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1140: Holy Trinity, Corfu Town, Corfu, Greece
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Holy Trinity, Corfu Town, Corfu, Greece
Mystery Worshipper: Sagacious.
The church: Holy Trinity, Corfu Town, Corfu, Greece.
Denomination: Anglican.
The building: The church is housed in a light coloured stone building which was originally the Ionian Parliament. The Greek government donated the building to the Church in 1869. Situated in a residential area of the old town, it is accessible via a network of narrow walkways strung with colourful washing lines and framed with vibrant windowboxes. A courtyard at the front of the building has a table and chairs carefully situated in the shade of an overhanging orange tree. Inside, the main meeting room is simply furnished and painted in a cool pale blue and white. Facilities include a chaplain's office and a sizeable library with a kitchen off it, visible through a serving hatch. The library is very well stocked, in particular with what I would call "holiday reading" material.
The church: The congregation was a mix of young and old and appeared to consist mainly of British ex-pats, along with a goodly number of tourists like myself. I noticed a group of Dutch young people and I also heard an American accent at one stage. I didn't notice any children, though. Obviously a tight-knit community, the church runs a variety of mid-week activities, most of which I read about in the church magazine I took away with me. ( I only realised much later that this should have cost me €2!)
The neighbourhood: Corfu Town is the capital of the island of Corfu, and the principal port and largest town in the Greek Ionian Islands. There is a blend of various architectural styles in the town, including Venetian, Italian renaissance, baroque, Georgian, neo-classical and traditional island architecture. The flavour is predominately Italianate. Two Venetian fortresses dominate the town. The central square, the Esplanade, is situated beside the only cricket ground in Greece, a throwback to the English occupation. As with any holiday town, there are many tourist shoppes and cafes, and a little out of the centre of town you will find the obligatory pubs and nightclubs.
The cast: The Rev. Clifford Owen, chaplain.
The date & time: Sunday 17 July 2005, 10.30am.
What was the name of the service?
Songs of Praise to celebrate the retirement of the Hon. Lucy Steele, British vice-consul.

How full was the building?
The building was pretty much full. I counted about 60 in the congregation, and spotted only a couple of empty seats.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A gentleman at the door said good morning and handed me a hymnbook. As I was a little late and the service had already started, he didn’t take any time to chat to me.

Was your pew comfortable?
I notice that this church was previously mystery worshipped in 2003 by the Rambling Rector – click here for the report. I can confirm the same "straight-backed chairs with those woven raffia seats that leave their impression on your nether regions" are still in use. However, I will stop short of further commenting on the state of my nether regions after the service!

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
As will be explained shortly, I arrived at the service a little late and so am unable to comment effectively on the pre-service atmosphere. However, I can confirm that as a consequence of a "taxi ride from hell" to the church, my personal pre-service atmosphere was one of great stress!

What were the exact opening words of the service?
The first hymn was already underway when I took my straight-backed chair with the woven raffia seat.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
I was handed a copy of the Complete Mission Praise hymnbook on my way into the church. Readings were taken from the New International Version of the Bible.

What musical instruments were played?
A small organ accompanied all hymns, played by a reserve organist who I think may have been the chaplain's wife.

Did anything distract you?
I found it a little difficult to hear over the buzz of the three ceiling fans in the room and occasional traffic noise through the open door into the church. Although one of the four loudspeakers in the room was directly in front of me, I don’t believe it was on (or possibly it wasn’t working). Vice-consul Steele was obviously concerned about the sound levels and asked on more than one occasion "Can you hear me?" to which everyone else answered yes. (I made a mental note to make an appointment to have me ears syringed when I got home.)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Mrs Steele had selected all the hymns and I would describe many as classic favourites, such as "Amazing Grace", "The Lord's My Shepherd" and "Abide with Me". At various times Father Owen divided hymns up into male and female sung verses, accompanied and unaccompanied verses, and even split the church down the middle to sing against each other!

Exactly how long was the sermon?
Due to the nature of the service, there was no sermon. Father Owen used the time between hymns to read passages of scripture or to chat informally with Mrs Steele about her background, her work as vice-consul and her future plans now that she had retired.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The vice-consul was obviously well known to the majority of the congregation and chatted casually with Father Owen on all the topics she was asked about. It was interesting to hear that she originated from County Donegal in Ireland. At one stage, Father strayed from his prepared questions and asked her for her thoughts as a native of Ireland on the situation in Northern Ireland. She very politely but firmly declined to talk on the subject, but instead used the opportunity to ask for prayer for peace everywhere where there was conflict. Then Father lit a peace candle on the altar and we sang "Make me a Channel of your Peace".

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I enjoyed the informality of the service.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Two things: First, finding the place. The map on the church website is next to useless! It is too small and illegible to be of any use whatsoever in locating the church. However, armed with the address from the website, I set off in a taxi thinking that a local should be able to find the church on my behalf. How wrong was I! The address I had with me was, of course, in English, not Greek, so I was on a hiding to nothing from the outset. Completely without a prayer! The driver had to stop numerous times to ask for assistance, but no one seemed to know where the church was. Eventually I was dumped out of the car in the general vicinity of the church and left to fend for myself. Hence my late arrival for the service. Second, during the last hymn, "Bind us Together, Lord" (not a favourite of mine in the first instance, but that’s irrelevant), we were asked to hold hands with those beside us as we sang. I immediately thrust my hands deep into my pockets, and I have to say I was very grateful that those around me didn’t attempt to extricate them.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
A few people smiled and nodded in my direction. Vice-consul Steele was standing at the door on the way out and we chatted briefly. It was actually she who informed me that there was tea and coffee available in the library. I quaffed a cold drink and loitered for a while, but no one else spoke to me.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Tea and coffee were served in a variety of odd-sized mugs, the type of collection you would find in a cupboard in most people's kitchens. Fizzy orange was also available as a cold option, and there was a plate of chocolate biscuits set on a table in the centre of the library. Beside the plate was a tin with a note stuck on it reminding us that although coffee did grow on trees, 60 cents were still required if you wished to partake. I didn’t have 60 cents, and there were insufficient funds in the tin to provide change from my 10 Euro note, so I gulped down my drink and skulked out before anyone could notice!

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 – I enjoyed the service, but prefer a less traditional ethos.

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I owe this congregation €2.60.
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