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2404: St Mary Moorfields, City of London
St Mary Moorfields, London
Mystery Worshipper: Kenelm.
The church: St Mary Moorfields, City of London.
Denomination: Roman Catholic, Diocese of Westminster.
The building: It would be very easy to walk past the church, as its entrance is well hidden between a shirt shop and a diamond merchant. Inside, there is a central nave and a side aisle with Blessed Sacrament altar, and a domed sanctuary supported by marble Corinthian columns.
The church: They run an active Young City Catholics club that aims to enable young office workers to practise their faith in the Cityís secular surroundings. There is also a link on their website to an outreach project working with homeless people in Londonís East End.
The neighbourhood: The City of London (Londonís financial district) is hardly a residential neighbourhood, so Iím guessing that almost none of those attending mass actually live nearby. St Mary Moorfields is surrounded by banks and offices, high-end shops and sandwich bars.
The cast: The Revd Peter Newby, parish priest. There was one server, an unnamed businessman in a suit.
The date & time: Solemnity of St Peter and St Paul, 29 June 2012, 1.05pm.

What was the name of the service?
Sung Mass.

How full was the building?
Most of the pews were full, and a few latecomers stood at the back, although there would have been space had they wanted to sit. I reckoned at least 150 there in total.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A lady handed me a service sheet detailing the music. There wasnít much time for greetings, as lots of people were arriving and the service was about to start.

Was your pew comfortable?
Not hugely. The back was rather low and the seat not deep enough. On the plus side, there was plenty of leg room and proper kneeling was comfortably possible on the padded kneeler.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Almost everyone – including me – arrived at the last possible moment, dashing out of offices during their lunch breaks. There wasn't long to catch breath before the bell announced the entrance of the priest.

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

What books did the congregation use during the service?
None. A sheet with details of the music for the service was given out, and I saw one or two people with mass cards, but the majority had nothing. I was quite impressed with how well the congregation seemed to know the new translation of the Missal Ė in my home church itís still a bit of a muddle!

What musical instruments were played?
A small but beautiful organ accompanying a choir of four or five very professional singers.

Did anything distract you?
The clouds were rushing past the sun outside, causing the light in the church constantly to change, at least for the first part of the service. It did, I suppose, remind us of Godís hand in nature.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
High-ish church and dignified. However, there was no incense, and the mass was celebrated facing the people. Father Newby wore a Roman chasuble. There were no hymns, and the choir sang all the mass parts in Latin.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
5 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – Father Newby has a sonorous voice but read the sermon quite closely from notes. I must admit I found it all a bit conservative for my liking. Given that this was the fourth mass of the day, I suspect he may have been a bit fed up of it! He also gesticulated slightly incongruously with his left hand throughout the sermon.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Peter and Paul were architects of the earliest Church and they therefore offer us a lesson on the importance of the Church. Being a Christian is not possible outside the Church and we need to be a full part of it in order to be proper Christians: love and the Churchís discipline are inseparable.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The choir sang the Kyrie, Gloria and Agnus Dei from Mozartís Spatzenmesse in C. Itís one of my favourite settings and the few professional singers performed it beautifully.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I have a particular aversion to complex plainsong. while my Latin is fine, having multiple notes per syllable makes understanding it rather difficult. The introit and psalm, while well sung by a counter-tenor, were in this style and I felt didnít add much to the service.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Father Newby stood at the door greeting people as they left the church, but I didnít have much time to spare. I managed to grab a quick sandwich on the way back to the office and was at my desk again just as the lunch hour was up.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – The church fulfills an obvious need in the City and is a very practical place to attend mass on a weekday. The music was lovely, and I'll almost certainly go back, but unlikely on Sundays.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes indeed. It was particularly refreshing to see people giving up time in their busy working day to pray, and it was a tangible expression of Christianity alive in a secular part of London.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The wonderful singing of the Mozart mass setting.
 
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