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Mystery Worshipper

The most recent report, done in 2005, can be found on the Ship of Fools website. An earlier report was published there in 1998 and can be read below:

All Saints, Clifton

Mystery Worshipper: Churchshopper.

The church: All Saints, Clifton, Bristol, UK.

Denomination: Church of England.

The building: A Victorian 'barn', which suffered severe bomb damage in 1940, was rebuilt in 1967 to look like a multi-storey car park. But step inside, and you'll discover a stunning worship area, full of space, light and striking stained glass.

The neighbourhood: All Saints is in the well-heeled neighbourhood of Clifton. Its near neighbours include Bristol Zoo, Brunel's magnificent suspension bridge over the gorge, the Roman Catholic cathedral, and that well-known 'cathedral' of evangelicalism, Christ Church.

Today's celebrant: Rev Canon Peter Cobb.

What was the name of the service?

Evensong and Benediction.

How full was the building?

Practically empty. The faithful few numbered just 20, including the priest, servers and choir.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

A friendly sidesman gave me a smile and warm 'hello' as he handed me my books and service sheet.

Was your pew comfortable?

Very comfortable. Modern, with plenty of knee room, distinctly uncramped, with a padded back.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Quiet, calm and expectant after the vestry bell rang to announce the impending arrival of the altar party.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

'O Lord, open thou our lips' sung in plainchant.

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Book of Common Prayer, New English Hymnal and typed order of service for the Benediction.

What musical instruments were played?


Did anything distract you?

An acolyte's valiant struggle with lighting the fifth of seven candles, before the monstrance containing the blessed sacrament was carried from the tabernacle to the altar.

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

It's best described as sacramental intensity. The worship was conducted with reverence, decorum and solemnity throughout. Processions involving the priest and servers were perfectly choreographed. Nothing was rushed, everyone knew their part in this liturgical drama, and their reverence and professionalism (if that's the right word) enhanced the experience for the worshipper.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

No sermon.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

I'd give Canon Cobb a 7 for the way he led the service: he put us entirely at ease.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The theme of the service was expressed best in a prayer: 'Let us pray that we may be evermore closely united with our risen Lord, that he may live and work through us.'

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

Most of it. A sense of holiness, awe and heavenly worship pervaded the service and intensified as clouds of incense swirled around the altar, the sanctus bell rang and the sacrament was brought out as a sign that Jesus is with his people and wishes to bless them.

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

The sound system and its echo made Canon Cobb's calm and assured tones sound like a distorted transistor radio in a deserted warehouse.

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

Not a lot. The sidesman was busy collecting books, the altar party had departed to the sacristy and other people stayed put to listen to the organ music.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

There wasn't any, but after the 11am Solemn Mass, worshippers are offered coffee and a bar!

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

8. It would be wonderful to be an 'anonymous' regular, slipping in and out for 'bless-ups' like this.

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


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

A sense of intimate encounter with the risen Lord, who feeds us in the sacrament.

All Saints Parish Church, Pembroke Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2HY.
Tel: +44 117 9741355
Email for parish office:
Email for parish office:
Vicar: Fr Charles Sutton
Tel: +44 117 9078088