Mystery Worshipper: Torold
Church: St Luke's
Location: Crosby, England
Date of visit: Sunday, 24 May 2015, 11:00am
Dating from 1853, it's Victorian Gothic, cruciform with spire, constructed mainly of Storeton sandstone. The clock, dating from 1864, needs winding its stopped at 5.55 confusing if youre running for the bus. There is a ring of six bells. Inside, the nave ceiling is wooden planked, a bit like the inside of a sauna. The windows in the transepts were designed by Jean-Baptiste Capronnier of Brussels, who specialised in restorations and clever imitations of old works. Circular wooden altar rails set off the plain nave altar, unadorned. The plain white walls are decorated with coloured banners: light, bright and airy. The small white marble octagonal font stands on black and white pavement, decorated with mosaic fishes in threes. It put me in mind of the children's nursery rhyme "Three Little Fishies": "And they swam and they swam right over the dam!" Rust coloured carpet throughout.
This is a very prominent church with pride of place at this end of town. You cant miss it and it is well used. Theres something for everyone people seem to like coming here. Prayer groups, pram club, womens fellowship, eco meeting, youth club, nifty knitters. They put on fund raising events galore: car wash, cake stall you name it. The Crossroads Cafe, hard on the by-pass, is owned and run by the church.
Crosby, where you can work, rest and play and worship at St Lukes on Sunday is a suburb in Sefton, Merseyside. Its name derives from the Old Norse word for "village with the cross." Here too are temples of consumerism, shops of all descriptions: estate agents, building societies, supermarket, eateries, drinkeries, Crosby Cycles. St Lukes is sandwiched between a funeral directors and a half-timbered hostelry.
The Revd Deacon David Lowrie led the service. Lay reader Keith Caudron gave the talk (sermon).
What was the name of the service?Family Service with Baptisms
How full was the building?
Full. Stack em high and sell em cheap in ere.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was instantly jumped on by greeters outside holding a "Welcome" banner. I was handed a yellow pew sheet. As I swung in through swinging doors to the narthex, I was greeted with: Hello. Are you with the baptism party? "No," I said. In that case, the front seats are reserved. "Shall I go?" I wondered. Oh no, sit anywhere! So I sat with the baptism party.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, the upholstered chair must have been. We only remember them when theyre hard on the backside.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Noisy cacophony of sound: hubbub of noisy chatter, kiddies shouting and running about (one fell down!), baby making eh, eh, eh sound, music group tuning up.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, everyone. Big welcome today: Pentecost." [Loud whoop from one person in the congregation.]
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version; Mission Praise.
What musical instruments were played?
There was a music group comprised of guitar and other instruments. Applause at the end of two of the songs.
Did anything distract you?
The young ladies sitting behind me must have been channelling the Irish sibling pop group the Nolan Sisters, as they sang in harmony. The yellow glass panels flanking the altar bathed the sanctuary in light the colour of which I had a hard time making out: was it rust coloured or the colour of sunbeams? I was wishing I had brought my sunglasses with me.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Hands-in-the-air happy clappy. The joint was jumpin. We were invited to a Lets share our stories! session. A roving mike went round and several people spoke. One lady had been to visit a dying relative in a local hospice. Another touched on WWII memories as an evacuee in Wales. Someone else had been on a diet. And somebody else thanked another person for something I cant remember what.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Lay reader Keith Caudron is a very good preacher. He used notes, but looked around the church and engaged with the congregation. I could have listened to him all day, he was that interesting!
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Our response to the Holy Spirit working in us.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I cant think of anything particularly heavenly other than the coffee and biscuits. Will that suffice?
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Call me hopelessly old-fashioned, but Mission[ary Position] Praise is not my favourite hymnal.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was hugged all around and invited to coffee several times over. I felt quite manhandled in a friendly fashion, mind! At one point I was surrounded by people wanting to know all about me: Who was I? Where had I come from? I was given a guided tour. I was given leaflets, pamphlets, books, more leaflets. I was spoken to, at, and about! Finally I was waved off as I left to find the public conveniences.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Coffee was mouth-burningly hot, in a mug. I had three butter crunch type biscuits. All their products are fair traded.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – Although not my usual worship style, I would go there regularly. It's lively, friendly, vibrant, child-oriented, welcoming. They definitely love their neighbour in here.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, sir-eee. Pity not every church makes you feel so welcome. Come as a stranger, leave as a friend.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
As I left I looked up at the clock. Still 5.55 although I had been inside the building for a couple of hours. Time obviously stands still at St Lukes, Crosby!