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  1044: Wesley's Chapel, City Road, London

Wesley's Chapel, London

Mystery Worshipper: Canary.
The church: Wesley's Chapel, 49 City road, London.
Denomination: Methodist.
The building: Built by John Wesley in 1778, the chapel is known as "the cathedral of world Methodism". Designed by George Dance the Younger, it is a delightful building, with bright and light woodwork and windows. The combination of stained glass, marble and woodwork make for a very welcoming atmosphere. The chapel and surrounding houses are well worth a visit and are open most days.
The church community: People of all nationalities were in the congregation and participating in the service or welcoming one on arrival. It was great to be present at the christening of a Gahnain child. And even more surprised that one of the ministers (from the UK) gave a prayer of welcome in the family's language.
The neighbourhood: The area has mainly offices and shops, with some housing blocks close by. Opposite the chapel is Bunhill Fields, the non-conformist burial ground, where William Blake, John Bunyan and other dissenters are buried.
The cast: The service was led by Rev. Dr Leslie Griffiths, who was recently elevated to the peerage. He was assisted by Rev. Jennifer Potter. Most of the congrgation and visitors seem to know him and her well.

What was the name of the service?
Morning service.

How full was the building?
Mostly full. I counted 260 at one stage, but more people joined later.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
When I arrived, there was an elderly man at the door and he gave a shy welcome. But once I was inside, a young lady immediatley came across and gave me a very warm welcome. I then went into the church proper and the lady who handed me my hymnbook was very friendly and welcoming, and just as I was sitting down, the minister came over and asked where I was from and hoped I would enjoy the service. All in all, after 60 years of churchgoing, this was the most friendly and honest welcome I have ever had.

Was your pew comfortable?
It was a pew, and was as comfortable as they can be.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
A hubub of friendly chit chat, with a welcome from the people in my pew and the one in front and behind. But before the service started, a bell was rung and peace and tranquility reigned.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning and welcome. Lovely to have you here on such a lovely spring morning. A special welcome to visitors, including those from the US, and those on holiday. A welcome to our congregation, especially those who have not yet arrived but I know are on their way."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Methodist Worship and Methodist Hymns and Psalms.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ. Not only good looking, but a delightful sound.

Did anything distract you?
The few late arrivals. Also, on two occasions the congregation launched into a spontaneous song. I knew the tune, but not the words, and felt a little at sea.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was friendly, relaxed and dignified. We had a mixture of hymns and prayers, together with a baptism.

Wesley's Chapel, London

Exactly how long was the sermon?
25 minutes exactly!

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – Many could learn from his delivery and the rich content of his sermon. The 25 minutes just flew by – and I'm easily bored, and dont take easily to being preached at.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It was entitled "Except by me". Our preacher started with the words of Jesus: "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me" (John 14:6). He asked whether this is really a limiting (as it appears to be) expression of Christianity, or whether it needs to be read in a wider context. He then showed that Jesus' saying is an answer to the disciple Thomas's question: "Since we don't know where we are going, how can we know the way?" Our preacher pointed out that the use of the term "the way" is embedded deeply within many other faiths. His final point was that John's Gospel, far from arguing the exclusiveness of Christ, reminds us of the Creator God.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The sermon and the baptism. I will never forget the minister taking the baby around the chapel for everyone to see.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The spontanous hymns whch I didn't know. But nobody seemed to bother – they all looked very happy.

If intercessory prayers were said, what issues were raised?
The prayers were very relevant: dealing with the new Pope, areas of crisis around the world, and tackling poverty.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was soon pointed in the direction of coffee, tea and orange juice. The minister did a grand job in handshaking, etc., those who were leaving. He was still at it when I left. He gave me a nice farewell, but didn't attempt to try to get me to join the fold. I was so impressed, that if I had been pressed, I might have succumbed – even though this is not my denomination.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Warm coffee in a plastic cup. The person serving didn't know what type the coffee was. The service was very friendly and there were cookies if you wanted them. It was all free.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – I'm not a Methodist and like a drink. Apart from that, it had a lot to offer.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Very glad indeed. It also made me feel a great affinity with people of other faiths and nationalities.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The sermon. I will be reading the sermons on their website.
 
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