The Kitchen, Lambeth Palace, London


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: The Kitchen
Location: Lambeth Palace, London
Date of visit: Sunday, 12 April 2020, 9:00am

The building

The Archbishop of Canterbury's kitchen at Lambeth Palace, with a very nice wooden cupboard in the background, and wooden candlesticks and cross on a white covered table for the altar.

The church

This was the ‘official’ Church of England service that was publicised in the media.

The neighborhood

This is the Archbishop's official residence. Contrary to popular belief, he doesn't normally live in Canterbury.

The cast

The Archbishop of Canterbury conducted most of the service and preached. He was joined virtually by the Bishop of Dover, by a young man from one of the churches in the Diocese of Canterbury, by the Archbishop’s wife, and by others, each of whom spoke briefly or gave readings.

What was the name of the service?

Easter Sunday Service.

How full was the building?

Only the Archbishop and his wife were actually physically present. There were more than 1,900 viewers of the YouTube stream by the end of the service. The service was also broadcast on BBC Radio 4, so it was widely available for listening in the UK.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

No. The broadcast started with the organ fanfare introduction to the first hymn.

Was your pew comfortable?

Dining chair was OK, although there was a bit of a fight about seating today.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Busy! I spent the immediate pre-service time finding the right link after laying down the law to the children about eating breakfast before they ate their first chocolate!

What were the exact opening words of the service?

It opened with the hymn ‘Jesus Christ is Risen Today.’ The first spoken words were: ‘The light and peace of Christ be with you all.’

What books did the congregation use during the service?

The order of service was available on the Church of England website page for the broadcast. The Bible translation from which the readings were taken was not specified.

What musical instruments were played?

Organ for the congregational hymns. Some a cappella singing, a couple of pieces with piano accompaniment, and a jazz group for the Gloria. (All of the music had been pre-recorded, some especially for this service.)

Did anything distract you?

The kitchen backdrop was a bit visually distracting, as I found myself admiring the decorative crockery quite a bit. Otherwise the usual distraction of having children for one's fellow congregation!

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

I'd say middle of the road to low Anglican. The music was very good, but the Archbishop was vested informally in a cassock-alb and stole, and it was a very straightforward Common Worship eucharist without a hint of ‘smells and bells.’ The music was all done by displaying the words on a white background, so the different sources weren't obvious.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

8 minutes

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

7 — The Archbishop’s delivery was straightforward, although as the text was on a stand on the table, there was a lot of looking down, rather than looking straight at the camera.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

Ambition, imagination and hope nourish us in dark times – although cynicism, fear and despair can detract from these. The two women and the disciples who went to Jesus’ tomb had no hope – who would? But in a short time they were joyfully proclaiming that Christ had risen! Even to this day the Resurrection is the basis of Christian hope. The community that grew in ancient times is still with us today. Current events have given us a shock, and have created a mood of anxiety and uncertainty throughout the whole world. When the women went to the tomb and found it empty, they found the light of the risen Christ, which gave the disciples a new vision of the Kingdom of God to live by. We can still hope and dream about the future of our societies. Is that hope, and are those dreams, unreasonable? Wickedness, war, greed, persecution – they will still be with us even when the pandemic has gone. But the Resurrection lights a fire that calls us to sure hope, sure peace. After the heroism shown by people battling the pandemic, we must not go back to how everything was before. Rather, we must create a new, more beautiful ‘normal,’ in partnership with God and each other. In the Resurrection of Jesus we dare to have faith.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

Singing the joyful Easter hymns after the marathon that is Lent, when you can't do so in church. The ‘congregational’ music was based around the ‘standard’ choices.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

That at the moment every service that splices in music has to have a disclaimer at the start that it was all recorded before current events, and that it is specially observing the rules about social distancing.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

I just mooched off to pour myself another coffee, as the children had disappeared.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

A second cup of our current coffee went down a treat.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

6 — Not my usual fare, or the kind of thing that would be done any other year, but I might check out a few more of the Church of England website offerings.

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

Yes. It was good to have a eucharist with lots of singing for Easter Day, even if it wasn't in our own church.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

The hymns: Easter hymns seem to be more persevering earworms than most!

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