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99: Regent Square, Bloomsbury, London
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Regent Square, Bloomsbury, London
Mystery Worshipper: LDW.
The church: Regent Square, Bloomsbury, London.
Denomination: United Reformed Church.
The building: A functional and dignified post-war reconstruction of this historic, bomb-damaged church.
The neighbourhood: The church is next door to the central offices of the United Reformed Church, on the edge of the Bloomsbury and King's Cross areas of London. Most of the nearby housing is blocks of flats owned by Camden Council.
The cast: The church is currently vacant. Worship this week was led by a visiting minister, Rev Dr Norman Cliff.
What was the name of the service?
Public Worship.

How full was the building?
There were 14 people in a building that would easily seat 150, but it didn't appear as empty as it might have done.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, I was warmly welcomed by someone on the door who gave me a hymnbook and invited me to stay for coffee afterwards. He showed me where the loos were before I asked, which was very thoughtful.

Was your pew comfortable?
As pews go, yes.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People talking in a gossipy way, but quietly and not intrusively.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"I welcome you all to Regent Square..."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
"Rejoice and Sing" – the United Reformed Church hymnal.

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?
The microphones were great for audibilty, but a bit too sensitive, loudly picking up the rustling of papers and other noises.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Fairly formal worship in the Reformed tradition. The Congregation stood for the entry and exit of the Bible, which was followed by a robed minister who led the service from the communion table and preached the sermon from the pulpit.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
15 and a half minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
4 – the preacher was dressed in a shirt and tie with a blue gown, which was a little curious.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It's better not to make a vow than to make one and then break it (Ecclesiastes 5:4). The sermon simply consisted of a list of different kinds of vows, how they are broken and why they shouldn't be.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Worshipping with such an historic congregation in the Reformed tradition, with at least one eminent person in the congregation (the General Secretary of the Free Churches Council).

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The preacher assumed (wrongly) that everyone shared his evangelical and conservative views (I didn't), some of which, relating to infant baptism and conversion, were in danger of being offensive. There was also a prayer of confession, but no assurance of pardon.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
At the end of the postlude, the Church Secretary came over and invited me for coffee.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Each drink was individually made in a real china cup. People spoke to me and didn't leave me on my own.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – I would be happy to make this my regular church, but I would not like Rev Cliff as my regular minister.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
It would have done so more if there had been no guilt laid on me by the sermon and prayers.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Leaving hurriedly when I realised that the collection (including my Mystery Worship calling card) was about to be counted in the corner of the room!
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