St Barnabas, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St Barnabas
Location: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Date of visit: Monday, 21 February 2022, 10:30am

The building

Rather plain cinderblock exterior, no steeple, very simple (but small) cross on the roof. Interior has an unpainted cedar wooden ceiling with modern cedar columns, what appears to be wallpaper at the apse. Beautiful hanging rood, but almost doesn't fit with the style of the building. No stained glass windows at all. There is a small chapel off to the side, and a small shrine to Our Lady of Walsingham at the back.

The church

The only Anglo-Catholic parish in Victoria. From what I hear it has a strong outreach presence, including with the indigenous community.

The neighborhood

Located in a residential area, the church doesn't really stand out.

The cast

One of the honorary assistants was the celebrant (the rector was away on sabbatical); another honorary assistant gave the homily. There was a server who helped the celebrant and used the thurible. There were an organist and a choir (in the balcony behind me – I couldn't see how many there were).

What was the name of the service?

Sung Mass (for the Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany).

How full was the building?

About 50-60 people, about a quarter full. There was at least one person per pew.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

There were two greeters once I walked through the doors. One greeted me and asked me my name (he seemed to think I had been there before). No one else talked to me during the service until the peace, which was the standard awkwardly said ‘Peace be with you’ plus a wave of the hand to the people nearby.

Was your pew comfortable?

Acceptable. Hard wood pews with curved backs, no cushions, but had cushioned kneelers. Pews were a bit slippery.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Quiet. People were talking but it wasn't loud or distracting. A lot of people seemed to show up within the last five minutes before service started, so it got busy and noisy.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

‘Good morning. I have a few announcements to make before we start.’

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Bulletin and the New English Hymnal. There was a copy of The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, and a copy of the Book of Alternative Services in the pew ahead of me, but they weren't used.

What musical instruments were played?

Organ (chapel organ, not a full church organ).

Did anything distract you?

The ugly wallpaper at the apse was very distractingly ugly. The priest had very long white hair. Someone's cell phone that played a musical tune for a ring tone kept going off. There's a hideous wooden statue to the left of the pulpit that I couldn't stop staring at. I still have no idea who that statue is supposed to represent. The server went behind the altar to get to the other side multiple times instead of walking in front of it – this seemed odd.

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

This was a pretty standard Anglo-Catholic style service with bells and smells (incense). The priest worshipped facing east (toward the altar). Anglican chant for the psalms.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

14 minutes, but felt like 20.

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

7 — The preacher tried to use humour, but it didn't seem well received. He was somewhat hard to hear and would scrape against the microphone.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Acceptance, tolerance and forgiveness, while not something we may want to do naturally, need to be done by all Christians. As Christians we must be saints, because by accepting Christ we must be better. We need to accept things and forgive, not because it will make us happy, but because it will complete us and allows us to move on.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

They used the 16th century English church musician John Merbecke’s settings for the Gloria, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer. The use of incense. The music – except the hymns (read on!) – was very good.

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

The two hymns selected were almost unsingable. They seemed to have chosen the most obscure hymns. After service, they were very efficient to take down the hymn numbers from the boards and put everything away – almost too efficient. All was put away before the postlude was done.

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

I walked to that hideous statue to see who it was supposed to be. A man and his wife approached me and asked if I was visiting. They asked where I was from and what I thought of the church and the service. It was odd that at the end of it, they didn't invite me to after-service refreshments (maybe because the priest mentioned it during morning announcements).

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Due to recent Covid relaxations, they were able to host lunch, but it was outside in the parking lot (and it was a bit chilly). Lunch was comprised of three types of sandwiches and apple juice. However, there was no tea or coffee (and I wanted some coffee). The only glasses they had were small empty mason jars. One lady (dressed very prim and proper) told me how the church had helped her years ago when she arrived in Victoria penniless.

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

8 — I would visit again. The style of worship is what I'm used to and enjoy.

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


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

Having to stare at the ugly wallpaper for the entire service. Mason jars for drinkware. And why does the server go behind the altar to get to the other side?

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