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119: All Saints, Margaret Street, London
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All Saints, Margaret Street
Mystery Worshipper: Wesley Cuthbert.
The church: All Saints, Margaret Street, London.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Outside: undistinguished apart from the 227-foot spire. Inside: one of the most beautiful churches I know, with everything painted or decorated that can be. Loads of colour and gold leaf.
The neighbourhood: The church is in the heart of London's West End, very close to Oxford Street.
The cast: Celebrant and preacher: Prebendary John Gaskell (retired visiting priest). The vicar is Fr Alan Moses – I think he was acting as deacon.
What was the name of the service?
High Mass (with Thanksgiving for Stewardship Campaign).

How full was the building?
Nearly full, with a fairly wide age range.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
The woman handing out hymnbooks whispered "good morning" to me.

Was your pew comfortable?
Cane-seated wooden chairs. Very uncomfortable, creaked whenever anyone moved, and wobbled violently when used as an aid to standing up.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet and reverential.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The New English Hymnal; a printed service book containing Rite B from the Alternative Service Book (plus additions such as the Angelus); an additional service sheet with the day's readings, psalm, collect, etc.

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?
The woman sitting behind me kept flapping all her service sheets around during the quietest moments of the service.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Traditional Anglo-Catholic smells and bells, with every server possible.

All Saints, Margaret Street

Exactly how long was the sermon?
18 minutes.

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

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
There were two themes to the sermon, which were not well-connected, so it felt more like two separate sermons. The first was about the offertory in the eucharist, when the bread and wine are offered up to God ready to be changed to the body and blood of Christ. This is symbolic of our offering up of ourselves to God ready to be changed. The second theme was that a church needs to be active in the week – Sunday worship is its heart, but it is given life by its weekday work.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The music. The organ is wonderful, the organist was worthy of it, and the choir were on the whole very good.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The creaking of the chairs.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The woman putting hymnbooks away and a random priest (not one who had taken part in the service) both asked where I was from and pointed me in the direction of the coffee. This is an improvement – on my previous visit I was totally ignored.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Tea and coffee were being served in plastic cups in the courtyard, together with sausage rolls, but I didn't have any as I had no money left!

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – it is probably a friendly and vibrant church once you are "in", but it might be difficult to get involved if they are always as slow to talk to strangers.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. It combined the full Anglo-Catholic experience with great reverence and dignity, which is not always the case.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The sermon, especially the preacher's comment that if the church were closed, it would make a good Senate Hall for the University of Middlesex, or a museum for the display of Victorian engineering works.

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