|668: All Saints, Margaret Street, London|
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Mystery Worshipper: kingsfold.
The church: All Saints, Margaret Street, London, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: The church is Victorian gothic, designed by William Butterfield. On a dark, drear Friday evening, it looked very forbidding from the outside, but this image was dispelled as soon as I walked inside. The interior of the church appears to be decorated almost exclusively with tiles, floor to ceiling, including a tiled mural (painted on the tiles, not mosaic) all the way down the north wall, and others on the rear wall and on the part of the tower wall. The lighting was fairly subdued, giving you the feeling that you were stepping into somewhere warm and comforting, and this was accentuated by the lingering smell of incense.
The church: This being a patronal festival with what one might perhaps call a "high profile speaker", the church was extremely full. It was therefore difficult to make much of an assessment of the church community!
The neighbourhood: Margaret Street runs parallel to Oxford Street, and at right angles to Regent Street, so is in a very busy and bustling shopping area. Despite that, the area immediately around the church seem so to be quite quiet, and it's easy to forget that you're so close to one of the main London shopping streets.
The cast: The celebrant and preacher was Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Wales and Archbishop-Designate of Canterbury. There were also at least five other clergy in procession, not to mention servers galore.
What was the name of the service?
High Mass for All Saints day (see previous report of this same service).
How full was the building?
The church was bulging at the seams think commuter trains into London. Every seat appeared to be taken, more seats had been put out and filled, people were standing at the back and round the door, and there was an overflow into the parish room with a video link.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
This being a ticket-only affair, I lurked outside the main gate, where I was welcomed by gentleman who asked me if I had a ticket. As my reply was no, he then asked me if I'd like one. Once in the church, I was directed to one of the few empty chairs left some 35-40mins before the start.
Was your pew comfortable?
The seating was those wooden chairs with woven seats which are linked together across the backs by a wooden rail. It wasn't enormously comfortable, and I have to say the chairs are far too close together for comfort. It turns out that part of the All Saints festival appeal is going towards buying some new chairs for the church.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Given that the church was full so long before the service started, it was remarkably quiet in there. There were inevitably noises of folks moving around, but I would never have imagined that so many people could have sat in such peace for so long. There was a palpable, anticipatory stillness.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"For all the saints, who from their labours rest..." This was the first hymn and was unannounced.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
A booklet produced specially for the occasion which had the service order and the hymns in it.
What musical instruments were played?
The organ, which had been newly restored (and very good it sounded too!).
Did anything distract you?
I spent a few minutes as Archbishop Rowan was introduced at the beginning of the sermon pondering the likeness between him and one of the figures on the tiled mural behind him (see below), and wondering if I would be able to get a photo of it! I was also somewhat diverted by the servers in during the last hymn, who were sitting in a sort of south transept area. They appeared to be trying to decide who should actually be in the outgoing procession (not all of them were), and what the order of precedence should be, which meant they kept rearranging themselves, and each other. I wasn't quite sure if it was a case of "after you", "me first," or "it's my turn"!