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2412: St Lukeís, Kentish Town, London
St Luke's, Kentish Town
Mystery Worshipper: Sparrow.
The church: St Lukeís, Kentish Town, London.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese of London.
The building: Constructed in 1867-69, the building is the first church designed by architect Basil Champneys, who also designed several colleges at Oxford and Cambridge. It is a red brick Victorian style building with stone dressings and a red tile roof. Inside, the nave arcade is lined with low cylindrical pillars, and exposed red brick walls frame stained glass windows on every side. The space is absolutely stunning, a striking juxtaposition of old and new, with the nicely refurbished Victorian architecture and modern, comfortable furniture. Several couches and coffee tables form a lounge area in the back.
The church: St Luke's was made redundant in 1991 and stood almost derelict until a £100,000 refurbishment was made possible by the Church Conservation Trust in 2011. The new St Lukeís began as a church plant of Holy Trinity Brompton, and its first service was held in early 2012. They sponsor small groups, which they call hubs, for discussion and socialising as well as for ministering to mums and tots, the artistic minded, and those in need.
The neighbourhood: St Lukeís is on a quiet residential street just steps from the heart of Kentish Town, a neighbourhood just north of Camden Town and dominated by middle-class urban professionals and young families.
The cast: The Revd Jon March, vicar, presided over the service. Jon Finch, youth and student pastor, gave the sermon.
The date & time: Sunday, 24 June 2012, 10.30am (or was it 11.00?).

What was the name of the service?
Sunday Gathering.

How full was the building?
Mostly full. There were about 70-80 people there – a mix of students, urban professionals, and young families.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I arrived at the advertised start time and was surprised to see that they were still setting up. Awkwardly taking a seat, I was approached by two girls from the worship team, who told me that the start time was really "10.30 for an eleven o'clock start." That gave me half an hour to snack on pre-service tea and doughnuts, and the two girls helped me circulate among the worshippers as they trickled in.

Was your pew comfortable?
The churchís original pew seating had been ripped out and replaced with reception-style armchairs, which were nicely cushioned.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Everyone was very sociable as they chatted over pre-service tea and doughnuts, and there was the occasional squeal from the toddlers running around.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Let us worship not the god of football but the living God." The reference was to the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) match between England and Italy scheduled for later that day.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. Song lyrics and Bible verses were displayed on the projector screen.

What musical instruments were played?
Two violins, guitar, bass, drums, and voice.

Did anything distract you?
It was freezing inside! I kept my jacket on throughout the entire service.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Standard plugged-in praise band fronted by a very good singer who impressively belted her way through a set of well-known contemporary worship songs. The singer also played guitar but seemingly only knows one strumming pattern, a very active one that drowned out the violins and nearly overwhelmed the rest of the band. The congregation seemed quite moved by the music, with lots of closed eyes and outstretched hands around me.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
36 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – Jon Finch had a casual style and was very entertaining, but his stories frequently went off on tangents that didnít contribute to the overall message. I would have liked to hear more concrete wisdom in the sermon instead of merely broad reassurances not to worry. At one point he tossed his iPad case into the congregation to make a point about letting go of material desires. Itís easy to see why heís the youth pastor, and he seems like he would be a fun lad to know.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The spiritual discipline of living with simplicity – in other words, how not to worry about money. To achieve this mindset, we must recognize that everything is a gift from God. We should trust that God will provide what we need, and we should share what we have been provided. Instead of worrying, we should focus on seeking Godís kingdom and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33-34).

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The church was particularly beautiful on this Sunday morning, with light streaming in from the stained glass windows on all sides.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The woman sitting beside me, who had been attending St Lukeís for several months, said that she had wanted to become more involved in the church but had been ignored every time she tried to sign up for the mailing list. I later found out that the e-mail system was broken down – symptomatic, perhaps, of the mundane challenges facing new churches that can lead to frustration within the congregation.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I had already been taken under several peopleís wings when I hung around looking lost before the service, so when the service was over, the conversation just continued.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Having tea and doughnuts before the service, instead of afterwards, gave me the chance to ease into the social structure of the congregation so that I didnít have to sit by myself feeling isolated.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 – Everything about the church, from the dťcor to the music, feels very slick and polished but a little bit fluffy. Also, the order of service felt somewhat disorganised, and because there were no programs or bulletins, I had no idea what was going to happen next. But perhaps these kinks will get worked out as the church becomes more established.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. I felt very welcomed, and I enjoyed worshipping with this congregation.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Jon Finch tossing his iPad case into the congregation during his sermon. I thought his iPad was actually in there!
 
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