Mystery Worshipper: Mainline Pilgrim
Church: Anglican Church in Freiburg
Location: Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
Date of visit: Sunday, 19 March 2006, 11:30am
The church shares a building with the local Methodist church in a large house with a glass vestibule built onto it. The sanctuary is upstairs and takes up the whole floor. The chancel is a step up from the nave, with a table serving for an altar and a cross on the wall.
The church serves the English speaking community of Freiburg, and judging from the number of people at the service, it does a very good job. The church has a lot going on, including a church bazaar and an active Amnesty International chapter. The church also seems active in ecumenical activities and has an open house coming up as part of an event with other local chuches.
Freiburg im Breisgau is an old university town in southern Germany and is surrounded by mountains and the Black Forest. Because of a strange trick of climate, the city is warmer and sunnier than other parts of Germany.
The Revd Robin Stockitt
What was the name of the service?Holy Communion.
How full was the building?
Mostly full, with only two or three seats left.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
When we arrived, people were leaving the earlier Methodist service and the vestibule was full of happily chatting Methodists and Anglicans. We missed the greeter in the crowd and pushed our way in through the crush, but then the greeter saw us and rushed to greet us and introduce herself.
Was your pew comfortable?
The chapel had rows of relatively comfortable and fuctional padded stacking chairs.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Chatty, with the priest showing up before the service to mingle with the crowd.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome to all, to the service of Holy Communion. I would call attention to my stole, made by Ethel before she went to Africa." The priest then posed so people could see his new, rather fetching, African print stole. And it had a matching pulpit fall.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The New International Version of the Bible, plus Songs of Fellowship and a service sheet.
What musical instruments were played?
A piano played in a somewhat jazzy style.
Did anything distract you?
Even though I am rather easily distracted, there honestly wasn't much in the way of distraction during the service. There weren't gossipy old ladies whispering in the back, squealing babies, or horrible liturgical art to distract from the service.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Low church and not ashamed of it. No bells, no smells, and a liturgy only vaguely based on the Book of Common Prayer. It actually felt more like a Methodist service than an Anglican liturgy.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – The priest preached like a theology professor giving a lecture to his class, complete with an overhead projector slide that he covered with a slip of paper and revealed line by line during the sermon.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He explained how the functions of the Temple had become co-opted in Jesus' time and that Jesus took over the roles of the Temple for the church. He concluded by asking whether the Church had let Jesus become co-opted in the same way the Temple was.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
No matter what the rest of the service is like, the communion is a taste of heaven.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The wording of the liturgy was syrupy sweet and sentimental in places. The worst part was the creed, which had been written in-house, and which was quite vague and contained none of the doctrinal points of the Christian faith. I would have preferred a service that was less Methodist and more Anglican.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Not a chance. As soon as the service ended, half a dozen people surrounded us and escorted us to the coffee. I was pleasantly surprised to find several of the congregants had lived in my state (in the USA) or had family there.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Seems we'll never know. We couldn't get anywhere near the coffee, since we were very popular and everyone wanted to introduce themselves. One of the people chatting with us was dipping a tea bag in a glass of lukewarm water, so I presume there was tea and coffee somewhere nearby.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 – I have nothing against low church worship, but if I moved to Freiburg I would probably go to the Old Catholic Church down the street in hopes of getting a higher church service.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
It was inspiring to see a packed church where the members were so close and friendly. It had even attracted a few German speakers, so they must have been doing something right.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Seeing all the Anglicans crowding around the front door before the service, with the sun shining and birds chirping on a day when winter was finally calling it quits.