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249: St Mary the Virgin, Primrose Hill, London
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St Mary the Virgin, Primrose Hill, London
Mystery Worshipper: Marcellus.
The church: St Mary the Virgin, Primrose Hill, London NW3, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: A red brick French Gothic basilica-style church by M.P. Manning (1870-72). The chancel apse has carved reredos and a central statue of the Madonna and Child. The north and south aisles are separated from the main part of the nave by a broad-arched arcade. There is a pleasant selection of small stained glass lancet windows in both aisles and a small window by Comper to the south of the font.
The neighbourhood: Residents parking only. But I was assured that it was safe to park in resident's bays on Sunday.
The cast: The celebrant was Rev. Robert Atwell, and the preacher was Robert Duerr, an ordinand from Cambridge on placement for two weeks.
What was the name of the service?
Parish Eucharist, 10.30am.

How full was the building?
Reasonably full, every row seemed to have about eight to 10 people in it. The congregation numbered about 80-100, with a choir of nine.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes, the vicar with a handshake as I was introduced by a friend.

Was your pew comfortable?
It was a chair, and I give it 5 out of 10 for comfort.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Low key conversation, but fairly unobtrusive.

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

What books did the congregation use during the service?
"The New English Hymnal", "The Eucharist in Advent", and a parish leaflet.

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?
The amplification system was poor and intermittent. During the sermon the amplification was too loud, but this may not have been the fault of the preacher, who was unfamiliar with the sound system.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Definitely Anglo-Catholic, with minimal use of incense. Mass was celebrated with vicar, deacon and sub-deacon, MC, acolytes and thurifer. They were a well-disciplined team.

St Mary the Virgin, Primrose Hill, London

Exactly how long was the sermon?
12 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5. The preacher was an ordinand and originally from the USA. His style was somewhat overbearing for me, although his Devil's Advocate approach was quite intriguing at first. I did wonder when he was going to get to his message, though.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He started by complaining that he thought the message in the Gospel was not joyful enough for the season of Advent and that it portrays a Church that is behind the times. However, he did eventually get to the message that the Gospel alerts us about what to expect when Jesus comes again.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The singing of the choir.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The poor amplification system.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I was greeted by two church officials who wanted me to take photos for their new church guidebook.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Didn't have any. Too busy taking photos.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8. It is a very active parish with many activities, including daily masses and morning and evening prayer.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Being asked to take photos for them.

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