Mystery Worshipper: Anthony Mary
Church: St Peter & St Sigfrid
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Date of visit: Sunday, 5 July 2009, 12:00am
Known locally as "the English church", it was erected in 1866 in another part of Stockholm. In 1913 the church was moved stone by stone to its present location, where it was reconstructed and extended. It is a very pretty church in the neo-gothic style, set in a garden surrounded by a circular road. The interior is very nice with beautiful windows, a reredos from Oberammergau and a stunning hanging rood.
Like all European Anglican chaplaincies, the congregation are a mix of many nationalities and various denominations. This is the only English-speaking church in Stockholm.
This is the embassy quarter of Stockholm, a 20 minute walk from the city centre. Across the road is the British Embassy. The area is on the riverfront and the church spire is clearly visible for miles.
The Revd John Peart, a retired visiting priest. The chaplain was in England for an ordination.
What was the name of the service?Summer Eucharist
How full was the building?
Half full. I counted 13 in the choir and a congregation of 60. I thought it was very good for a European chaplaincy in summer.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
An English gentleman said "Good morning" and handed me the service bulletin. There was no explanation about the hymnal or prayer book.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was OK. Kneelers were individual hassocks – awful! Far too high for a tall person such as myself. Also the pews had a board at the bottom, so it was difficult to kneel properly. I subsequently used a thin cushion that the lady in my pew said was for sitting on.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People greeted each other in a friendly way; some had long conversations. Despite all this I was able to spend some moments in prayer.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The pew bulletin contained all we needed – although without hymn numbers. Hymns Ancient and Modern, Revised was the hymnal.
What musical instruments were played?
A very good organ, built in 1994. I assumed that the person playing it was the regular organist; I discovered later that he was just a parishioner who fills in when the regular organist is away. The choir was much more than I expected at a European parish. They sang two wonderful Latin anthems during communion, which had been composed by the organist himself.
Did anything distract you?
Although there were two altar servers, the celebrant insisted on holding the service book in one of his hands. It was always in view – even for the blessing (which any priest should know by heart!).
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Standard Anglican sung eucharist with four hymns – such as you would find in any English parish church. I was not familiar with the mass setting, so I just listened to the choir. (I subsequently found out that copies of the mass setting were available, if I had asked.) There was a gospel procession, and bells at the Sanctus. The choir sang parts and descants to all the hymns.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
2 – The priest spoke from written notes; it seemed as if he were recycling an old sermon. There were hardly any hand gestures.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon basically re-told the two readings for the day, suggesting that Paul and Jesus were men with flaws. He gave various explanations for what Paul meant by "a thorn in my flesh" (2 Corinthians 12:7). From the gospel reading (Mark 6:1-6 – Jesus returns to his home town but is not honored there) he segued into a discourse which can best be described as family counselling!
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The organ and choir were superb. I was not expecting such a high standard in a European chaplaincy and was quite surprised by the two Latin anthems sung during communion.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The intercessions were far too long. The celebrant mentioned various intentions and concluded each section with a lengthy prayer, more like another sermon. They were more like feel-good invocations than proper intercessions.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I stayed in my pew and listened to the postlude (Marche Pontificale by the 19th century Belgian organist and composer Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens), as did many others. I then made my way to the delightfully named Princess Hall. I had to initiate conversation, but after awhile various people spoke to me, notably the younger members. The priest was at the door to greet everyone, but he did not ask my name or where I came from.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Good coffee. The only snacks were biscuits – for which the priest had earlier apologised.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – If I lived in Stockholm this would be my home parish and I would be glad to be involved.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Apart from the sermon – definitely.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The communion anthems and the organ voluntaries.