|220: St Andrew's, Fulham Fields, London|
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Mystery Worshipper: Newman's Own.
The church: St Andrew's, Fulham Fields, London.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: No-nonsense stone, with an interior that contains monuments reminiscent of the Low Church days, and a high altar that speaks of the Catholic revival. The high altar was not used for the mass.
The neighbourhood: Pleasantly friendly, unpretentious neighbourhood, with a nice racial and ethnic mix and clear blend of immigrant and classic Britain.
The cast: Rev. David Paget.
What was the name of the service?
Mass special service for the millennium.
How full was the building?
Did anyone welcome you personally?
This was an extremely friendly parish, where one would get the impression of being amongst old friends.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes an average pew, neither cushioned nor cramped.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Considering this was New Year's Eve, and that most of those in attendance clearly knew each other well, there was a good deal of enthusiastic greeting, plus a last minute choir rehearsal of the psalm which members of the congregation had composed for the occasion. Festive and happy.
What books did the congregation use during the service?
A specially printed leaflet which contained a psalm written by the congregation, and the hymnal.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ. What the choir lacked in musical facility was made up for in obvious enthusiasm.
Did anything distract you?
An agnostic friend, who was seated beside me, was bemoaning that nothing fitted the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and kept sighing, "this is High Church".
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
A very familial, comfortable approach Anglo-Catholic, and quite reverent, but with a homely element. For example, the congregation gathered in a circle for communion, and the leavened host was distributed even to the tiniest members. It gave a warm feeling that all are part of the eucharistic banquet. Homely approaches such as this work very well when there is obvious reverence, which was certainly true.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 what is most impressive about the preacher is a very dynamic style. His enthusiasm would make one feel that the Christian path, however exhausting, would be a challenging and happy one to follow.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Christian life for a new century although Fr. David made it clear that the actual millennium does not begin until 2001.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I have a feeling that the eucharist, if celebrated in heaven, would be like this on alternate days (and posh on the others!). There was an overwhelming sense of fervour and community love.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
My agnostic friend grumbling about the liturgy which seemed a strange concern for someone who does not believe in God.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
This does not apply in my case, since friends were there. I cannot imagine any newcomer not being warmly greeted.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The parishioners had prepared a marvellous dinner which one could not have had in a restaurant for less than £50. Of course, this was a special occasion but visitors to the church on "any old Sunday" would find a very attractive parish breakfast with an assortment of foods.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 anyone who entered this church would leave loneliness and sadness at the door. I have never been anywhere that is so welcoming. The only reason I do not say 10 is that my rather highbrow tastes in music and liturgy would keep me elsewhere on half the Sundays.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes and very, very glad to be Anglo-Catholic.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The parishioners' enthusiasm. A parish where people, many elderly, contribute to provide such food to share with others in the congregation, and where they collaborate on psalms and the like, is extraordinary.