Like Mystery Shoppers, but for God
July 25, 2011 9:30 AM   Subscribe

Since 1998, Christian Humor Magazine Ship of Fools has been sending Mystery Worshippers to churches to write reviews.

Answering questions like "How Long was the Sermon?" and "Was the Pew Comfortable?" Mystery Worshippers have reviewed churches all over the world and some that aren't quite in the world. They've also reviewed churches in unusual places and gone on pilgrimage.
posted by Bulgaroktonos (30 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
Whoa, hardcore.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:56 AM on July 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Net website. I'm reminded of all my Catholic friends who make jokes about "Jesus was undercooked today" when the hosts are poorly done.
posted by charred husk at 9:58 AM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The reviews are well done - funny, yelp-y, but with a good understanding of the ceremonies and underlying practices. They could be the Chowhound of religous services.

And their breakdown on Evangelicals' view on gay rights is pretty spot on:

Yes, some shifting has transpired in the past 20 years. But the evangelical world continues to lag way behind not only their mainline brethren but the secular culture at large when it comes to welcoming LGBT people and advocating for their rights as part of our shared humanity as global citizens on this planet.

Again - some tongue and cheek humour, nothing too preachy, and a welcome liberal Christian point of view.
posted by helmutdog at 9:59 AM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd say "Christian Humor Magazine" doesn't do this site justice. The people in the forum are quite serious and knowledgeable.

I knew about this site already when my wife wondered where the better choir services were among London churches. All roads quickly led to this site.
posted by vacapinta at 10:00 AM on July 25, 2011


I'd say "Christian Humor Magazine" doesn't do this site justice. The people in the forum are quite serious and knowledgeable.

I think they describe themselves that way, which is why I picked that phrase. I agree though that the site is a lot more than that.

The forums are pretty great generally, and you won't find a better 1000 comment discussion of which set of Daily Office books are best.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:04 AM on July 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


In the Gadgets for God section: Home circumcision kit. That ain't funny.
posted by Daddy-O at 10:05 AM on July 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is it built out of cream bricks? No. It's built out of sandstone carefully and lovingly carved into individual brick-shaped pieces of masonry.

Why did you do that? I have no idea. Probably having something to do with having the budget of a nice church combined with the aspirations of a crap one.

That's pretty confusing! Even more confusing is that it was mostly paid for by the Cary-Elwes family (of Cary Elwes fame), who then promptly converted to Catholicism.

So you think it was a set-up? Yes. The local gentry were tolling us.
posted by Jehan at 10:14 AM on July 25, 2011


Ha! That should be trolling. Damn typewriter.
posted by Jehan at 10:15 AM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


From If it was good enough for the Apostle Paul, it's good enough for me:

[...] Steve Van Nattan of the serene-sounding Blessed Quietness Journal, says: "If you do not burn your NIV, NASB, New KJV, or whatever other slop hog filthy piece of excretion you are reading instead of the King James Bible, YOU ARE GOING TO HELL. I am delighted too."

What an awful person.
posted by JHarris at 11:10 AM on July 25, 2011


As someone who's been to exactly 1 non-functional (wedding or funeral) church service in their life, I've always been interested in Unitarian churches, and have even considered attending them as an atheist. I was sort of disappointed that there weren't more Unitarian churches reviewed.

Regardless, it seems like an interesting site. A good window into a world that I have no experience with.
posted by codacorolla at 11:21 AM on July 25, 2011


Oh, I guess there are a number of Unitarian churches in their reviews. It's just that the site design doesn't really lend itself to being easily sorted by denomination. Google Site search within http://www.ship-of-fools.com/mystery/ for the terms denonimiation XXXXXX will turn up a pretty good list for whatever creed you're interested in.
posted by codacorolla at 11:25 AM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


[...] Steve Van Nattan of the serene-sounding Blessed Quietness Journal, says: "If you do not burn your NIV, NASB, New KJV, or whatever other slop hog filthy piece of excretion you are reading instead of the King James Bible, YOU ARE GOING TO HELL. I am delighted too."

Splitters!
posted by eoden at 11:30 AM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The local alt-weekly here in DC, the Washington City Paper used to have a feature just like this called "Service Industry".
posted by deanc at 11:58 AM on July 25, 2011


Google Site search within http://www.ship-of-fools.com/mystery/ for the terms denonimiation XXXXXX will turn up a pretty good list for whatever creed you're interested in.

This helped me find the review of the church I grew up in in NJ.
posted by deanc at 11:59 AM on July 25, 2011


LOL XTIANS - but this time, it's OK.
posted by Bummus at 11:59 AM on July 25, 2011


> In the Gadgets for God section: Home circumcision kit. That ain't funny.

Ouch. For real!
posted by stonepharisee at 12:00 PM on July 25, 2011


Fascinating site.

