Mystery Worshipper: Aileen
Church: Crown Court Church of Scotland
Location: Covent Garden, London
Date of visit: Sunday, 9 September 2012, 6:30pm
It dates from 1909, replacing a building that the kirk had occupied since 1719 for a rental of one peppercorn paid to the Duke of Bedford (His Lordship later raised the rent to £14 per year). It's a high building, built of red brick with Portland stone dressings and a slate roof. The interior is in free style, with two levels. There are windows at one side: one of St Paul and the others of groups of many people. The organ pipes are on the left, just behind the choir, but the console is on the right side. There is a special entrance for handicapped people.
They support Borderline, which seeks to help Scots homeless in London, and ScotsCare, which provides housing for the elderly and aid to students and low-income families. They seem to be friendly Scottish people, and they have Gaelic services for those who can understand and speak that, as well as ordinary Scottish services every week, Sunday and Thursday.
The kirk is very close to Covent Garden, next to the Fortune Theatre. Covent Garden is famous for its many little shops, as well as street musicians and dancers.
The Revd Philip Majcher, minister, was the preacher. He wore a business suit. The reader was Jennifer Laird. David Knight, Ph.D., presided at the organ.
What was the name of the service?Evening Service.
How full was the building?
There were about 25 people, and so we all had plenty of places to choose from.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were greeted with a smile and given a Church Hymnary. I was asked if I preferred one with music or big letters. We were also given a service sheet.
Was your pew comfortable?
We all had wooden pews, very comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People were chatting as they arrived. A man carried in the big Bible, and then the minister followed him. The organist played.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
I didn't write them down, but they were general words of welcome and encouragement to help others.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Holy Bible, New International Version, and the aforementioned Church Hymnary and service sheet.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ, no choir; the choir assists only at the morning service. The organ was a gift from the Scottish-born American 19th century industrial magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
Did anything distract you?
The windows as seen through diminishing light as it got dark outside.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The organ was played at just the right volume to support singing, and everyone sang well, standing. The evening service is advertised as being a more informal version of the morning service, but there was no hand-waving that I could see.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – The minister spoke well.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
His text was Matthew 6:1-18 (Jesus instructs the disciples to avoid ostentation in charity, prayer and fasting). There is much that can lead us to disaster, removing us from our relationship with God. Christians will live for God, and others will learn from that. God is just. He loves and forgives and saves. Be kind to others. Christians are expected to be better than others. People who see it will learn to praise God. We give glory to God, not to us. We must humble ourselves to God, and pray for those in the world who have needs. As the old hymn goes, "It's me, it's me O Lord, standing in the need of prayer."
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I was reminded to be very close to God, and to obey God. The songs, prayers and sermon were very inspiring. It really felt appropriate to say "Amen" after the blessing.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Knowing that there are those who do not listen to or obey God.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
As we left, we were given a handshake by the minister, and we were told that there were tea and coffee downstairs. People all chatted with us.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was lots of tea and coffee served to us, and biscuits too.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – Maybe if I lived in London somewhere not too far away.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I did feel glad that I was a Christian, feeling God's love for me.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
I'll remember to be kind and gentle to those who need help, and to pray for the world.