Sheffield Cathedral (Exterior)

Sheffield Cathedral, Sheffield, England


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Sheffield Cathedral
Location: Sheffield, England
Date of visit: Saturday, 24 October 2015, 3:00pm

The building

A mixture of medieval and 20th century. Formerly a parish church, it was elevated to cathedral status when the diocese was created in 1914. The oldest parts date from the 13th century, the chancel and sanctuary from the 15th century. Many of the cathedral's appointments and monuments date from medieval times. The 18th, 19th and 20th centuries saw extensive renovation and remodelling. Refurbishments completed in 2014 resulted in (quoting from the diocese's website) "a brighter, more welcoming building which is fully accessible to everyone." Artwork has been installed at several locations, including the yucky Cyber Iconic Man by the contemporary British artists Jake and Dinos Chapman in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. The artwork is part of Going Public by the International Art Collectors in Sheffield (16 September to 12 December 2015).

The church

Attending the Cathedral Church of St Peter and St Paul for choral evensong, I had a hard time gauging the community of the congregation. But their website lists various activities that the cathedral is engaged in, including a toddler's group, mother's union, and seniors group. Concerts, theatrical productions and lectures are put on regularly.

The neighborhood

Sheffield, a city in South Yorkshire, grew from a small market town into a major manufacturing centre. By Chaucer's time it was already known for the production of knives. By the 18th century Sheffield had become an important steel manufacturing venue, with local foundries introducing several innovative techniques into the process. Heavy damage during World War II bombings and an exodus of steelmaking jobs in the latter half of the 20th century due to foreign competition hastened the city's decline. But today, an upsurge in public works projects and the public sector industry has resulted in Sheffield's revitalisation. The cathedral has a tram stop conveniently located outside.

The cast

The Very Revd Peter Bradley, Dean of Sheffield; The Revd Canon Keith Farrow, Canon Missioner.

What was the name of the service?

Choral Evensong.

How full was the building?

Around 25 in the congregation and 40 in the choir. It appeared that most of the congregation were from the church of the visiting choir and, like myself, visitors to the cathedral. It was difficult to identify if there were any of the resident community present. The service had been moved forward an hour from its regular time due to a concert scheduled for later in the day – indeed, as I left the building, several people arrived not knowing that the scheduled 4.00pm start time had been changed.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

No. I had enjoyed a late lunch in in cathedral's coffee shop, called the 1554 Cafe, and so was already in the building.

Was your pew comfortable?

For a wooden pew it was quite comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

After choir practice had finished, a gentle murmur arose as visitors ambled around the building.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Welcome to choral evensong at Sheffield Cathedral."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

A printed booklet for generic choral evensong was handed out after the service had started.

What musical instruments were played?

Organ. The service was sung by a visiting choir from Mellor Parish Church.

Did anything distract you?

Visitors to the building walked across the front of the high altar during the service.

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

General middle of the road for choral evensong. They describe choral evensong on their website as follows: "Using the 1662 Book of Common Prayer ... the choir does most of the singing, while the congregation participates through active listening and reflection. There are spoken prayers, readings from the scriptures and hymns."

Exactly how long was the sermon?

No sermon.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The choir's rendition of "Be Thou my Vision."

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

No hymns for congregational participation.

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

After the organ voluntary had concluded, the Canon Missioner engaged me.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

There was none.

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

5 – It would take a lot to replace my current first and second churches.

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


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

The Cyber Iconic Man.

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