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326: Saint Andrew's, Fulham, London
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Saint Andrew's, Fulham, London
Mystery Worshipper: Newman's Own.
The church: Saint Andrew's, Fulham, London, whose priest, Father David Paget, was recently murdered.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: I submitted a description of the building in my previous Mystery Worship report, but shall add that, for the funeral, there was an impressive, moving collection of floral arrangements, and many tributes (some in the form of letters to Father David) on a bulletin board in the rear. A small memorial showed a casual picture of Father David with his well-loved dog, and that somehow was the most poignant tribute of all.
The church: This parish impressed me since I first attended, seven years ago. Though my aesthetic and liturgical tastes are generally more highbrow, the community spirit in this parish is of a degree I have never seen equalled. Father David was exceptionally open and available to others, and there is a "family spirit" here that is encouraging and warm.
The cast: The Bishop of Kensington, the Rt. Rev. Michael Colclough.
What was the name of the service?
Requiem Mass for Father David Paget.

How full was the building?
I would say that every seat was occupied, with other people standing outside or in the parish hall (which is to the rear of the church proper).

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Everyone welcomed one another, more in the manner of family than fellow worshippers.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, if unusually snug.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Respectful, warm and supportive. The press coverage of the vicar's murder having been fairly extensive and sensational, I'd been concerned that there would be masses of curiosity seekers (and the Metropolitan Police were on hand, outdoors, just in case), but indoors and out there was a very reverent, peaceful setting.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
Sorry – I was part of the procession, from the rear, and did not hear the first words, especially because a quite by-the-book participant was scolding me for having my cincture improperly adjusted.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Special leaflet.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ. The choir was in the best form in which I've ever seen them. Following the communion, West End actress Philippa Healey brilliantly performed Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Pie Jesu," which Father David had said he'd love to have for his funeral (a month before, when no one could have imagined such would take place in less than 30 years).

Did anything distract you?
One elderly lady with a bright bandanna on her head was a distraction on two levels. She joined in the prayers, in quite a projecting voice, throughout... always a few seconds behind the rest of the congregation. Then, at communion, she approached David's coffin, stared quizzically, and began a series of curtseys which resembled deep knee bends.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
This naturally was an unusually sad occasion, where the usual grief of bereavement is compounded by horror at a brutal murder, and there was a very poignant quality. Upper lips were not particularly stiff. However, all was very reverent, with a homely flavour as well. Dignified, and perhaps a step short of elegant.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
About 14 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Bishops tend to be a reserved lot, and it was moving and delightful that the celebrant was rather warm and pleasant, delivering much of the sermon as if he were addressing David in recounting memories.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
"Who do you say that I am?" was the text. The bishop mentioned various aspects of David's personality and ministry, with a good deal of reference to his humour, enjoyment of solitude and long walks with his beloved dog.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The familial, supportive spirit there made Christ seem very near.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Knowing that the very caring and availability which had been David's gift to his flock may have led to his horrid murder.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
There was no hanging around today. Those of us who served processed, two abreast behind the crucifer, to the end of the street, faced its centre, and made our bows as the hearse passed between us.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
David's wake followed an hour or so later, and there were lovely sandwiches, sweets, coffee, tea and wine. Since few people favour cream sherry (as I do when there is no gin on hand), I had a bit of the sustenance I needed... and I was relaxed enough to be able to swallow an excellent Stilton sandwich.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – Assuming that the community spirit here does not decrease in the future, the only reason I do not say "10" is because my highbrow tastes would keep me elsewhere some of the time.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, indeed. Even the saddest elements reminded me of Christianity's beauty. After all, total, loving giving of one's self that can end in a brutal death has quite a history behind it... and where there is such love, can the resurrection be far away?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Conversing with the others later (some talk being mournful, much hilarious), I was deeply impressed with how many people David had shown Christ's love, and whose lives David had touched, in a very short life.
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