YORK church wardens may be forgiven for polishing their pews and plumping up the prayer cushions as the dreaded "Mystery Worshipper" prepares to descend on his latest venue.

After more than seven years of cloak and dagger-like visits, the elusive inspector has now clocked up 1,000 reviews of places of worship. And York has not escaped this secret "name and shame" tour which examines everything from what bevvies are served at the end of the service to any features which made the worshipper feel like he was in hell.

No stone is left unturned in the write-ups that follow on the www.ship-of-fools.com website which prompts the worshipper with questions such as "which part of the service was like being in heaven?" and "Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?"

Already this year, the Vision's Service, St Cuthbert's in York, has been treated to a secret visit.

"I counted 17 people, a middling sort of size for the amount of space we actually had (that wasn't filled up with TV screens and random bits of kit)," writes the worshipper.

He comments on being on first-name terms with two people by the time the service started and enjoying "a very interesting conversation about didactic teaching with an ex-vicar". Moments later he dramatically side tracks, exclaiming: "Vision's has beanbags!" Heavens.

However, the temptation to wriggle around on a sack of squashed polystyrene balls in a quest for ultimate comfort proved too much for our note-taker who opted instead to "perch on one of the plastic chairs around the rim of the space".

Fellow worshippers must surely feel enlightened by such close attention to detail. He goes on to comment on the ambient/ world background music playing during communion with the words: "That was a new one for me. It felt freaky."

St Michael le Belfrey, York, was also treated to a mystery visit - this time around Christmas when the worshipper would have us believe the church over indulged in festive spirit.

He laments that he was distracted by the Christmas tree lights that "twinkled at a ridiculous intensity". Still not content, he writes: "The guitarist was blocking my view to the OHP screen so I had to keep ducking to read the words. In the last verse of each of the hymns the drummer seemed to get a bit carried away, and I was very tempted to air drum with him." Bah hum bug!

The sermon, he says, was "23 minutes and 34 seconds - including 4 minutes dedicated to reading one of the books in the "Thomas the Tank Engine" series".

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

"Yes. No one else could talk about Thomas The the Tank Engine so seriously and get respect for it," he writes.

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

"The drummer, and the colours of the engine in Thomas The Tank Engine."

All the important aspects of the sermon then.

In another York church, the Mystery Worshipper was again asked what, if anything, had distracted him.

"The preacher's cope was too big for him and he looked like a small boy in grown up's clothing!"

York churches beware - the next mystery visit could be you.

Updated: 11:02 Friday, March 25, 2005