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124: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales
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Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Mystery Worshipper: Barth Simpson
The church: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales.
Denomination: £3 per ticket (group bookings £2.40).
The building: Formerly known as Cardiff Arms Park, the new stadium seats 66,000 and (apparently) several extra people run around in the middle from time to time.
The neighbourhood: Cardiff City Centre is exciting, thriving, dynamic, etc. It's a great place to shop and a terrible place to find a decent cup of coffee in nice surroundings.
The cast: The whole thing was led by BBC Television's "Songs of Praise" crew: Pam Rhodes, Roy Noble and Don Maclean. Some of the singing was led by Noel Richards. There was also a host of guests, including Cliff Richard and Andrew Lloyd-Webber, plus several others that I suspect are well known to Radio 2 listeners and to them alone.
What was the name of the service?
Millennium Songs of Praise.

How full was the building?
A capacity crowd (eventually – 500 people turned up fresh from another worship event somewhere else, but we couldn't complain because they included Princes Charles, William and Harry).

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No. I had to have the bar code on my ticket checked (for the number of the beast?).

Was your pew comfortable?
No. The top tier of seats (a third of the audience) were told not to stand during the singing. It was freezing and by the end of the broadcast I was in agony from being cramped in a hard plastic seat with no leg room.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Crotchety – annoyed looking old people wandered about looking for their seats and complaining at the number of stairs they had to climb.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"What a start!"

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Photocopied A4 sheet with the hymns on.

What musical instruments were played?
The band of the Welsh Guards played every kind of shiny instrument under the sun. There was also a trendy worship group with guitars, synth and drums.

Did anything distract you?
The person I was sitting next to dampened any excitement I might have had by making cynical comments throughout.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was cumbersome and lacked conviction.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
There wasn't one. However, we did have short, uninspiring messages from George Carey and Harry Secombe, each about 30 seconds.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
100 harpists played "Jesus Joy of Our Desiring". It was beautiful.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
A song by Andrew Lloyd-Webber from "Whistle Down The Wind", which seemed totally out of place, sung flat and with a backing group of portly, balding men wearing black trousers, black shirts and... wait for it... huge coloured ties. It was hard to decide which was more embarrassing: the ridiculous way they looked, or the sickening pathos of Lloyd-Webber's formulaic music.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I got pointed to the exit by a steward.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There wasn't any.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
I wouldn't. It's much better to watch a TV programme than to be in it.

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Frustration that almost none of it felt like worship.
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