|42: St James, Antrim Road, Belfast|
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Mystery Worshipper: Betjemaniac.
The church: St James, Antrim Road, Belfast.
Denomination: Church of Ireland.
The building: Victorian pile, rebuilt in the 1950s after being bombed in World War II. It has a rather nice reredos (see picture below) and a bright, airy interior.
The neighbourhood: St James is on a busy shopping road. When North Belfast was segregated in the 1970s, St James was left on the wrong side of the tracks, surrounded by strongly Republican, working class Victorian terraces. The activities of gunmen has given the area a nickname: 'the murder mile'. One fifth of all murders related to 'the troubles' have occurred within a mile of this church.
The cast: Rt Rev Gordon McMullen, retired Bishop of Down and Dromore.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Around 70 people in a church that could hold five times that with ease. The overwhelming majority were above retirement age.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
The guy handing out prayer books knows me from political circles and welcomed me eagerly. So did a lot of other people, for whom I was a new face.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was fine.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Chatty. Lots of people came to talk to me, or were talking to the people next to them.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
'Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.'
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Church of Ireland Alternative Prayer Book 1984, and the Irish Church Hymnal (equivalent to Hymns Ancient & Modern).
What musical instruments were played?
Organ and 15-member, four-part choir.
Did anything distract you?
The sun was shining straight through plain glass windows into my eyes, which was a little irritating.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Fairly traditional and as close to 'central church Anglican' as you could ever get.