog to being a pleasure to attend three churches, doing different things in each on a Sunday.

  2. Are you really saying the Vicar used the B...… word? I think that's terrible, and would have been inclined to have had a word with him about that. Not a place I would want to visit

  3. I'm a great fan of the Mystery Worshipper. At least someone spoke to you when you 'hung around looking lost'. We've been to places where that didn't happen....


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