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164: St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, England
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St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle
Mystery Worshipper: Miss Ember Day and Old Hatchment.
The church: The Chapel of the College of St George, Lower Ward, Windsor Castle, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Outstanding late 15th-century chapel, initiated by Edward IV in 1475 and completed by Henry VIII, to replace an earlier spiritual home of the Knights of the Garter. The chapel is a "Royal Peculiar", which means it falls under the direct authority of the Queen, rather than any of the normal Church of England structures.
The neighbourhood: Police presence, armed soldiers, infra-red cameras... just the usual paraphernalia of a royal palace.
The cast: The Very Rev. David Conner, Dean.
What was the name of the service?
Sung Evensong.

How full was the building?
Not very.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Was your pew comfortable?
The stalls of the Knights of the Garter are very comfortable!

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet and reverential.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
(Sung) "O Lord, open thou our lips."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
New English Hymnal, St George's Chapel Sunday Service Book (ASB, BCP, and Psalms), and a laminated Order of Service. The Order for Sung Eucharist was also available in a booklet.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ. The choir was The Bridgeman Singers, rather than the chapel choir, which was on half-term holiday.

Did anything distract you?
Banners, crests, helms, swords and stall plates of the Knights of the Garter. Hideous Victorian reredos. Unnecessary amplification of the clergy.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Slightly floppy stiff upper lip. For example, they rely on amplification in a space much smaller than King's College Cambridge, where they don't see the need for any. It spoils the sound of the words in the building.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
There was no sermon.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The chapel itself, and the "achievements of arms" of the Knights of the Garter (the crests, banners, and other paraphernalia). Where many parish churches have one or two achievements perched in a lofty corner, they take centre stage in the Garter Chapel. And look fantastic.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The Bridgeman Singers, who did not dress for the occasion – which was inappropriate, given the setting.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The Dean was monopolised by another member of the congregation, so we missed his handshake.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Refreshments were not available. But then a tea urn and Huntley & Palmer's Family Choice of biscuit would have lowered the tone.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3. We'd be unlikely to make the Garter Chapel our regular place of worship if we lived in Windsor, because we do not have (and are very unlikely ever to have) the relationship with the Chapel which its college of Garter Knights enjoy!

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The majesty of the chapel.
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