|2: Russian Orthodox Cathedral, London|
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Mystery Worshipper: TsarWars.
The church: The Cathedral of the Dormition & All Saints
Denomination: Russian Orthodox.
The building: Basilica built in Victorian times, dark interior lit with hundreds of flickering candles, an impressive icon screen at the front, clouds of sweet-smelling incense
The neighbourhood: A near neighbour of the Royal Albert Hall, the church is on the edge of Knightsbridge.
The cast: Bishop Anatoly.
What was the name of the service?
Easter Matins (the Orthodox celebration of the resurrection, which starts at quarter to midnight on Easter Saturday and continues into Easter Sunday).
How full was the building?
Imagine a church so full that the police have to be called in to put up crash barriers to stop more people from fighting their way inside. This is the scene that greeted me when I arrived 10 mins before the service started. 'There's already 1400 in there, mate,' said the policeman at the barrier. 'It's like an oven in that church.'
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Apart from the friendly policeman, no. When I finally squeezed inside, the stewards were carrying out a man who had passed out, so greeting me with open arms wasn't quite at the top of their agenda.
Was your pew comfortable?
Ahem... the Orthodox do not have pews. They stand for their services. My shoes stopped being comfortable after about an hour.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Outside, behind the crash barrier, the large crowd was quiet and thoughtful, buying candles in readiness for the service (see the picture above).
What were the exact opening words of the service?
'Blessed is our God, now and for ever and to the ages of ages.'
What books did the congregation use during the service?
We had a nicely printed service sheet in English, although a great deal of the service was sung in Old Church Slavonic (the equivalent of Latin in the old Catholic services).
What musical instruments were played?
None. The singing by the choir was unaccompanied and spine-tingling.
Did anything distract you?
At the back of the church were Russian men who seemed to be concluding business deals and telling jokes, quite oblivious to the service going on at the front.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
We had passionate and joyful Russian singing, the lighting of over 1000 candles when the priests burst through the main door to proclaim the resurrection, frequent shouts of 'Christ is risen He is risen indeed' by the entire congregation, and occasional raids by the St John's Ambulance team to rescue the fainting faithful