Mannofield Parish Church, Aberdeen, Scotland


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Mannofield Parish Church
Location: Aberdeen, Scotland
Date of visit: Monday, 6 April 2020, 7:00pm

The building

Their first building dated from 1880 but was soon replaced by the present stone building with enormous tower. The interior looks modern with conventional altar and one prominent candlestick. Because of the present crisis, the church building has been shut down and worship is taking place via a variety of podcast options as well as YouTube.

The church

In good times they have a number of spiritual and social groups all listed on their website, including a ladies’ badminton group.

The neighborhood

Aberdeen, ‘granite city,’ has flourished on the North Sea oil trade, but this was not apparent tonight.

The cast

The minister sat in front of the altar.

What was the name of the service?

Holy Week Service.

How full was the building?

Empty except for the minister. The number watching reached the high twenties.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

There was an on-screen countdown.

Was your pew comfortable?


How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Soothing piano music.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

‘Good evening and welcome’ (I think).

What books did the congregation use during the service?

The minister read from his notes. Nothing else was needed.

What musical instruments were played?

Solo piano.

Did anything distract you?

For a virtual service, it was unusually focussed. Speculations about whether this is a new art-form developing or just a temporary measure intruded. But they were not too pressing.

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

A piano introduction and conclusion came from Cults Church, which is a part of the same group. The minister has a very direct style, which does include prayer but is closer to a lecture. He conducted most of the service sitting, but stood when he was putting Judas's argument. He lit a candle to remind us that the love of God is not extinguished. His reading from Psalm 26 (‘Vindicate me, Lord, for I have led a blameless life …’) was more like a re-interpretation than a translation.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

The service lasted 23 minutes. I wouldn't like to separate out the sermon from the rest. The whole service was the minister’s address, although he did incorporate readings and prayer.

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

8 — He had a pleasing lack of formality, while at the same time being quite impersonal.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Smell. The theme was the story of the alabaster box of very precious ointment. He saw it from Mary's point of view, and Judas's. Mary in love with God; Judas worried about waste and human suffering. He mentioned the aroma of abundance and the fragrance of expectation. He concluded by saying that we are called to show both sorts of love: love of God and love of man.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The unexpected twists in the sermon.

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

The feeling that this is a very new art, which could do with some practice.

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

One of the great benefits of virtual church is that you can't do that.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Another benefit – no coffee.

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

0 – Unlikely, because there are already thousands of virtual services and this is just the beginning.

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

I enjoyed it and admired the effort that went into it.

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

Thinking how right he is. Judas did have a point and I suspect the bit about him being a thief was added later. (That was not part of the sermon.)

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