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235: The Cathedral Church of St Peter and St Paul, Dogura, Papua New Guinea
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St Peter & St Paul, Dogura, Papua New Guinea
Mystery Worshipper: Johnny Tambourine.
The church: The Cathedral Church of St Peter and St Paul, Dogura, Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea.
Denomination: Anglican.
The building: European-looking: white walls, red roof, birds in the rafters. There was a colourful mural above the altar and stones from cathedrals around the world (Chester, Canterbury, Melbourne) along the walls. Also a witchdoctor's stone turned upside down forms the base of the lecturn – cracking symbolism!
The neighbourhood: Dogura is a mission station, so there's a school and health centre on the Dogura plain (which used to be a site of tribal warfare). Down the hill is the fishing village of Wedau. Apart from that, there are awesome mountains plunging into the Pacific – gorgeous at dawn.
The cast: Bishop Tevita Talanoa of Dogura.
What was the name of the service?
Morning Eucharist.

How full was the building?
Comfortably full with about 300 people. Somehow it managed to hold 800 for a service later in the week.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No one welcomed me at the service, but that's because I'd already been welcomed a thousand times over the weekend by nearly everyone in the village.

Was your pew comfortable?
No pews. Instead we had cushions on the concrete floor. Advice for any visitors: when kneeling, kneel upright with your knees at right angles. Kneeling back is agony on the feet.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Community-like, if that makes sense. The band was practising, children were playing and dogs were wandering around dodging the blows aimed at them.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"The Lord be with you..."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Prayer Book of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, the Good News Bible and New English Hymns.

What musical instruments were played?
Synth, guitar, drums, bass (very, very funky), bongos and a trumpet played by a monk with dreadlocks.

Did anything distract you?
A dog made itself comfortable, falling asleep by the altar, Noah's Ark style. A lady sitting in front of me was wearing a T-shirt which had "... women's role in the church" printed on the back. I spent ages guessing what this role was (and still don't know).

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
An excellent mixture of high church (liturgy, chanted prayers, mitres and incense) and funky bass riffs during the anthems.

St Peter & St Paul, Dogura, Papua New Guinea

Exactly how long was the sermon?
9 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Bishop Talanoa slipped between English and another langauge (Wedau, I think) during moments of excitement.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
God has given us fantastic opportunities, so let's make the most of them. Spot on: true, practical, concise.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Hearing people sing "What a friend we have in Jesus" brought home to me the fact that the Church spreads all over the world. I found that profoundly moving. And taking communion at the front next to Christians from Papua New Guinea made that even more real for me: one bread, one body.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Nothing during this service, though in nearly every other service the notices would go on for 20 minutes, which diminished "the peace the world cannot give" somewhat.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I lost count of the number of people who introduced themselves and started chatting with me at the end of the service.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
No coffee. I went snorkelling with one of the teachers from the school instead!

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – the church is the focus of community life in Dogura and Wedau, and is broad enough for everyone. There were different types of services in the cathedral through the month and varying meetings in the week. The cathedral services really were wonderful, though, and I went there regularly during the two months I had in Dogura.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Absolutely! A wonderful community celebration.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
That fabulous sense of Christianity being worldwide and having brothers and sisters on the other side of the world.

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