St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Glasgow, Scotland

St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Glasgow, Scotland


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Mystery Worshipper: Diapason
Church: St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral
Location: Glasgow, Scotland
Date of visit: Monday, 8 January 2018, 6:30pm

The building

Large Gothic-style cruciform cathedral church of the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway. Large imposing tower and steeple draw you to this wonderful house of praise and prayer.

The church

Very welcoming to visitors and strangers.

The neighborhood

Great Western Road in Glasgow is home to three very famous church steeples: St Mary's, Lansdowne Church, and the former Kelvinside Church. The cathedral is surrounded by housing in a highly populated student area.

The cast

The Very Revd Kelvin Holdsworth, the Provost and Rector of St Mary's, and the cathedral choir led by Frikki Walker, their director of music.

What was the name of the service?

Festival Choral Evensong.

How full was the building?

The building was between half and two-thirds full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

We were welcomed at the vestibule by a steward with a cheery smile and a vigorus handshake! As we entered the nave, another steward said hello and welcome.

Was your pew comfortable?

The pew was comfortable. It had a lovely runner on it so that you were not sitting on bare wood. I am quite short and had no problems, but someone a tad taller might find the leg room a bit on the tight side.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

The pre-service atmosphere was relaxing and informal. The sub-organist played the cathedral organ wonderfully – setting a relaxed but formal feeling. People round about us were chatting and we didn't feel as if we should be sitting in silence. Some people were reading the service sheet, others were taking time to pray.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Good evening and welcome to St Mary's for this festival evensong. Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast. Alleluia!

What books did the congregation use during the service?

There was only a service sheet with the texts, readings and hymns for the service. The Bible was read by members of the congregation, but I don't know what version they used.

What musical instruments were played?

The three-manual cathedral organ was the only intrument used. It was played superbly by Ollie, the sub-organist.

Did anything distract you?

The wonderful murals in the cathedral on the crossing and chancel were distracting, as I noticed another aspect of them each time I let my eyes wander during the music. It was a good distraction!

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

The worship was Anglican, and was structured and rigid. The service sheet indicated to a Presbyterian exactly when to stand/sit or kneel. I wouldn't say it was stiff-upper-lip, but you definitely knew you were in the cathedral of the diocese.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

There was no sermon.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The entire service was like being in heaven – from the music, singing and organ music.

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

The choir sang the two hymns beautifully and led the congregation well. It's just a pity that the congregation didn't sing them well. We felt like we were singing a duet, as you really couldn't hear anyone else in the congregation singing apart from us two!

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

We sat and chatted to some people behind us. At the end of the service, the provost welcomed everyone to stay behind for the Easter ceilidh (social gathering), which we did!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

At the ceilidh, there was wine and fruit juice available to purchase. They were served in plastic cups/glasses. No cakes or cookies, just crisps.

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

8 — It gave me the opportunity to be "off duty" and offer my praise and prayer in a different format.

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

Yes it did.

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

I'll remember the ministry of music taking me into a calming, relaxing place, making clear to me the texts set to the music, and giving me time to reflect. The formality of the service made it so dignified.

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