Mystery Worshipper: AnneMary
Church: St Andrew's
Location: Dean Court, Oxfordshire, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 14 January 2018, 9:30am
A 1960s wooden structure, it is very unlike most C of E churches. It feels more like a community centre/village hall and is used as such through the week. I understand that a new building is in the planning stages.
They are part of the parish of Cumnor, which also includes St Michael's, Cumnor, and St Mary's, Farmoor. The congregation number only about 40, but they do their best to provide an atmosphere of service and friendship. The "Little Fishes" playgroup is for all pre-schoolers and their carers and consists of stories, singing, snacks, crafts, and all around fun. They also have home groups and Sunday discussion groups. Although services are based on Common Worship, the style is very relaxed and informal.
There are references to "Dencourt" as far back as 1538. A suburb of Oxford, about two miles from city centre, Dean Court was a mere hamlet up until the early 1950s, when a housing estate was built. Other residential communities followed in the 1960s.
The Revd Jonathan Widdess, vicar.
What was the name of the service?Main Service
How full was the building?
Pretty full but still some space about 35 people there mostly aged 50+.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Several people smiling and welcoming were behind a table as I went in. They offered a hymn book but explained that everything would be shown on the screen, so I didn't take one. Greetings from people near where I sat.
Was your pew comfortable?
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
General chatter; piano and guitar playing.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, you lovely people! Welcome!"
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Holy Bible, New International Version, was the pew Bible. I think the songs were from Mission Praise but they were projected.
What musical instruments were played?
Piano and guitar.
Did anything distract you?
I was distracted during the "offertory hymn" as, although announced as such, I could see no plate/bag being handed around. I couldn't work out how to offer. I asked afterwards and was directed to a bag on a table near the entrance.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
As their website proclaims, relaxed worship in a friendly atmosphere. A few of the congregation were more expressive than I'm used to: raising hands or clapping during singing.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The vicar explained that the person who wrote the sermon and who was set to deliver it had been taken ill, and so he was going to read that sermon himself. He made a few detours of his own.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Jesus, Lamb of God. This was part of a sermon series "Who is Jesus?" I was handed a leaflet about it as I went in.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
One of my favourite hymns (which were called worship songs): "Be Still for the Presence of the Lord." I felt "the Holy One" during this service.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
There was a heater near me that blew out air quite noisily during most of the service.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Someone came straight up to me after the service for a chat, then introduced me to someone else. That person asked me to sit and have coffee with them.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Mugs of tea and coffee were brought round on a tray; biscuits and fruit on tables.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – I felt welcomed and enjoyed the service, but it is too far from my home for me to be a regular.
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 vicar's wonderful delivery. Considering he must have said the words of the Common Worship service I don't know how may times, it didn't sound like it. There was a depth of meaning that was wonderful and personal.