Church of the Saviour, Auckland, NZ (Exterior)

Church of the Saviour, Blockhouse Bay, Auckland, New Zealand


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Church of the Saviour
Location: Blockhouse Bay, Auckland, New Zealand
Date of visit: Sunday, 24 November 2013, 9:00am

The building

The original wooden church building is now housed in a museum in the suburb of Western Springs, and was moved there to make way for the current building some decades ago. It is a modern building, with a fairly neutral interior and nondescript feel about it. One would not necessarily know it was an Anglican church unless one actually knew it was. There are some very nice stained glass windows, and a peaceful sanctuary with a lectern and three crosses on the wall behind the altar.

The church

They have a number of ministries and programmes listed (but not described in any detail) on their website. They have day care facilities, so I assume they use them throughout the week. There are a total of four services on Sunday, although not all four are offered every Sunday – for example, the 7.00pm informal evening service takes place only on the first Sunday of each month, and the 11.00am contemporary service only on the second and fourth Sundays.

The neighborhood

Blockhouse Bay has some interesting early history, as it was off the beaten track up until about a half century ago. Missionaries arriving in the 1830s described the area as "open and barren heaths, dreary, sterile and wild." The name refers to a blockhouse built in 1860 as a defense against attacks from indigenous tribesmen; nothing remains of it today. The modern Blockhouse Bay boasts of some fashionable cafes and specialty shops. The Church of the Saviour stands at the main intersection in the "Bay" and cannot be missed by traffic approaching from any one of five directions. It seems to be a vibrant shopping/cafe district.

The cast

The Revd Sarah Patten, vicar.

What was the name of the service?

Praise and Worship Service with Communion.

How full was the building?

I estimate that there were upwards of 100 people, so the building was about at half capacity. Mostly an elderly crowd; I noticed few if any young families.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

I was welcomed at the door and given a news bulletin.

Was your pew comfortable?

The seats were individual chairs, padded and linked together, very comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Chatty and welcoming.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

I believe I missed the opening words, as there was a bit of meeting and greeting going on when I got there. The next thing was a welcome and an invitation to stand and sing the opening song and then a selection of a few, including "Father in heaven, how we love you", all sung with adequate volume.

What books did the congregation use during the service?

No books were used. The songs, Bible readings and Anglican Prayer Book liturgical responses were all projected.

What musical instruments were played?

A piano and a lead guitar.

Did anything distract you?

There were a few things. First, the sound system had the bass turned up too loud. Then too, I could not help but wonder what the church demographics would look like ten years from now. Finally, the vicar did not wear vestments – which, to my own surprise, I actually found really refreshing!

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

It was kind of in the middle of somewhere. There was no song leader as such, so it seemed to me to lack conviction or direction to some degree. The communion was very nice, I thought: some liturgical responses, the usual Prayer Book prayers, and then at the altar rail a selection of either grape juice or wine in wee cuppies following the bread.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

15 minutes.

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

8 – The Revd Mrs Patten is a well spoken preacher who obviously loves the Lord and the Word she preaches. Again, I couldn't pick up all of what she said due to the sound system being out of adjustment.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The sermon was basically a commentary on 2 Chronicles 5:11-14 (the praise of the Lord fills the Holy Place). The loudness and enthusiasm of praise that invited the glory of the Lord's presence was amazing, and what if it were experienced among us? (But at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I say again that had the Holy Place suffered under the curse of the present sound system, the praise would have been somewhat less fervent – and apparently Mrs Patten overlooked the reference to the priests standing "on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen.")

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

I have to say that it just wasn't passionate enough for me to have felt raptured in any way. It was all middle of the road, albeit very pleasant. I like a bit of direction in the song service.

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

Nothing other than too much bass in the sound system.

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

I shook the vicar's hand on the way out as the service was finished, but that was pretty much it.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

There was an invitation for tea and coffee but I declined to stay around.

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

6 – They would need to vamp up their singing and sound system. It would be an OK church as far as very relaxed Anglican churches go.

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


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

The annoying sound system.

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