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191: St Mary's, Bourne Street, London
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St Mary, Bourne Street, London
Mystery Worshipper: Corpus Cani.
The church: St Mary's, Bourne Street, London, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Typically Anglo-Catholic interior – lots of statues, glitzy bits and candles galore. Outside, it's difficult to say. From the front door, one sees about three square feet of the building, the rest being tucked away behind swanky mews houses.
The neighbourhood: One really needs a mortgage just to park here. This is almost the heart of Belgravia. Eton Square is just round the corner. This is a
The cast: Fr Bill Scott (Vicar) was the big cheese, but the parish lists half a dozen other clergy, including the Rev. Canon Lord Pilkington. The sanctuary was packed with doffing birettas, but name tags, alas, were not in evidence.
What was the name of the service?
High Mass of the Lord's Supper, followed by the Vigil for Maundy Thursday.

How full was the building?
Fairly well stuffed.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A warm but fleeting greeting as service sheets were handed out.

Was your pew comfortable?
Why do High Anglican parishes favour such uncomfortable wooden chairs on slippery tiled floors?

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
A devout and expectant hush.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
There was a processional hymn (unannounced) and a choral Introit.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A printed service sheet and a hymn book. The sheet was brief, but explained that the Order of the Mass was to be found in some mysterious purple booklet for those who needed it.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ, along with an excellent choir.

Did anything distract you?
The service included the washing of feet. Twelve members of the congregation sat barefoot on the sanctuary step while Fr Bill reminded us of our Lord's humility. The vision of twelve rather sheepish faces surmounting a somewhat substantial clerical posterior that wiggled, as a parlour maid scrubbing floors, was momentarily distracting.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The epitome of stiff-upper-lip and stiff-upper everything else as well. This is probably the most sombre ceremony of the church year and, especially during the procession of the sacrament to the Altar of Repose and the Stripping of the Altars, was very dignified and terribly moving.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
A short homily – sorry I forgot my watch again!

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6. This is a bit embarrassing. I remember that Fr Bill was very easy to listen to and I could have listened for much longer, but even before I had left the church, I simply could not remember a single word of what he said. This reflects badly on either his preaching or my concentration – judge for yourselves.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The service commemorates the Last Supper and ends with the blessed sacrament being laid on the Altar of Repose, having been carried in solemn procession beneath a canopy. It was all very funereal and spooky.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Everything (apart from the sermon, perhaps!).

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Those wretched chairs.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing. People were keeping the vigil over the sacrament or were leaving in silence. I left (prostration just isn't me).

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The church website mentions a pub popular with the congregation, but I couldn't find it and ended up at some dive in Victoria.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7. Distance would be a problem and I couldn't even afford a cardboard box in Belgravia.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Glad and a half. Nobody does Holy Week like the CofE. How can one fully appreciate the joy of the resurrection until one has felt the despair of the passion? Worship such as this puts the faith in perspective – suffering bears the prospect of ultimate joy.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The sermon? No... The preparation this whole service gave me for the Easter joys to come.
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