If I'd planned in advance, I could have done a full report for the Mystery Worshipper on my visit to St Mary Magdalene's yesterday, but I shall suffice with a short review on here. (Besides, you need to know I'm still breathing.)
I stayed with friends in Staffordshire on the weekend, and on Sunday morning I and my friend decided to to pay a visit to nearby Alsager for the the Eucharist.
It was fairly low-church, despite the robes and everything. They followed the liturgy from Common Worship, but chose the shortest and simplest bits every time, and dropped a few parts altogether. There were only four in the choir (which the chap I spoke to afterwards assured me was an anomaly due to the school half-term), but they did remarkably well, and even managed an anthem by Schubert and a very nice Lamb of God, which they'd nicked from a parish I attended while I was at my alma mater.
The service started with the deacon doing some storytelling from the Old Testament, and she had the Sunday School help her out with a bit of dramatization. She was an oldish lady, the sort you'd like to take home and have as your granny. I kept thinking all the way throughout that first part that this was the Christian faith as it should be expressed -- in stories and through imagination, rather than in doctrinal propositions and statements of faith.
Coincidentally, the preacher went on to talk about stories, and had a bit of a jab at the postmodern notion that we all inhabit different stories, and we should just appreciate the diversity. I have a lot of sympathy with that aspect of postmodernism, since if my experience has brought me anywhere, it has brought me to the place where I really don't think I can make absolute truth-claims about some indisputable metanarrative; I'm quite happy with my faith as my way of expressing an experience that may well be shared by other people who express it in different ways and through different stories.
The granny-deacon got up again to lead the intercessions, and prefaced each section of prayer with a flute solo. It was quite beautiful.
I couldn't say the Prayer of Humble Access, because every time I tried, I couldn't help but slip into the words of a parody I once wrote ("I am not worthy so much as to gather up me plums underneath our Mabel, but thou art the same Maude, whose nature is always to have Percy").
The church lacks a hall at the moment, which I actually thought was quite fortuitous, since it meant they had to turn the back of the church into a meeting room. It meant the area for "worship" and the area for "fellowship" (tea and biscuits) ran into one another, and there was no escape. Sometimes I need that push.
Unfortunately, it also meant there were no washrooms, and I had to borrow a key for the public conveniences across the road.
I enjoyed the morning, however. I always feel that worshipping outside my own parish on the occasional Sunday is like "seeing how the other half lives". But it's always refreshing, and always reminds me that some places do exist where things are done differently.