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341: St Mark's, Noel Park, London
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St Mark's, Noel Park, London
Mystery Worshipper: Marcellus.
The church: St Mark's, Lymington Avenue, Noel Park, London N22.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: A Victorian church built in 1889 in the Noel Park Estate. The church is of red brick and is a squat, solid building. Internally the east end has an impressive mosaic of saints. There are five bays and small single stained glass lancets in the north and south walls.
The church: A small congregation from a fairly densely populated area.
The neighbourhood: Wide streets with mainly terraced housing. The church is next to Wood Green Shopping City. Parking is impossible on Sunday due to a residents-only parking scheme. There are plenty of parking spaces, but parking is not allowed.
The cast: Fr. Raymonde Robinson, celebrant and preacher. Very much a one man band.
What was the name of the service?
Solemn Mass.

How full was the building?
By chance, today was also a baptism service. The baptism party numbered about 21 adults and six or seven children, while the regular congregation included about 28 people. Except for the front pews occupied by the baptism party, the church was sadly nearly empty.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Due to parking worries I went into the church well before the service started and spoke to the vicar, who explained the parking situation. It also transpired that he attanded my own church only yesterday for our patronal festival. This was a total coincidence and I had not been aware that he was the incumbent at this church.

Was your pew comfortable?
As comfortable as wooden benches ever are. The pews included adequately good kneelers.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I was greeted by one or two regulars.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The English Hymnal, plus the booklets, "The Eucharist" and "Baptism of Children", and a copy of "Anima Chrsti" for the end of the service.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ. I believe the organist also sang the responses. There was no choir.

Did anything distract you?
An elderly man going down the aisle for communion was helped by another parishioner and was discusing in a very loud voice his plans for the rest of the day.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Slightly exuberant anglo-papalism. The priest made slightly exaggerated hand movements and over-projected his voice for effect. Everyone was joining in with the singing, etc., but it felt as if they were all going their own way.

St Mark's, Noel Park, London

Exactly how long was the sermon?
7 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
As this was also a baptism, the sermon centred around this theme and the vicar discussed the appropriatenes of the collect for the day: "God our Father, your light of truth guides us to the way of Christ. May all who follow him reject what is contrary to the gospel." He followed this thought by saying that the truth of the gospel of Christ would guide the little girl who was baptized though her life. He said that the prayer could have been written for the child. It was very appropriate for the occasion.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The peace was a very joyful affair and I felt very welcome in the congregation's midst.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Poor singing spoils a service for me, and the congregational singing was most awful!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was greeted by a member of the congregation who invited me to coffee.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The coffee was average and by the time I went to the hall there were only about six people still there. I chatted about my own church as one or two people had been at my church on the day before.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – It is anglo-papalist, which is my own preference. However, it is not quite as inviting as my regular church.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, I would go back there again if there was a special service... except I have just remembered the parking problems.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The various coincidences of meeting the priest and some of the congregation who knew and had attended my own regular church. This was totally unexpected.

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