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||1369: All Saints, Rome, Italy
Mystery Worshipper: Apothecary.
The church: All Saints, Rome, Italy.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese of Europe.
The building: The guide book says it's Victorian neo-gothic designed
by George Edmund Street, who also designed London's Royal Courts of Justice.
It is a brick church with a white marble spire that was a later addition.
Inside it is beautiful, quite simple (in comparison to most of the other
churches we had peeked in as tourists!) and somehow very English.
The church: The congregation dates from 1816, when a small group
of English worshippers met for morning prayer in a private room "within
sight of the very Vatican." Today the church serves the Anglican community
in Rome with the morning office (and usually the eucharist) every weekday
as well as two eucharistic celebrations each Sunday morning, plus choral
evensong on the first Sunday of the month. They also put on a full programme
of musical events. Worship is usually conducted in English, although this
is not the mother tongue of all members of the regular congregation, who
come from all around the world. All Saints maintains close ties with St
Paul's Within the Walls, the American Episcopal congregation in Rome, as
well as with other English-speaking churches and the Roman Catholic Church.
They have formed a special bond with their Roman Catholic namesake, Ogni
Santi, on the Via Appia.
The neighbourhood: The church is a few minutes walk away from the
Spanish Steps, in central Rome, a long-standing gathering place for foreign
visitors and an area awash in a mixture of internationally known designers'
stores and small family businesses.
The cast: The Rev. Jonathan T. Boardman, chaplain of All Saints,
preached. The Rev. Sara MacVane, assistant curate, presided.
The date & time: Sunday, 19 November 2006, 10.30am.
What was the name of the service?
Eucharist (Common Worship).
How full was the building?
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I arrived too early to be greeted. A short while later, while I was studying
a photo meditation display (which I enjoyed), I noticed that the chaplain
had stationed himself at the door to greet people. A few early arrivers
had helped themselves to books and orders of service. As I approached the
table to do the same, a young man said, "I think it's about time we started
to dish these out," and passed me the necessary books. I took that to be
a friendly, informal greeting.
Was your pew comfortable?
Closely-spaced wooden chairs with woven rush seats, familiar to all who
frequent Italian restaurants. My chair was made all the more comfortable
by using the embroidered kneeler as a cushion. The lack of a shelf to rest
books on was inconvenient and nearly resulted in my being outed when I dropped
the Mystery Worshipper card!
How would you describe the pre-service
It was for the most part quiet, with a few people chattering in hushed tones.
A few minutes before the service began, the celebrant entered and said,
"The Lord be with you." She then welcomed everyone and asked for a few minutes
silence during the organ prelude. The congregation were silent after that,
but she left her microphone switched on and so we could hear everthing that
was being said in the vestry!
What were the exact opening words of the
"We meet together in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of
the Holy Ghost."
What books did the congregation use during the
The notice sheet contained the Bible readings and one of the hymns. The
New English Hymnal was used for the remaining hymns, and an in-house
service booklet listed the Common Worship liturgy.
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
This is my first ever Mystery Worship report, and I really don't think that
anything that anyone else did could possibly compete with my own brain in
the distraction stakes. I did notice a mobile phone ring very briefly, and
a distressed child got returned to mum from crèche during the sermon.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
It was a fairly traditional Common Worship service. Earlier in
the week I had attended a wonderful Palestrina mass in St Peter's, and even
though the music was heavenly, I barely understood a word of it. And so
I was delighted to find something that I could join in with, and yet different
from my normal experience at home.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 It was very intense, with no rambling! An excellent sermon, very
difficult to sum up, but I'll try.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The end of the world! The word "end" can mean either the finish
or the meaning of something (as it does in Italian, albeit with different
genders). The end of our lives on earth, and indeed the end of the world
itself, will be God's judgment. The throne of judgement is Christ's throne
of mercy – the cross. It is there that we will learn of the meaning of
the world and our lives – that is to say, the love of God. We are never
beyond the love of God, even if we consider ourselves unlovable or self-sufficient
and not needing God.
Which part of the service was like being in
There is always something very special about worshipping with fellow Christians
from across the globe. Visitors introduced themselves from all over the
United Kingdom, several of the United States, Switzerland and Norway. I
got the sense of a church that encourages people to participate. The epistle
was read by a young person, and creative people had put together a photo
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The communion hymn was played at an erratic speed and was therefore difficult
to sing. The hymn was "One more step along the world I go," and I can forgive
the organist if this was his way of getting that hymn banned forever! I
found the chanted psalm difficult to hear – I thought this was my
unfamiliarity with chanted psalms, but a friend, more learned in matters
liturgical, told me that it was actually unclear and not my fault.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
At the end of the service just before the dismissal, visitors were invited
to stand up and say where they were from. Normally this would cause me to
run away screaming, but the large number of people that this community welcomes
from around the world makes this a practical way for visitors to introduce
themselves. After that was done, we were instructed to join the throng for
coffee. I did so and was greeted by various people. Being stereotypically
English people abroad, conversations revolved around where were we from,
where had we visited...and the weather.
How would you describe the after-service
This is Italy, where coffee means espresso. In the absence of an espresso
machine, several teaspoons of instant coffee were put into a cup with some
hot water, making a very palatable alternative. This being an English church,
tea was, of course, also available, as were mineral water, wine and soft
drinks. Generous portions of pizza and cake were also served.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 A welcoming church community in a country where most of the shops
are not full of Christmas in late November – when does the next plane leave?
Seriously, if it had been close to home, and I was looking for a new church,
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes, very glad to be part of the worldwide church.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
From the sermon: We are never beyond the love of God, even if we consider
ourselves unlovable or self-sufficient and not needing God.
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