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149: General Synod of the Church of England, London
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General Synod
Mystery Worshipper: Scepticus.
The church: General Synod of the Church of England, London.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Church House, in Westminster. The worship space is like a wizards' temple: Synod meets in the Council Chamber, which is a round, domed, galleried room with a mysterious gold inscription round the top and a mazelike seating pattern.
The neighbourhood: Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, the Millennium Wheel – just the usual, really.
The cast: We weren't told the name of the guy leading the service, but I guess you could say the ordinary minister is the Archbishop of Canterbury.
What was the name of the service?
It isn't called anything and it isn't listed on the agenda. You just turn up at the beginning of the day and find yourself doing liturgy.

How full was the building?
Pretty full, with a few empty seats.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
The steward smiled at me and called me "angel". Then he told me I was sitting in the wrong section.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yep. Padded cinema-type seat. Wish we had these in my church.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quite a buzz. the networking would have done credit to a fishermen's convention. Which I guess it was, in a way.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning." Then a mumbled sentence about a farming theme which I didn't catch.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
"General Synod February Group of Sessions Westminster 2000 Worship." Catchy, huh?

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?
People walking around during the service. Being in the round, you notice.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Stiff upper lip, but with vigour. We stuck to the book but did it loudly. The psalm, for example:

You will show me the path of life,
in your presence is the fullness of joy,
And in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

(Silence is kept while we think of pleasures...)

Exactly how long was the sermon?
Not a sermon, exactly, but the service was followed immediately by the debate, "Final Approval of the Nicene Creed" (and only 16 centuries after the event!). The opening speech was 15 minutes, followed by 1 hour and 14 minutes of debate.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
Scholarship: 9. Relevance: -5. Total: 4.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
How should we translate the preposition "ek" in the filioque clause of the Niceno-Constantinople Creed?

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Singing the Iona hymn, "Praise to the Lord for the joys of the earth," which reads like the writers have actually done some living. Oh, and being called "angel".

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Listening to 1 hour and 29 minutes of debate on "ek".

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I didn't hang around. I made a desperate dash for the coffee. But people did talk to me in the queue.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Styrofoam cup, but hot and strong. A welcome contrast to the rest of the service.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – because it only meets three times a year.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
The service did. The debate made me wonder why I bother.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Getting The Guardian cryptic crossword nearly finished while it was going on.

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