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|1933: St Columba's,
Pont Street, Knightsbridge, London.
Presbytery of England.
The original building dating from 1884 was bombed and burned
down in 1941. The present building was begun in 1950 and the
finished church was dedicated in 1955. The striking contemporary
design is the work of architect Sir Edward Maufe, who also designed
Guildford Cathedral. At one corner of the building is a tall
tower topped by a gold cross and a Scottish St Andrews flag.
The basement is large, used for meetings and meals. The first
floor has a prayer place and library, where paintings of previous
ministers are on the walls. The worship space is on the second
floor, with a gallery for choir seating. It is a bright space
thanks to tall round-topped windows with clear glass. On the
day of my visit, there were daffodils on the window ledges.
Under the windows are carved stone painted symbols of all the
Scottish counties. There are wooden pews on either side of a
wide aisle. The communion table is large. Above it is a high
round window with a Holy Spirit dove, and in front of it is
a gold lamb holding a flag. The stone pulpit is to our left,
with a turquoise starred cover above and an Easter cross in
front. The lights above and the pulpit cover and the cushions
are all turquoise.
It is Scottish Presbyterian, with many Scots attending from
around London. They support ScotsCare,
the charity created by Scots for Scots whose aim is to "improve
lives for those who need our help." They also support several
other charities listed on their website, including the Chelsea
Laundry, which provides laundry services for the homeless. They
also have a nurture ministry and even Scottish country dancing!
The church is on Pont Street, a fashionable street in Knightsbridge
and Belgravia. Nearby are many quite old, large, handsome houses
that survived the World War II blitz; these are now subdivided
into flats. On the main road are many large expensive shops
and smaller creative shops, and nearby are both the stately
old Harrods department store and Conran Shop, known for its
contemporary designer furniture. There is also an army barracks
not far away. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are lovely, big
parks within walking distance.
The Revd Camille L. Cook, minister, and Alistair Cumming, elder
The date & time:
Easter Sunday, 4 April 2010, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
Easter Day Morning Service Holy Communion.
How full was the building?
Very full, at least 300 people, and not overcrowded.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. The elder at the entry smiled and welcomed me. He told
me where the service was and showed me the visitors' book. Another
elder smiled and wished me a happy Easter. As I arrived upstairs
I was welcomed again, wished a happy Easter, and given a hymn
book. As I sat down, the people next to me in the pew smiled
and welcomed me.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes, it was very comfortable, with a long turquoise cushion
and white linen across the top, as is done traditionally for
Church of Scotland communion. There is also a wood-bottom little
bench to place our feet we never kneel.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
It was quiet but chatty. It felt very happy. The choir walked
in ceremonially, dressed in dark blue, before going up to the
gallery. The Bible was carried in. The minister and her assistant,
vested in black robes and their academic colours, walked down
to the communion table area and took seats. The elders, all
wearing traditional black formal clothes, also took seats.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Let us worship God!"
What books did the congregation use during the
Church Hymnary and a service leaflet. The Holy
Bible, New International Version, was in the pews.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ and trumpet.
Did anything distract you?
We weren't expecting the trumpet, and it was very loud. As the
musicians struck up "Jesus Christ is risen today", another woman
and myself reflexively turned round and looked up to the gallery.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Everyone sang properly, some in harmony, with the choir. We
had the hymnal, but everyone knew the hymns ("Jesus Christ is
risen today" and "Thine be the glory"). The people beside me
were excellent singers. We also traditionally had a paraphrase
and Psalm 24, which is sung for communion, with men and women
singing different parts. We all seemed to know that off by heart
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 The minister spoke very clearly and focused not just
on the resurrection, but on our emotions and what we may be
able to act on for ourselves and others.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
In Lent we had been repenting and reflecting on our own life
and faith. Lent is not so heavy now. "He has risen." Lent is
low, Easter is high. The women who discovered Jesus' empty tomb
ran to tell the others the good news. Their lives had been transformed,
their souls untrapped, their hearts untroubled. The powers of
death could not keep Jesus. This is good news for us: that he
has risen and has changed everything. The last worst thing we
have experienced is not the final last; we will all have pain,
anguish, sorrow and stress. Jesus will not erase the past, but
will redeem and transform it. We can rejoice today. Bring out
trumpets and chocolates! Celebrate this, our best day! Start
sharing the good news with people in the streets who do not
know Jesus and his good news. We celebrate that our apologies
have been accepted, our debts have been replaced by Jesus. The
former things have passed away. Our faith is strong at last.
Jesus loves us. Have a great day and great days.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The communion service was well done. We all sat in our pews,
with our white linen covers, as the 20 or so elders carried
the bread and wine to the communion table. The minister said,
"From holy God, holy Jesus, for holy people of God. Come, let
us keep the feast." The elders then carried the bread on silver
plates to the person at the end of each pew, who broke off a
bit for self and then passed it along to the others. The wine
was in silver chalices, and again one was passed along the pew.
We each drank a little and passed it on to our neighbour. We
sat quietly and prayed and thanked God silently.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
The one time many of us jumped was just before the service started
a high electric noise suddenly shrieked just for a second.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
The people next to me spoke to me. Then, as we handed in the
books and the communion card, the persons collecting and tidying
them again wished me a happy Easter and said that I was welcome,
and would I like to have lunch downstairs. Or would I like coffee
and tea? They told me where to go and that I could look around
How would you describe the after-service
The fair trade tea and coffee were served in pretty blue cups
and saucers. The person serving told me about the old pictures
on the walls. Some other people chatted to me and all again
wished me happy Easter.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 If I lived near here, I might definitely attend regularly
to experience what it feels like to belong. It was beautiful
and friendly, despite being traditional in the way the elders
dressed. It seems a unique building.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes. I felt it was a real celebration of Easter. I felt reminded
of the love of Jesus and the transformation we all experience.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Singing Psalm 24 with all who sang by heart. Well done!
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