homepage
   
about the ship sign up for our newsletter support the ship
community the mystery worshipper gadgets for god caption competition foolishness features ship stuff
mystery worshipper home reports from the uk and ireland reports from the usa reports from australia and new zealand reports from canada reports from elsewhere famous and infamous reports comments and corrections
 
the mystery worshipper
Comment on this report, or find other reports.
Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you'd like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.
Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.
 
2420: St Mary Magdalene, Paddington, London
St Mary Magdalene, Paddington
Photo: JillontheA272-1665 and used under license
Mystery Worshipper: Barbara Pym.
The church: St Mary Magdalene, Paddington, London.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese of London.
The building: Red brick Victorian, designed by the 19th century Victorian Gothic Revival architect George Edmund Street and widely regarded as his masterpiece in London. The long, tall narrow design was dictated by the layout of the streets in the area, which have long since been replaced by a modern housing estate. The bell tower, topped by a narrow spire, is perhaps the most striking feature of the church's exterior. Inside, there is a south aisle but only a narrow arcade where one might expect to find a north aisle. The eye is beguiled by lavish decorations, including mosaics, paintings, memorial brasses, beautiful stained glass, and statues of saints under canopies.
The church: Founded in 1865 as a church plant from All Saints Margaret Street, they are now part of the united benefice of St Mary Magdalene and St Peter. They have long prided themselves on their music program. French composer Maurice Duruflé conducted the British premier of his Missa Cum Jubilo here in 1960, and on All Souls' Day 1963 he conducted his Requiem at the church, thus beginning an annual tradition that continues to this day. St Mary Mags is frequently used in location shots for cinema, television, and music videos.
The neighbourhood: The church sits on the less smart side of the canal from Little Venice and serves the Warwick and Brindley housing estates.
The cast: The Revd Henry Everett was celebrant and preacher. He was assisted by the Revd Frank Ward (I think - no one was named) and the Revd Regi Raj-Singh.
The date & time: Feast of St Mary Magdalene, 22 July 2012, 9.30am.

What was the name of the service?
Parish Mass.

How full was the building?
Two minutes before the service started, there were only 20 people present, and I started to wonder if I was in the right church. Even later on, it was never more than one-third full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A sideswoman handed me a service sheet and said hello.

Was your pew comfortable?
It was a modern, stackable, wooden seat, that when interlocked made a pew.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The people who were there were talking to each other, and there was bustling around with people dropping off food at a trestle table, as there was a party after the mass.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A printed service sheet.

What musical instruments were played?
Pipe organ.

Did anything distract you?
The service sheet made it clear that incense would be burned, and I have to say that the thurible was one of the smokiest I have ever seen. Many of the women fanned themselves with their service sheets, which somehow reminded me of being in church in Spain.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Relaxed Anglo-Catholic with plenty of lace cottas on show, but with an altar party that included women and girls.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
15 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – Father Everett finished by saying that there was plenty more that we can say about Mary Magdalene, but that was for another day. I would rather have heard that plenty more than what had preceded it.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown and his ilk have got the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene wrong. But even if it were true that they had a relationship (and there is no evidence that they did), this would make no difference to the nature of Jesus, who was both fully human and fully divine.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The Gloria was that known as the Lourdes Gloria, and the cantor sang it wonderfully.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The ladies fanning themselves with their services sheets were very much a distraction.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The vicar exchanged a few words with me.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was was a huge buffet spread, but as no one invited me to join them, I slipped away.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – If I lived nearby, I would be happy to worship here. It was touching that it was an Anglo-Catholic church but clearly a parish church serving the local community with none of the pantomime one associates with many of London's other Anglo-Catholic churches.

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The billowing thurible and the fanning service sheets.
 
please give to the floating fund
camino pilgrimage
The Mystery Pilgrim
One of our most seasoned reporters makes the Camino pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Read here.
mystery worshipper sunday
London churches
Read reports from 70 London churches, visited by a small army of Mystery Worshippers on one single Sunday. Read here.
   
 
 
follow ship of fools on twitter
buy your ship of fools postcards
sip of fools mugs from your favourite nautical website
 
      More Mystery Worshipper reports          
      ship of fools