Mystery Worshipper: Torold
Church: St Peter & St Paul
Location: Crosby, Liverpool, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 18 January 2015, 3:00pm
A begrimed neo-Gothic sandstone and brick structure with slate roof. The Gothic interior features Victorian stained glass on the south side but pink, green and plain glass on the north side. Behind the altar is a wedding-cake style decorated reredos with saints in niches. The Lady chapel features a blue painted ceiling, Annunciation and Nativity windows, a white marble altar with apricot marble relief, and a blue Madonna and Child plaque in the centre. The Sacred Heart chapel has votive lights and candle stands, a St Joseph statue on the left, and a heather-coloured carpet with an oatmeal twist to it.
Their website has no information concerning their groups and ministries, and I was not able to find out anything. I did learn that Pat Phoenix (Coronation Streets Elsie Tanner) is buried in the churchyard. Attached to the church is a well-used social club.
The area is a Catholic stronghold in the borough of Sefton. It is mainly residential, with small parks and seamens villas at Waterloo nearby. Another Place, a collection of sculptures by the contemporary British artist Antony Gormley, stands on the beach at Crosby, overlooked by the coastguard station. Like many of Gormley's sculptures, this one features metal casts of his own body 100 of them in this case, all overlooking the sea.
The Most Revd Malcolm McMahon, Archbishop of Liverpool; the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, Anglican Bishop of Liverpool; the
Revd Dr Sheryl M. Anderson, District Chair of the Liverpool Methodist District; the Revd Msgr John Furnival, parish priest.
What was the name of the service?A Service for Christian Unity: "The well is deep."
How full was the building?
Mainly full, with a few spare seats at the front. The cast sat on chairs in the chancel.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
No, I was just handed a service sheet by the sidesman.
Was your pew comfortable?
They are made of varnished wood with very hard narrow seats and red vinyl kneelers not able to be lifted up. Very uncomfortable. It was really cold that day so I had brought the car rug in with me and had wrapped it about my person; it helped bolster the uncomfortable seat. Even so, the back of the pew dug in.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People talking and wandering around. The organist was pretty good; we enjoyed a nice bit of Bach pre-service. Approximately 20 men and ladies gathered upstairs in the choir gallery. The building was gloomy. Then the house lights suddenly flicked on to show a pleasant interior. Everyone stopped talking. The bell rang and the cast trooped in.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Please stand, and welcome to Ss Peter and Paul today as we begin the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Printed order of service booklet; it included all the hymns, prayers and readings.
What musical instruments were played?
Church pipe organ.
Did anything distract you?
Several peoples phones rang, and a bloke wandered around taking photographs. I do wish people would sit down and not wander about during the service. They have no sense of decorum.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Personally, I found this service verging on the informal even though the building was slewing with bishops.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
Two lots of 5 minutes and a 6 minute.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
N/A – There were three speakers, each with their own style, so I cannot give just one score here. However, I thought that each spoke irrelevantly to the theme of the day in his or her own way. If truth be told, there were so many phones going off during the speeches that it was hard to concentrate on the subject matter. Good Lord, deliver us!
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
"Ladies first," quipped Msgr Furnival, and so the Methodist Chair went first. I really dont know what she was on about, but the gist of it seemed to be that the Samaritan woman at Jacob's Well (John 4:1-26) was not a proper Jew nor even a proper person, for why was she there in the middle of the day? Scandalous! The Bishop of Liverpool spoke next. He said he used to be a hairy leftie and sang hymns outside a US Air Force base in the snow. The people next door used to come in and sing hymns and pray in his parents front room. They were Congregationalists. The Archbishop of Liverpool was the last to speak. He told us in a gravelly voice that in 1957 he had to ask his parish priest's permission to attend his Anglican pals sisters christening. He was amazed, never having been inside a C of E before. "It was just like ours," he remembered, "but then I dont know what I was expecting."
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
A poor old boy broke wind in the next pew. I laughed! But to be honest, there really was not a heavenly moment. The service did not flow like the water into the well, unfortunately. It was somewhat disjointed, too many people doing their bit.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The choir gave a rendition of Charles Woods O Thou, the Central Orb. They sang well and all would have been OK apart from a man bellowing out the bass line, which spoiled it. Nit picking, I suppose!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Two nuns in mufti (nuns dont seem to wear habits these days, do they?) said, "Are you coming over to the centre? You're not a Catholic, are you?" I didn't reply but thought what a strange thing to say. This is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity after all. Surely it doesn't matter what flag you fly! Monsignor Furnival had also intimated that we would be welcome for refreshments.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I drank a whole jug of squash. Tea and coffee were also available in cups with saucers. Kit Kats and assorted plain biscuits, mini Mars bars and packets of Iced Gems (little biscuits with multi-coloured icing I hadnt seen them for years). I was buttonholed by a retired chiropodist who told terrible jokes and dreadful one-liners. Quite amusing really. He was the only person who spoke to me in the church centre, which was dead noisy after the peace of my usual surroundings. However, I quite enjoyed the whole event.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 – This was a special service and not indicative of the regular style of worship here, but I should hope that it would be better organised.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I dont know, but it certainly made me think about ecumenism.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The Archbishops gravelly voice.