|757: Campion House, Osterley, London, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Aileen.
The church: Campion House, Osterley, London, England.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: An enormous, old white mansion in a wonderful college campus. Added to the first building is an old brick extension and added to that a modern brick extension. Everywhere there is art and nature combined in spirituality. The mass was in a separate hall in the new part of the building. We sat in a circle and a table was set out with blue and white pottery chalice and patten. There were long pieces of silky material in blue, navy and pink, coming down from the table, with blue pottery spheres, glass beads and stars scattered over them, symbolic of the universe. This was spread over the centre of our circle.
The church: It was founded as a Jesuit training college for men who had a vocation to the priesthood, but lacked the necessary education. Now lay people are taught here and it is a centre for Ignatian spirituality. The community would therefore consist of the residents and visitors.
The neighbourhood: Osterley House and Park, a National Trust property, is just up the road. The houses in the street nearby are 30s style with lush gardens. Heathrow Airport is a close neighbour, so the planes fly over regularly, almost within touching distance, flicking up their wing-tips and signalling, "Look at my beautiful undercarriage!" It's also near Southall, and the Indian community manifested in a skip in the road outside, labelled, "New Bharat."
The cast: Fr. Michael Barrowes, SJ.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
About 30 people. The correct number of chairs had been set out.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Was your pew comfortable?
Low, beigey chairs. OK. We neither stood nor knelt, so they were right for sitting through the mass.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very quiet and meditative, with some music playing. People almost tip-toeing in and sitting silently praying or looking at the coloured silk. Sister Annie accosted someone on the way in and asked them to read the lesson, so they were practising it silently.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"The Lord be with you..."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Mass Book: "Living with Christ." Hymns Old and New (red copy). A copy of the psalm on a sheet of paper with a scanned golden sunset.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
I'd seen a notice in the corridor about the Jesuit Refugee work at Campion House. This kept coming back into my mind as a joke query: Who were the refugees? Jesuits?
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Meditative. Quiet. Focused on God and what the songs were saying. A depth of life within, not thrown out carelessly.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 He spoke from his heart and mind together. It was quiet and lively at the same time. It was the opposite of the superficiality you sometimes get when preachers mug something up just for a sermon. He was wearing an open-necked shirt, sandals and an Indian man's shawl round his shoulders.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He took us through Mary's life and linked this to the Magnificat. Could Mary always be saying,"Magnificat"? What spasms of doubt did she have? He drew parallels with mothers today. When she lost Jesus in the temple, folks would say, "Parents these days don't look after their children properly!" Then he leaves home. Later on he's chased by a lynch mob, and later gets into trouble with the police. Could Mary still be saying, "Magnificat"? Right through his birth, life, death and resurrection? It was trying to get into the mind of Mary and both identify with her and respect her.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The whole service, the love and acceptance shown to us all, and the feeling of the presence of God throughout.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Very embarrassing... The wholemeal communion wafer was broken and passed round in the pottery bowl. I took my piece and immediately put it into my mouth. Then I noticed that everyone was sitting gazing at the piece in their hands. So I hurriedly fished it out so that I could share it simultaneously with the others. Now I know why we chalice servers are instructed to observe that communicants swallow the wafer and don't take it away with them for nefarious purposes. The bit of wafer I fished out was pristine!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Some people were there for an Ignatian meditation day and they settled down to boil kettles, chat and eat their packed lunches. Others went off silently to continue their retreat.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
"Bring your own grub" - and tea and coffee provided but you have to make your own.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 If I lived near enough, I'd be there often. On the other hand, it's a very changing group of people, there for retreats and meditation, so it might feel a bit isolated.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, yes, yes.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The beauty of the silk, pottery and stars in the centre of the room.