|711: Wesley's Chapel, London|
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Mystery Worshipper: John and Charles.
The church: This church prides itself on its diversity. According to their website: "There are currently over 300 registered members drawn from approximately 25 different ethnic and national backgrounds." This Chapel is often considered to be the cathedral of Methodism worldwide.
The neighbourhood: It is on the borders of the City of London. When one goes out into the graveyard at the back (consecrated by the bones of Mr Wesley) one is surrounded by office blocks, which reflect the graves in their windows.
The cast: The celebrant was the Rev. Ian White, President of the Methodist Conference and the preacher was Professor Peter Howdle, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference. Also present were the Rev. Leslie Griffiths, superintendent of Wesley's Chapel, the Rev. Harvey Richardson, Chairman of the London South-East District, the Rev. Katherine Rumens, rector of the local Anglican church, and the Rev. Joy Leitch.
What was the name of the service?
The Conversion of John and Charles Wesley.
How full was the building?
It was not as full as we had expected. It was about three-quarters full downstairs and there were a few people in the gallery.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were welcomed by two of the clergy and various stewards. Their welcome was very friendly and genuine.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pews seemed perfectly adequate to us.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quietly chatty with an organ playing in the background. One of the stewards seemed to be having great trouble in getting the Epistle side candle lit, and eventually gave up and replaced it with another, which was unfortunately rather shorter than its brother on the gospel side. A bell went, we stood up and we were off.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Do sit down." This was after the procession had arrived, reverenced and sat down. Leslie Griffiths then welcomed us.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Hymns and Psalms, the Methodist Worship Book and a service sheet.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
We were somewhat distracted by the preacher's rather fine doctoral gown, and the crucifer's rainbow stole.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was high Methodist; unashamedly liturgical with a processional cross, bell and other accoutrements. The altar was bedecked with more silver than either of us had ever seen before. At the end of the service there was a procession to Susanna Wesley's tomb, for prayers and the laying of a wreath.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
3 – Certainly not John Wesley. We both thought the delivery lacked a great deal of enthusiasm and he didn't seem to say much.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Good question! We learnt that humans are 99.9 per cent the same genetically. He attempted to draw some conclusions from this, but didn't seem to succeed.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
For Charles, the eucharistic prayer was powerfully expressive. John thought everything combined served to remind him of why he was a Methodist.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Sitting for the offertory hymn and eucharistic prayer – John particularly hates this. Charles hated all of the communion hymns, which appeared to have been chosen randomly.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We were greeted almost straight away by Leslie Griffiths. Knowing that John would be moving churches soon, he expressed the hope that he would be moving to Wesley's Chapel.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
None seemed to be available. There appears to be a lunch provided on Sundays though.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 Sadly John won't be in striking distance, but if he were he would give it very serious consideration.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The prayers at Susanna Wesley's tomb, which contained the phrase: "... as she stood by her son in his passion"... dramatic pause... "for the gospel". Charles was nearly consumed with laughter.