St Peter and St Paul, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada


Info and corrections →

Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St Peter and St Paul
Location: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Date of visit: Sunday, 27 February 2022, 10:00am

The building

Dating from 1866, the church was originally located within the naval dockyard as the naval and garrison church, but was dismantled and moved to its present location in 1904 to avoid damage by the vibrations of nearby naval gunnery practice. Simple black and white exterior with a small thin steeple of wooden construction. Beautiful stained glass windows with a wooden roof and wooden arches. The naval/maritime connection is very evident, with flags, stained glass windows, and anchor motifs throughout the building. The church has a beautiful organ with painted pipes.

The church

Located near the naval dockyard, so it has a long connection with the naval community (the west window is dedicated to the Royal Canadian Navy). Current parish is an amalgamation of four churches. The church tried to convert its parish hall into affordable housing a few years back, but the plan fell through due to funding and building code issues.

The neighborhood

The Royal Canadian Naval Dockyard is nearby, and the area is mainly low-medium density residential (single family homes and low rise apartments). It is the only Anglican church in Esquimalt (area of Victoria) and the next closest Anglican church is approximately 5 km away.

The cast

The rector officiated and did all the readings (they admitted that they didn't find readers for this week). The organist played the organ and the piano. A greeter was at the entrance verifying proof of vaccination (this parish has chosen to continue to enforce proof of vaccination despite it not being legally required anymore) – this greeter later was responsible for directing people to go up to get communion.

What was the name of the service?

Eucharist Service for the Last Sunday after Epiphany – Transfiguration Sunday.

How full was the building?

About a third full or about 50 people. Each pew had at least two people in each pew and a few people sat in the extra chairs in the back.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

The greeter greeted me, checked my proof of vaccination, and directed me to pick up a bulletin from the table. No one spoke to me until the peace. The peace was rather quick. But a few people came up to me afterwards to greet me personally.

Was your pew comfortable?

Wooden pews with thin fabric cushions, decently comfortable. Cushioned kneelers.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

It was generally quiet, some background chatter, but nothing too distracting.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

‘Good morning. We worship on the traditional lands of the Esquimalt, Songhees, and other Nations of the Salish and Coast Salish Peoples ...’ (a few more sentences of the indigenous land acknowledgement followed).

What books did the congregation use during the service?

All I needed was the paper bulletin. All the books in the pews were removed (due to Covid), but the rector said that hymn books with music and sheet music for hymns that were being sung that were not in the hymn book were available in the back.

What musical instruments were played?

Organ and piano No choir was present (and no one sat in the choir stalls). For the last song (‘Shine, Jesus, Shine’), one of the parishioners pulled out a tambourine, then a few other parishioners started clapping and did jazz hands.

Did anything distract you?

There was a parishioner who really got into the singing and sang loudly. That one also happened to be the one who played the tambourine. When ‘Shine, Jesus, Shine’ started playing, the parishioner ran up to the choir stalls and grabbed a tambourine before returning to the pew and playing it.

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

It went from an average middle of the road Sunday worship to happy clappy near the end (see the previous entry on distractions and music). Their liturgy was very ‘loosey-goosey’ – they followed the basic structure of a Book of Alternative Service eucharist service, but in place of the creed or affirmation of faith, it was the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4 – ‘Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is one), which is a traditional Jewish prayer that makes no references to Jesus or the Holy Trinity.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

8 minutes.

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

5 — The rector wore a headset microphone, but the sermon was delivered from the lectern.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Transfiguration Sunday – what it means and how it ties in with Lent. Particular emphasis was paid on ‘the eighth day,’ which represents time eternal (as God created the world in seven days) and how the number eight has symbolism in the early church (and why the baptismal font has eight sides – that after baptism, we are ‘transformed/transfigured’).

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The church was visually appealing. They recognized the retirement of their verger after more than 50 years of service with the parish. The people were very nice and were willing to talk to me.

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

Not a slight to the church, but I didn't get the feeling of a parish was filled with deeply spiritual people – it seemed more of a social club. They didn't speak of any Lenten discipline or challenges (prayer, almsgiving, or fasting), just that they were going to do weekly walking challenges.

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

Since the average age of this parish is pretty high, it was obvious I was a visitor, so many people approached me afterwards to greet me. I didn't really have an opportunity to look lost. Also, the parishioner next to me wanted to leave the pew before the postlude was done (and the pews are rather narrow), so I was forced into the aisle, and the flow of people leaving forced me toward the main gathering of people.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

No after-service refreshments were provided.

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

3 — I gave them a low score because their style of worship just isn't what I want in a Sunday service. Others may find their happy-clappy worship style appealing, but it's not my cup of tea.

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

I left the church feeling somewhat apathetic. I didn't feel it met my spiritual needs but the people were nice and willing to engage in conversation after church

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

‘Shine, Jesus, Shine’ and the tambourine.

Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you’d like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.

Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.

Comments and corrections

To comment, please scroll to the end of this report and add your thoughts there. To send us factual corrections, please contact us. We also discuss reports on our Ecclesiantics bulletin board.

© Ship of Fools