|649: Muswell Hill Methodist, London|
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Mystery Worshipper: Benny Diction.
The church: Muswell Hill Methodist, London.
The building: A striking brick building is attached to an older house which has been divided up for the purposes of use for church meetings and prayer groups. The church itself was built in the mid 1980s. Unusually for a Methodist church there were some lovely stained glass windows. We were told that these came from the previous Muswell Hill Methodist Church that was demolished in the 1980s when the new church was built.
The church: The church stands on what is known as the North Bank estate. Next door is Chester House. Until recently this housed the headquarters of the Methodist Association of Youth Clubs and a hostel for students. Chester House is now entirely a hostel. Also on the estate is a Methodist Homes for the Aged sheltered housing complex.
The neighbourhood: On one side the church is surrounded by several acres of woods and fields and on the other by the sprawl of the North London suburbs.
The cast: Rev. David Mullins.
What was the name of the service?
Morning worship and infant baptism.
How full was the building?
It was pretty full. Around 150 people.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were greeted on the door as we went in.
Was your pew comfortable?
There weren't pews but comfortable padded chairs.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
A low buzz of conversation but generally fairly reverential.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning and a very warm welcome to all especially those involved with the christening."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Hymns & Psalms and "Let's Praise" (which appeared to be the edited highlights of Mission Praise). We also used The Methodist Worship Book. Pew Bibles (NIV) were also readily available if you had a spare hand.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ and piano.
Did anything distract you?
The front of the church is dominated by a large brick wall. Apart from a large cross the wall is unadorned and I kept thinking how like a climbing wall at a sports centre it was.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Typically Methodist five hymn sandwich. Solid prayers and a good sermon.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 Rev. Mullins did not hide behind a lectern or stand in the pulpit. Instead he stood just behind the communion rail and talked with some brief notes concealed in his Bible. At one point he did forget his next point but quickly recovered.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was based on Matthew 22:34-46, and asked the question, "Which is the most important commandment in the Bible?" With over 600 to chose from, Jesus selected the importance of loving God and then loving our neighbours. What does it mean to love God? Is attendance at worship enough? Is it enough to love God by following rules and restrictions? Jesus emphasised that loving God and loving one's neighbour are both important. "They are like hinges on a door. Get both of these wrong and the doors to our hearts will not open."
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The christening. The family appeared to attend the church. The baby's great grandmother was present and took an active part in the service. It really felt as if the baby was being welcomed into a large extended family.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The Sunday we were worshipping saw a very strong gale sweep across the south of England. The howling wind outside the church conjured up images of damnation.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
One lady behind us spoke to us at length. We then followed the crowds towards the coffee.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Served in mugs (so much easier than trying to balance a cup and saucer!) the coffee was a bit too mud like for my taste.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 It was good to see a number of Christians of our age (late 30s). In our usual church, having a pulse is a distinct advantage. We would really like to have more contact with Christians of our age and experience and Muswell Hill would provide this if we lived nearer.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?