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939: All Saints, Peckham, London, England
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All Saints, Peckham, London, England
Mystery Worshipper: Sabbatarian.
The church: All Saints, Peckham, London, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: A typical, late 19th century suburban church building, with an equally typical church hall behind it. South London is full of this type of stone-fronted church building, and whether they are occupied by Anglicans, Baptists or Methodists, they all seem to have been built to the same pattern.
The church: Seven years ago, the congregation had dwindled to a handful of people and faced closure. Now it is a community of more than 300 people. The vicar, Rev. Frog Orr-Ewing, was the youngest incumbent in the Church of England on his appointment in 2003.
The neighbourhood: As well as being famous for the TV sitcom,
The cast: The service was led by the vicar, Rev. Frog Orr-Ewing; worship was led by music director Ed Dix; and the preacher was Grace Komolafe.
What was the name of the service?
Family service.

How full was the building?
This was a holiday Sunday, so the congregation was severely depleted. There were probably less than 150 present in a building that looked like it could easily take over 300.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
There was an extremely enthusiastic welcoming committee of delightful Afro-Carribean ladies on the door. During the peace (which lasted about 10 minutes) the people in front of me immediately engaged me in conversation.

Was your pew comfortable?
It was a standard Victorian pew, and about as comfortable as they tend to be.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I got there five minutes before the service was due to start and it was very quiet. A few people chatted with friends, while others seemed to be praying on their own, and there were a couple of squawking babies. Ten minutes after the service started, the building had filled up rather more.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning everybody."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
There were some New International Version Bibles available at the end of the pews, but the song words and confession were projected onto a screen.

What musical instruments were played?
Ed Dix led with a guitar, and was joined by an electric keyboard and saxophone.

Did anything distract you?
There was the normal fumble with the projector, trying to find the correct slide to put up, and during the confession the word "repent" had been typed as "reprent", which amused me for some reason.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
This was Anglican worship very much in the New Wine / Soul Survivor style. It was relaxed and informal, with a very little Anglican liturgy leavening the dough.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
33 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
"Living a life of prayer", using the story of the persistent widow as the text. Prayer is good... we need to pray more... God loves us to pray... let's pray!

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The book of Revelation paints a picture of the bride of Christ in her splendour as made up of all the peoples of the earth. So I found it heavenly to be in a congregation made up of people from many different backgrounds and ethnic groups.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
One member of the congregation twirled a tambourine in some of the songs. While appreciating her enthusiasm, I just can't quite believe that tambourines are part of God's blessing to the earth!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
There wasn't much opportunity to feel lost; people were extremely friendly.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Proper coffee in a proper mug, served in the church hall. There was also a barbeque immediately after the service, which I stayed to. The quality of refreshment was therefore definitely several notches above normal church fare.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – As a convinced non-conformist, I might struggle in an Anglican church, even one as non-Anglican as this. But I loved the atmosphere of the church and guess that it would be very easy to get quickly involved in the life of All Saints.

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 sense of a community on a mission together, building something rather beautiful.
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