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268: St Matthew, Westminster, London
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St Matthew, Westminster, London
Mystery Worshipper: Bee.
The church: St Matthews, Great Peter Street, Westminster, London.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Traditional Victorian stone church. The exterior is mainly hidden by two modern developments flanking both sides of the church, so that only the entrance is visible (and that is partly hidden by a huge tree). All this does not prepare one for the simple beauty of the interior with its dazzling gold leaf reredos and high altar.
The neighbourhood: A stones-throw from Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. Westminster Cathedral is just a short stroll in the opposite direction.
The cast: Celebrant and preacher: The Rt. Rev. Robert Jones, who is former Bishop of Wyoming and Dean of St George's College, Jerusalem.
What was the name of the service?
Solemn Eucharist.

How full was the building?
About one-third.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
There was nobody at the door, which is unusual, apparently. I exchanged greetings with a couple on the way in who had worshipped here once or twice before. They pointed out that the service sheets had the previous Sunday's date on the front. This caused a little confusion.

Was your pew comfortable?
Wooden chairs. OK for me as I'm quite small. A large chap/ess may find them a little too flimsy.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very quiet. Although we disturbed the peace by inquiring about the service sheets.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
We stood when the bell rang – as instructed in the service booklet – and sang, "Now thank we all our God." Then the minister opened with, "Good morning, St Matthew's welcomes you."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A printed service booklet.

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?
The copious amount of incense wafted about. I was concerned that I would have to reach for my inhaler.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Traditional Anglo-Catholic smells and bells. Didn't find it stiff, but full of reverence and very peaceful.

St Matthew, Westminster, London

Exactly how long was the sermon?
About 20 minutes. I must invest in a watch.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – I had to really concentrate to hear this quietly spoken American preacher. Afterwards, the gent I'd met on the way in remarked, "Might as well have been in Russian for all I understood!"

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
I think the theme was, "How does God appear to us?" A whistlestop tour of tales from the Holy Land and the Americas showed us four appearances of God in nature, angels, burning bushes and the eucharist.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Singing the "Hail Mary's" at the end while gazing at a charming contemporary carving of Madonna and Child.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Does the other place exist in St Matthew's?

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Another visitor introduced himself but swiftly moved on when he realized I too was visiting. The church's new curate then stopped for a chat.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was a selection of refreshments: wine, fruit juice, tea or filter coffee. All served outside in the sunny courtyard.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – as long as the incense doesn't kill me off, I would be happy to attend here if I was looking for a traditional service. I will definitely visit again.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it certainly did.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The simple carving of Madonna and Child.

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