|788: Holy Trinity, Hounslow, London, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: Mighty Mouse.
The church: Holy Trinity with St Pauls, Hounslow, London, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Mid 20th-century design church, nice big signs welcoming people and announcing the times of the services. You walk in through a coffee shop, and then turn right to get into the main sanctuary – which has a high, vaulted ceiling reminiscent of a cathedral, and about half of the room taken up by the platform. On this is the altar, which is a large white stone table affair, on top of which are two fabulous candlesticks, very sci-fi B-movie style. Around the altar is a circular rail, which the choir stand behind, and taking up about a third of the front wall is an amazing sculpture representing God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. There's also a nativity scene to one side, and a balcony behind, where the sound system and the organ live.
The neighbourhood: The church is right in the middle of the shopping centre of Hounslow. Literally in the centre of the High Street, it being Sunday, the area was fairly quiet when we went in at 9.50, but busy when we left.
The cast: David Maher (the curate) led the service, with vicar Oliver Ross supplying friendly and enthusiastic greetings (and coffee directions) on the door.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
The church was fairly full, but it didn't seem crowded, since the front half of the room is occupied by the platform.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were greeted by several people before we even found a seat. A few people smiled at us, and lots of people said hello when we were invited as a group to introduce ourselves to our neighbours at the start of the service. In fact people spotted we were visitors and the man in front of us even knew where we were from. Word travelled quickly!
Was your pew comfortable?
We had chairs, squishy seated ones, but they appeared to all be joined underneath, and had space to put a Bible and service sheets. They were very comfy, actually. Kneelers were also hanging from the chairs in front of us.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Pre-service was humming, fairly quiet buzz, friendly, and it got noisier as the church filled up. Most people were there by the time the service started at 10.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Good morning."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The New International Version of the Bible, and a service sheet.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ, grand piano and guitar. The organ started off for a hymm or so, then the piano and guitar took over.
Did anything distract you?
Trying to work out what pattern was used on the vestments; the runner on the altar, trying to decide if it was patchwork or applique; and the cross stiches on the walls telling the story of the church.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship style was fairly mixed. We started off with a hymm and then went to choruses, most of which I knew; which, not coming from an Anglican background, surprised me. People seemed free to raise their hands. Overall, it was quieter than I'm used to, but apparently the evening service is far more youth orientated and more happy clappy, with a band.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 He was very friendly and down to earth. He used well timed, gentle humour, he sometimes tangented a little, but overall was good.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Prayer. Why we should pray, who we should pray for, and what happens when we do. Based on 1 Timothy chapter 2.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The friendly welcome. And the mix of traditional and more modern worship really made me feel everyone was welcome, and that what was important was the worship itself, not the way you worship.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The PA system generated a great whum of feedback during the first hymm, so we had to start again, and the tie mikes created a lot of fizzing and popping for the first half of the service. The sermon was embarrasing for me, as after five minutes I got a coughing fit for about 15 minutes, but a neighbouring regular offered me a polo, and then got me a glass of water, which was very kind.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We didn't get a chance to practise our "looking lost" faces, as several people came up and said hello the moment the service ended. Then as we were all filing out for tea and coffee we were greeted by the curate, who it turns out used to live about five miles from where we live now. We felt very welcomed, and people seemd to genuinely care who we were, and wished a safe journey home from across the room as we were leaving.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Mr Mighty Mouse was despatched to find tea and coffee while I went to find the ladies – which revealed a whole labyrinth of rooms and corridors undeneath the church. When I came back, I was presented with a nice, if slightly strong, cup of tea in a proper cup, and a biscuit. Mr Mighty Mouse had a coffee which he pronounced perfectly acceptable. He got a chocolate biscuit. Squash was served free, with tea and coffee being offered in both cups and mugs (20p and 30p respectively, with a biscuit).
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 I really liked this church. This was the first Anglican service I have enjoyed (from my limited experience). The ritual aspect was beautiful, as was the freedom that meant the curate could stop and put in a particular word as he felt led by the Holy Spirit. Hounslow is a little far for us to travel every Sunday (nearly 300 miles!), but we'll definitely go back when we visit our friends again.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. I felt people had a desire to be honest in their relationship with God. I didn't feel people were going through the motions.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The curate wore trainers and jeans under his robes, which made me smile.