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St Ann's, Manchester, England
The church: St
Ann's, Manchester, England.
of England, Diocese
The building: Sandstone outside, having undergone frequent repairs. The building
is early 18th century with stained glass windows on the ground
floor, and a mixture of stained glass and clear glass windows
in the upper storey. In the Lady chapel there is a painting
showing the body of Christ being taken down from the cross.
At the foot of the cross there is a skull representing Adam. This
painting was to play an interesting role later on in the service.
The church: This is a city centre church, with no obvious local congregation.
Most worshippers travel some distance, though a few live in
flats around the city centre. It has a rich musical tradition
and on Saturday mornings a café.
The neighbourhood: Manchester is a city in the south central part of northwest
England. The city bears the honour of being the site of the
world's first railway station. It is also the place where
scientists first split the atom and developed the first programmable
computer. A major industrial centre during the 19th century,
Manchester was where the German philosopher Friedrich Engels
met Karl Marx when the latter visited in 1845. St Ann's is
located right in the heart of the shopping centre.
The cast: The Revd Nigel Ashworth, rector, was the celebrant and preacher.
The date & time: 13 March 2011, 10.45am.
What was the
name of the service?
How full was
The congregation numbered about 40 worshippers, with another 20 or so
in the choir. Comparatively small numbers for the size of the church.
welcome you personally?
A sidesman handed over books with no words of welcome, but
one of the churchwardens then greeted me personally. Two regular
worshippers smiled at me as I sat down.
Was your pew
The pew was OK.
How would you
describe the pre-service
Quiet, with pleasant organ music (but not intrusive).
What were the
exact opening words of the
The opening words were not spoken but sung by the choir, and
were the words of a litany for Lent: "Pardon, O Lord." The
first spoken words were: "The Lord be with you."
What books did
the congregation use during the
There were no pew books. I was given an order of service for
Lent up to Maundy Thursday, which I had to hand in at the
end of the service, plus a Sunday-specific insert on coloured
paper. The insert included, in chronological order: a welcome
plus directions about the start of the service; hymns with
all words; collects; Bible readings (though one of these was
incorrect); and information about the music that the choir
sang. A further sheet was included, called Focus, which listed
all events in the church for the forthcoming week.
instruments were played?
Noise from outside (see comments below). Notices were given
after the opening welcome, and particular emphasis was placed
on news of the forthcoming installation of the church's director
of music as a lay canon of Manchester Cathedral. The parish
priest outlined some of the duties of canons, somewhat tongue-in-cheek.
I found this mildly distracting at this early point in the
Was the worship
stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
It was a traditional Anglican choral service, well ordered but at
neither extreme of Anglican worship. No incense but no choruses either.
long was the sermon?
On a scale of
1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – Effective use was made of the aforementioned painting
in the Lady chapel. Several members of the congregation clearly
found the use of this artifact interesting and went to scrutinise
the picture at the end of the service.
In a nutshell,
what was the sermon
The sermon carefully linked the three Bible readings for the
day and, as the preacher indicated at the start, covered some
big universal themes. Beginning with the fall from the Garden
of Eden (Genesis 2:15-17 and 3:1-7), the preacher
explored the theme of "the loss of innocence" through the
capacity of humans to do things that are both self-destructive
and destructive of others. He moved on to Romans 5:12-19,
which considers Jesus as the second Adam, opening up for us
all the way to achieve our full potential. Finally the preacher
drew on the day's gospel reading, the temptation of Christ
in the wilderness as described in Matthew 4:1-11. Jesus was
tempted as we are: by material things (the need for food),
by spiritual things (hoping God's word and power will do things
for us), and by power over others. Like Jesus, we must resist
temptation, so that we, like him, can be the beloved children
of God and achieve our full potential as humans.
Which part of
the service was like being in
The choir's motet Drop, drop slow tears. Carefully
prepared and beautifully sung with clear words.
And which part
was like being in... er... the other place?
The noise of a builder's drill during the second lesson and
the gospel hymn, followed by intermittent noise of scaffolding
demolition. External noise is unavoidable in the church's
location but this was unwontedly intrusive.
when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The weekly sheet said coffee would be served after the service
but did not actually invite visitors to attend, and no one
asked me personally. I just joined the queue. The ladies serving
smiled but did not speak. I moved away from the table but
had to make the running talking to others until the parish
priest reached me. He worked his way steadily round the whole
group to greet his congregation.
How would you
describe the after-service
There was a choice of tea or coffee. The coffee was hot. Biscuits were
How would you
feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
6 – Too far for me to travel but I would enjoy the musical
tradition. Less sure I could cope on a long term basis with the
priest's sense of humour, but I appreciated his determination to talk
to as many of the congregation as he could after the service. He seemed
caring and committed.
Did the service
make you feel glad to be a
What one thing
will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
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