Mystery Bullshipper makes for interesting reading: a vicar with multiple sock-puppets on the Ship of Fools forums, telling outright lies to his congregation and submitting fake Mystery Worshipper reviews of his own sermons.

Hilariously, the whole thing came to light when members of his own congregation complained to the site that the review of their church was overly positive! (Reading between the lines, they thought he was a complete dick even before the scandal broke).

I can't work out if the vicar in question was fired, but his parish committee were decidedly unamused, and it seems he's fallen from a rather lofty position as a Priest Vicar at Westminster Abbey and some sort of superstar roving international vicar to assistant chaplain at a minor public school (where it seems safe to assume the kids will be mercilessly ripping the piss out of him at every opportunity).
posted by jack_mo at 12:07 PM on July 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Ha. These are entertaining and interesting. My favorite bit I stumbled on so far, from Asheville NC:

In the church bulletin, prayers are asked for Madagascar in the wake of a coup d'├ętat, the latter spelled correctly, with diacritical mark, for perhaps the first time in the history of congregational desktop publishing.
posted by marxchivist at 12:19 PM on July 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


In the church bulletin, prayers are asked for Madagascar in the wake of a coup d'├ętat, the latter spelled correctly, with diacritical mark, for perhaps the first time in the history of congregational desktop publishing.

I read that review a while back, but still remember that line. Maybe I remember it because I had an English teacher that would bring church bulletins in as proofreading exercises for the class.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:21 PM on July 25, 2011


jack_mo: "Fascinating site.

Mystery Bullshipper makes for interesting reading: a vicar with multiple sock-puppets on the Ship of Fools forums, telling outright lies to his congregation and submitting fake Mystery Worshipper reviews of his own sermons.
"

Wow, that vicar sounds like a complete, for lack of a better fake-latin-sounding insult, dingus.
posted by notsnot at 1:10 PM on July 25, 2011


I have been wanting to walk the Camino for at least five years. This is encouraging.
posted by francesca too at 1:47 PM on July 25, 2011


for lack of a better fake-latin-sounding insult, dingus.

A "dingus-malingus"?
posted by codacorolla at 2:13 PM on July 25, 2011


Two thoughts: Do only Protestants (and Unitarians) have after-service coffee hours? It seems so far afield from my experience with Catholicism. (Though Holy Name in Chicago has some sort of coffee morning. I tease my dad about missing his opportunity to have coffee with the cardinal. But it might be on Saturdays.)

Second: I feel silly right now. I've read a chunk of the Narrenschiff (in fact, there's a photocopy of some of it somewhere in this apartment) and I don't get the reference.
posted by hoyland at 3:33 PM on July 25, 2011


This is really wonderful, I love them.
Eep. A priest I know comes off badly in one of these reports ... ;)
posted by zomg at 3:52 PM on July 25, 2011


hoyland, as a non-practicing Catholic and part-time Episcopalian I would say that your observation is correct in my experience. I don't ever remember Mass being at all social except on particular occasions, but services in the Episcopal Church usually are.
posted by zomg at 3:58 PM on July 25, 2011


I remember there being donuts after mass at the Catholic church I went to growing up, and the grownups standing around and chatting. This was always outdoors IIRC, so only in nice weather. (But in So Cal, so most of the year.) Really good donuts.
posted by epersonae at 4:31 PM on July 25, 2011


Grew up Catholic with no donuts or after mass snacks, except for that wafer-stuck-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth aftertaste. Have since gone Protestant, where they can really put on a nice coffee hour (the Swedes have it down especially well.) Enjoy raising a few classes with the Whiskeypalians just to keep everything balanced.
posted by jeanmari at 7:19 PM on July 25, 2011


I grew up Byzantine Catholic, (which if you're not familiar with it is a branch of the full Catholic church with identical beliefs, whose bishops vote for the pope, etc, but whose traditions owe more to the Orthodox and Eastern flavors than Roman churches do. ANYWAY....) in the two churches I attended regularly in my life, there was always social time, picnics, etc. My parents just went to a church picnic this weekend in fact, but there's coffee and conversation and donuts in the hall after every mass.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 4:24 AM on July 26, 2011


Catholic - my two regular churches served coffee and snacks after mass, others I visited didn't. I think it all has to do with the community.
posted by charred husk at 6:03 AM on July 26, 2011


I went hunting for churches I've been to. I've been to Mary Magdalen in Berkeley. Supposedly they had a coffee hour afterwards, meaning I've punctured my own theory. I don't remember this. Granted, my best friend and I decamped to the now-closed nearby Starbucks to study after mass. (This study date is how atheist ex-Catholic me ended up going to mass.)
posted by hoyland at 6:56 PM on July 26, 2011


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