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2966: St John the Evangelist, Barrhead, Scotland
St John the Evangelist, Barrhead (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Pencefn.
The church: St John the Evangelist, Barrhead, Scotland.
Denomination: Roman Catholic, Diocese of Paisley.
The building: A brick built building dating from 1961, replacing the 1841 church that was destroyed by fire in 1941 due to an electrical fault. It's a rather plain but nicely done building with tower. The west facade is of grey stone and features three doorways above which are three tall narrow windows. The inside is likewise plain, with white walls, clear glass windows, and grey stone slabs backing the altar. A large crucifix is attached to the stone slabs, and a niche has been carved out where the tabernacle is located.
The church: They sponsor a number of social and spirituality groups, including chapters of the Legion of Mary, Society of St Vincent de Paul, and Knights of St Columba. They conduct an adult Irish dancing class each Sunday evening. Mass is celebrated daily, with the vigil mass on Saturday evenings and three Sunday masses, including one in the evening.
The neighbourhood: Barrhead is a town about eight miles southwest of Glasgow. Once known for its ironware, leather and porcelain industries, today the town is primarily a bedroom community. There is a curious lack of retail establishments in Barrhead, with residents having to visit the shops in Paisley and Glasgow to meet their needs. St John's, sandwiched between a public park and Barrhead High School, is situated on a roundabout with entrance and exit on two separate arms.
The cast: The service was led by the Revd Paul Brady, parish priest. The first four lessons were read by ladies of the congregation, with lessons five and six read by the Revd Mr Brian Mackenzie, deacon. Father Paul read the final lesson.
The date & time: Feast of St John the Evangelist, Sunday, 27 December 2015, 4.30pm.

What was the name of the service?
Service of Lessons and Carols.

How full was the building?
Around 60-70, around 10 per cent of capacity.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Not really. The stewards were not properly organised when I arrived 15 minutes before the service started. They were still arranging their table of service booklets and candles. They then decided to move the table to a different position. I got a "Good evening," but apparently it was assumed that I knew what I was doing.

Was your pew comfortable?
A wooden pew, which was not all that comfortable. It was fine at the beginning of the service, when there was plenty of getting up and down. However, during the second half there was an extended period of sitting.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very quiet. I was sitting ten rows from the front (about half way), and until just before starting time there was only one person sitting in front of me. The church warden was spending time moving chairs, lighting candles, etc. The treble soloist came out to her place early, then returned to her seat.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Please stand for the singing of the first carol."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A service booklet specifically for the service.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ (electronic).

Did anything distract you?
The church warden was sitting behind the choir and got up from time to time to turn the heating on and off. When the heating was on, the fans were audible. During the second half of the service, a toddler decided to run round the church.

St John the Evangelist, Barrhead (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Middle of the road. There was no overt high church or low church style. Although Deacon Brian was wearing an alb and dalmatic for this non-sacramental service. Father Paul was wearing a cope over a full length cotta, half of which was lace. Some of the carols were abbreviated – for example, the choir left out the third verse of "O come all ye faithful" ("Child, for us sinners ..."), going directly into "Yea, Lord, we greet thee ..." complete with descant.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
No sermon.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The treble soloist at the beginning of "Once in Royal David's City" was not overly powerful, but was clear.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The organist did not always seem to be in time with the choir or musical director, especially in the quiet sections. I could not see a clear beat from the conductor.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The congregation made a bee-line for the hall, where tea, coffee and mince pies were available, whilst the church warden replaced the candle sticks and cross on the altar. Very quickly I felt on my own.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I did not stay.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 – Being an Anglican, it is unlikely that I would make a Roman Catholic church my regular church.

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The abbreviated hymns.

 
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