It is a Victorian Gothic Revival church, completed in 1882, with a landmark-tall steeple, wide nave, and many original fittings. The high ceiling is dark wood embossed with gold, and it's nicely lit and bright for a Gothic church. There is a fine organ and a piano. The wood floor has been recently sanded clean around the edges of the nave (but not between the pews) and there are red carpets up the aisle and in the the choir stalls in front of the altar.
The congregation includes people from all over the world, visitors and residents, who are welcomed to make this church their spiritual home. The pattern of worship is traditional, but the welcome and activities are modern. They recently (last year) introduced a crêche and Sunday school, which is the greatest sign of life in a congregation now thriving, which just a few years ago was ageing and dwindling. In addition to worship, the church is occasionally used for concerts and musical performances, and they now boast a talented director of music and an excellent choir (now recruiting, according to the website).
Bayswater is a busy area full of shops, restaurants, homes and hotels sandwiched between the West End of London (Oxford Street shopping) and the desirable neighbourhood of Notting Hill. The church lies just north of Kensington Gardens, the west end of Hyde Park where Kensington Palace is located. The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St Sophia is on the next corner, and a large and beautiful Jewish synagogue sits directly opposite the church. The diversity of restaurants reflects the fact that this has been a multicultural part of London for generations: Greek, Arab, Chinese, South American and more.
What was the name of the service?Holy Communion from Common Worship
How full was the building?
It was about half full, with about 50 people, including a few children.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was welcomed with a smile as I came in and was handed a Bible and hymn book, with a choice of larger print or music editions.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was a very comfortable pew, with blue kneelers and a slot in the pew in front in which to fit the Bible and hymn books.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People chatted as they came early for the service, and the organ and choir were rehearsing. A few people also arrived a little late.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"We meet in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
The New English Hymnal; New English Bible (New Testament); and The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Edition. There was a board displaying the hymn numbers in order. We were also given an order of service booklet with all the congregational parts clearly set out.
What musical instruments were played?
The original 1913 organ, notable for being recently restored but otherwise unaltered, was played well.
Did anything distract you?
I loved looking up to the high roof above us, and there was a lovely raised pulpit, although it was not used on this occasion, and perhaps isn't often mounted.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was excellent and there were two people leading us as we sang. The choir also had some pieces of their own, which were excellent.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The Revd Tim Mullins spoke about the day's Bible readings and I found it very helpful. He encouraged us to read the Bible and get it into our hearts. We prayed for Nigeria and for the cares of the world, for children, marriages and food.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
In Matthew's gospel there are lessons on the nature of God. Jesus engaged people with his teaching. He tried to explain the kingdom of God. The people who were with Jesus felt uncomfortable, and still today fear sometimes causes us to close our minds. But some receive the word with joy. Christian faith is necessary in the world. Although it is relatively safe here in England and we do not expect attacks, some parts of the world are very dangerous. Churches in Nigeria, for example, are full but still need ministers. Jesus cautioned us to beware the distractions of life. Jesus is reaching out to touch and love us and we should take his words seriously. Jesus is speaking to our own lives. The Church is growing in London, and even in Iran there are new Christians. Let us pray for the faith of the Church throughout the world.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I felt happy that there were people throughout the world believing in and worshipping God. I will keep praying for them. I was very pleased that we had communion, as it always brings me close to God and Jesus.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I felt sad and angry that the kirk I used to belong to, which was similar this one, has fallen into disrepair and is not being used any more.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
People were smiling and friendly. They chatted to me and showed me where the tea and coffee were and invited me to enjoy myself. Everyone was in a good mood as it was a lovely blue sky day today!
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
We had tea and coffee and and some bits to eat also, and it was all excellent.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – I would really enjoy belonging to this church, but it is a long way from where I live. All of it was really good: the singing and the sermon, the choir and the organist. And the people were nice too.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I felt glad to be a Christian and to pray for people all over the world.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
I will remember the beauty of the church and also to pray for other people.