Originally called Horbury Chapel, the building was erected in 1849 as a Congregational church and was acquired by the Elim Pentecostal Church in 1935. From the outside it is very much the traditional Romanesque church, the great door flanked by twin towers with pointed roofs. The interior, with its light painted walls, dark wood ribbing in the ceiling, and beautiful clear glass windows, retains the classic touch, but features a stage with lectern, all the latest audio-visual equipment, and modern chairs instead of pews. Using the basement and the gallery means that many more people can attend. It now also has access for people in wheelchairs and those with children in buggies.
Kensington Temple is aiming to get the whole of London full of Christianity. There are many congregations, all members of Kensington Temple, who have their services in the language that they have grown up in, sometimes meeting at Kensington Temple but mainly attending at other churches where they rent space. There are many different ethnic groups represented in the membership; many of these worship in their own language as well as in tongues. London City Church in particular, as well as Kensington Temple in general, are involved in dozens of activities, most of which centre around Bible study and evangelistic preaching in a festival setting.
Notting Hill is an area of West London much favoured by the upper middle classes in Victorian times. Many of the buildings were damaged by bombs during World War II but have been rebuilt. Today's residents live in a mixture of new as well as old-fashioned homes. Notting Hill has a traditional West Indian carnival two days every year at August bank holiday. Portobello Road is where the 1999 film Notting Hill, the highest grossing British film yet released, was primarily shot. There can be found one of the most ancient and long market places, where food, clothes and antiques are sold. There are many shops and restaurants, some expensive and some cheap, and Notting Hill Gate goes down to Holland Park, complete with rabbits and peacocks and open air operas. There is a Sunday farmers' market. Two hundred years ago, there were many poor farmers breeding pigs in muddy areas close by. This was one of the reasons why several different denominational churches opened in the area, both to worship and evangelise.
Leading this service were the Elim minister and healing evangelist Gypsy William Lee (wearing black trousers and trainers and a white red and black T-shirt); and well as Kristian Lythe, the staff member at London City Church in charge of missions and evangelism.
What was the name of the service?Baptism Revival Service
How full was the building?
Quite full in the main area, about 70 people.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Two people inside the door smiled and gave me a copy of Kensington Temple's monthly magazine called Revival Times, this issue featuring an article entitled "The Art of Spiritual". Others who were attending also smiled.
Was your pew comfortable?
Blue chairs, comfortable to sit on. But most of the time we were standing during songs of worship, waving our arms and clapping.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People arrived in a steady stream. Everyone was smiling at each other, chatting, listening to the musicians playing, etc.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
The service started with a medley of worship songs.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
No books at all. Everything was posted up for all to see.
What musical instruments were played?
Electric pianos (Roland and Yamaha), guitars, drums.
Did anything distract you?
The baptismal pool, partially covered by blue plastic, was in the centre of the area where the musicians sang and played. There were electric heaters in the pool to keep the water warm. I wondered just how hot it would get! Just before the baptisms took place, the heaters were shut off and removed from the pool.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was very loud, good, modern music. The leaders sang clearly so that we could follow even we didn't know the songs. There was clapping and raising hands and moving around. A woman named Fatima, apparently a regular at the Revival Times meetings, also sang a solo and was asked to say how she became a Christian, about her repentance, giving her life to Christ and being baptised. The baptisms were by immersion. Each candidate was assisted by two people to help them get in and out of the pool. The candidates were asked to state their belief and commitment to God, were prayed for, were blessed on their head just after they descended into the baptistery, and then were baptised in the name of God our Father, his Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Everyone wore trousers and T-shirts and were wrapped up after they came up again.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
There were two sermons, the first 10 minutes, the second 25 minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Both preachers moved around as they spoke. Gypsy William spoke very loudly, almost shouting. He concluded his sermon (as gentle music played) with a prayer that all those present who were ill might be healed.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Kristian Lythe preached first, from Genesis 28 (Jacob dreams of a stairway to heaven). Make sure we encounter the living God. God wants to bless people through our lives. Then Gypsy William preached from Acts 22 (Paul tells the crowd of his conversion, but they demand his arrest). We become Christians not by feelings but by faith. All religion is man-made, but salvation is made by Christ. We don't become saved just by studying the Bible – the devil knows the Bible inside out and even quoted it at Jesus. Repent for your sins and be baptised for the remission and forgiveness of sin. Repent means to do a U-turn, the greatest transformation you will experience. The greatest evidence that Jesus Christ is alive is your experience of him in your heart.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Wonderful singing. And I enjoyed being able to dance in worshipping and experiencing joy in God. Seeing about 12 people being baptised was also wonderful.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
There was a sudden loud electrical noise that luckily lasted only a minute, but my ears hurt! And later there were a few insects – flies – buzzing around!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The people sitting near me all spoke to me. One of them invited me to the local caf for more enjoyment.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 – I did feel good during this service, but I'm aware that it's not the regular Sunday worship service and I would have to experiment coming more often to experience its regular services. I might do that if I lived very close.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. It's a long time since I've heard about how to become a Christian, and because it was all positive and honest about each of us being transformed, I felt really happy and visualised seeing the shining light of God.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Seeing the baptisms and hearing the sermons and music, and noticing a little child getting very interested in watching the baptisms.