|890: All Saints, Haggerston, London, England|
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Mystery Worshipper: The Church Mouse.
The church: All Saints, Livermere Rd, Haggerston, London E8.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: A beautiful small Victorian church in desperate need of repair. The wonderful organ is at risk from potential rain damage and the exquisite stone-carved pillars fail to detract from the large patches of peeling paint on the walls.
The church: The church is blessed with a number of young families. It was a delight to see young people serving and taking on the role of acolyte. The majority of the congregation are black.
The neighbourhood: Haggerston is in the inner city London borough of Hackney.
The cast: The vicar, Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkinson.
What was the name of the service?
Bible Sunday, Holy Communion.
How full was the building?
The building felt quite full with 50-60 people.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was greeted with the word "welcome" and a smile, as a hymn book with a service book and sheet neatly tucked inside was placed into my hand.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew seemed to be sloping, causing slight concern that we might slide off at some point during the service. While this fear didn't materialise, the experience was not a comfortable one.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
On entering the church, the atmosphere was quiet and reverential, with four candles lit on the two altars. As the start of the service went into delay, this prayerful atmosphere was invaded by joyful chatter.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning and welcome, everyone." These words were followed by an apology and explanation for the late start, which was a consequence of a lively youth service being led by the vicar at the other church in the parish earlier in the morning.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Celebrating Everyone hymnal and the Common Worship service book.
What musical instruments were played?
Spotting a drum kit and a guitar I had high hopes for exciting musical accompaniment. While these instruments remained untouched, the organist played both the organ and the piano well.
Did anything distract you?
The main distraction was the amusing antics of three young children sitting in the pew in front, and the not so tolerable reactions to their behaviour by the adults close by. The pews squeaked and a firework exploded outside during the sermon.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The service was quite traditional, with bells ringing during the celebration of the eucharist. Howevere, there were modern hymns and worship songs, including Graham Kendrick's "Shine, Jesus Shine".
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 the vicar's style is warm and approachable, while gracefully keep an element of authority. The sermon was direct, challenging and contextual.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Craving independence is healthy as long as we remember our roots, and the importance of depending upon God. God is revealed through the scriptures as loving and giving, and we need to assess our dependance on God. Also it is important to be inter-dependant with one another, working together in community and faith.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The singing of "I, the Lord of Sea and Sky", accompanied by the piano during the distribution of the holy communion, was divine.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Members of the congregation talking during the readings from the Bible impaired the hearing of the scriptures.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Perhaps the congregation were shy, because although no one came to talk to me, which felt awkward, people smiled and I did feel welcome.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The refreshing cup of tea and biscuit enabled those serving to engage me in conversation. Orange juice and coffee were also available.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 If I lived in the area I would consider attending regularly. The congregation came across as a humble, struggling community who through faith are making a difference.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
During the notices, after the announcement of birthdays, those attending for the first time were asked to stand and introduce themselves! In an act of public welcome we were each handed a card. Mine depicted snowdrops and spirtually encouraging words.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkinson who lead worship with grace, preached well, and was approachable and encouraging.