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1859: St Alban's, the Anglican Chaplaincy, Copenhagen, Denmark
St Alban's, the Anglican Chaplaincy, Copenhagen, Denmark
Mystery Worshipper: Salskov.
The church: St Alban's, the Anglican Chaplaincy, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese in Europe.
The building: A smallish spired church in the 19th century Danish tradition, russet tiled to head height within, and redbrick above. Some attractive stained glass windows of the period. I was seated opposite two which depicted St Elizabeth of Hungary, as far as I could tell from the black letter designation and lap full of roses. I think the other was St Margaret.
The church: This is a parish church catering to English speaking ex-pats and visitors. Danes accompany their English born partners and spouses. It maintains the features and activities of an English parish church.
The neighbourhood: This is a green corner of Copenhagen, looking rather like a winter wonderland in meltdown, as the thaw was beginning. The buildings in the area are shops and businesses below, and residential flats on the upper stories.
The cast: The Revd Jonathan Lloyd, chaplain, was the celebrant and preacher. He was assisted by a deacon, unnamed, and one lady.
The date & time: 25 December 2009, 10.30am.

What was the name of the service?
Holy Eucharist of Christmas Day.

How full was the building?
Full. I estimate well over 100 people. It seemed that friends and family were having to cosy up five to a pew, but those who didn't know each other stopped at three.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was given a hymn book, service booklet and leaflet by a sideswoman at the entrance. When I commented that I needed to find a radiator, she told me where to sit so as to be next to one. Another member of the congregation said, rather enviously, that I'd bagged the only functioning radiator in the church!

Was your pew comfortable?
Standard wooden pews with felt strips to cushion their hardness. The kneelers were separate, but there wasn't really enough room to kneel comfortably. The pews themselves were reasonably comfortable for the length of the service, an hour and a quarter.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There were a few people praying, but there was a lot of hushed greeting and chatting going on as well. I arrived at 10.05 to an almost empty church, but it filled up. Some older ladies behind me were comparing their torches, battery lit magnifying glasses, and Alice bands (headbands). The conversations were conducted in rather penetrating whispers.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. A very warm welcome to St Alban's Church, and a very happy Christmas to you and your families."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Special service booklet for Christmas day, a leaflet with the hymn numbers and information for the various Christmas services, and Hymns Ancient and Modern, New Standard.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ. There was also a choir of women's voices.

Did anything distract you?
A real snow queen of a blonde with an amazing light fur hat. The amount of fur in evidence – this is Scandinavia, and fur is the most efficient warm outerwear in winter, even now. People still buy sealskin coats. There were some rather noisy children a couple of pews in front of me who seemed to be having a dispute over something. It calmed down eventually.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Clergy and choir processed in to the first hymn. All vested and robed, with some seasonal earrings among the choristers. The style was traditional but friendly, and Father Lloyd made a point of including the children, bringing them to the tabletop rustic crib at the front of the church to put the little wooden baby Jesus in the manger.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
5 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Father Lloyd has obviously built up a good relationship with his congregation. There was a good deal of gentle humour in his sermon which elicited chuckles from the adults. His delivery was clear.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He began with a children's story about a bear frightened of the dark, who only lost his fear when he embraced the dark outside his lit home, and could see the moon and stars. This idea was developed to show how the light of Christ banishes fear. He moved on to talk of Christ's humility in coming as a poor baby, contrasting it with the pomp of the visiting kings. Having asked the children the risky question of what they had received that day, he finished with the statement that the best Christmas gift is Christ himself. The message was joy, and to fear not.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I knew five of the six carols, and they were all in comfortable keys! Father Lloyd won my heart by forgetting that there was a verse after "Sing, choirs of angels" in the opening hymn, and began his welcome as choir and congregation sailed into "Yea, Lord we great thee." My pew neighbour and I exchanged grins.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The penetrating whispers before the service and, sad to say, the squabbling children.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
No refreshments, but we were greeted with "Happy Christmas," a biscuit and a handshake as we left the church. My pew neighbour was very friendly.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
None.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – A cosy, familiar way for a stranger to feel at home in a strange land.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Very.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The smiles two of us exchanged when we overrode the priest's welcome with verse 7 of "O come all ye faithful." It was such a human moment, and reinforced the friendliness of the church.
 
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