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355: St Mary & St Nicholas, Leatherhead, Surrey, England
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St Mary & St Nicholas, Leatherhead, Surrey
Mystery Worshipper: Iconoclast.
The church: The Parish Church of St Mary & St Nicholas, Leatherhead, Surrey, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: The building dates back to the 11th century, with additions down the years. Some attractive stained glass and two very interesting pictures on the east wall. Lots of info is available on the church website.
The church: Seeability (formerly the Royal School for the Blind), has a strong presence in Leatherhead and several residents attend the church.
The neighbourhood: Junction 9 of the M25 is located close to the town; business parks seem to be burgeoning. But although workers are bussed in to spend their hard-earned cash in the town centre at lunch time, the centre of Leatherhead continues to lack the vibrancy and community feel of some other local towns and villages.
The cast: The celebrant was the vicar, Rev. David Eaton; the preacher was Carol Coslett, an ordinand; Carol Smith, another ordinand, assisted in leading the service.
What was the name of the service?
Family Communion.

How full was the building?
Half full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A lady chatting outside shook my hand and said, "Nice to see you". Once inside, someone gave me a hymnbook with various inserts and welcomed me.

Was your pew comfortable?
I've sat in worse. One problem (which I've noticed elsewhere as well) is that the shelf on the rear of the pew in front is not wide enough to hold the service books safely, which is fine if the church isn't full, as you can put them beside you on the pew. What happens when the church is full I don't know – the sound of many books falling, perhaps.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Although I arrived in good time, the procession started as soon as I was seated. So I didn't have a chance to savour the pre-service atmosphere.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Please sit down for a moment."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Church service booklet, sheet with Margaret Rizza's "Mass for Life", church notice sheet with collect and readings, and Songs of Fellowship.

What musical instruments were played?
Piano for learning a new song and organ thereafter.

Did anything distract you?
I am easily distracted, but the main things were spasmodic mutterings from a gentleman nearby, and noticing a young mother who appeared to be ignoring her toddler in favour of a very new baby, which worried me. There were a few babies and young children present but their noise didn't bother me. It is also quite complicated coping with a book plus three leaflets, especially if like me you are not a lifelong Anglican.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Fairly traditional Common Worship service, but not stiff upper lip – friendly and quite relaxed. Although we were using only Songs of Fellowship, we did sing one trad. hymn from it, so there was plenty of variety in music.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
14 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – I suspect she was nervous and it was obvious she was reading her sermon, which she did in a somewhat wooden way. Although the content was OK it didn't really grab my attention or enthusiasm.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Respecting everyone regardless of differences – although the only differences I recall being mentioned were race and perhaps religion. Although it felt like a call to action, and finished with the well known quote about doing nothing when they came for the Jews, the Communists, and the Trade Unionists, etc., I couldn't find anything to get hold of which might lead me to actually do something about.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I felt that people were pleased I was there.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Most members of the choir were away at some special day, so we had a very small choir, some of whom might not be regular choristers. There was an excruciating moment during the communion when they were singing something they couldn't manage as it was too high for them.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Two people spoke to me before I left my pew, and as coffee is over the road in the church hall I decided to make my way there to do my standing around in an obvious place for 5 minutes. No chance – the greeting party at the door were very friendly and the vicar passed me on to someone who took me over to coffee and chatted, who then introduced me to someone else who chatted, who then introduced me to... Very impressive compared with some churches I've known!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The coffee was an improvement on the usual instant, though not the best I've ever tasted. The temperature was fine. And there were biscuits of the cream sandwich variety.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
No. But as I often feel it would be better not to be a Christian, that's asking a lot of any church!

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The warmth of the welcome.
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