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2465: St Luke's, Earls Court, London
St Luke's, Earls Court (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Church Mouse.
The church: St Luke's, Earls Court, London.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese of London.
The building: An imposing Victorian church built 1873 to a design by 19th century architects George and Henry Godwin, with great natural light for a London church. It has recently had 3m work on the crypt, opening up offices, study rooms and toilets. The nave has been reordered, leaving many of the Victorian details, replacing pews with chairs and adding a platform to the imposing semicircular chancel area. The central nave soars upwards, supported on pillars surmounted by an eclectic selection of statues of saints, and high windows. The north and south aisles with lower roofs were left unused. The stairs down to the crypt are placed between the nave and north and south aisles.
The church: They are the borough venue for the food bank and provide a place to sleep for 35 homeless people on Saturday nights for the worst part of the winter, starting in January, part of a rota with other local churches.
The neighbourhood: The squares around St Luke's Church are made up of imposing terraced houses, some of which are in single occupation, but many if not most are split into flats or bedsits. The area is known for its floating community.
The cast: The vicar, the Revd Adrian Beavis, led the service, with the assistance of Nico Marais, the worship leader. Jean-Luc Sergent, an associate minister in training, preached the sermon.
The date & time: Sunday, 25 November 2012, 11.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Family Worship.

How full was the building?
There were about 75 chairs in the middle of the nave, arranged in a semi-circular block, divided by a central aisle. There were cushions on the floor at the front. At the start of the service there were about 50 people; at the end the chairs were nearly full and another 10 children were sitting on the floor or moving around the building. The congregation at the service I attended were polyglot and mostly comprised of families with young children.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
There were two women on the door handing out service sheets and saying hello with lovely smiles. A lady in the row in front of me turned around and greeted me with a smile. Vicar Adrian saw me as he walked past before the service, reached over, said hello, shook my hand and introduced himself.

Was your pew comfortable?
The padded wooden chair with a red cushion was comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The pre-service atmosphere was unhurriedly busy and calm, with people getting things ready for the service, moving to their seats and quietly welcoming each other to the service.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, everyone. Welcome to our family service here at St Luke's." Adrian then went on to explain what would happen in the service. He also explained that this service would be taking an overview of the importance of Christ in our lives before Advent when we look forward to the coming of baby Jesus.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A folded booklet with service information and a small space for sermon notes. The Holy Bible, New International Version, was on the shelf underneath the chair in front. The hymns and worship songs were projected onto a screen to the right of the chancel space.

What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, guitar and drums, plus miked up singers.

Did anything distract you?
The eclectic collection of statues of saints, biblical figures and worthies of the Church: St Sebastian, Tyndale, Cranmer, Ross, Isaiah, David, St Alban to name but a few. I couldn't work out a rationale for the collection. I could have been distracted by the children running around during the sermon, but it was a family service.

St Luke's, Earls Court (Statue)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Happy clappy, literally. The first part of the service was aimed at children and the first few songs were led with actions from the front: "Lord on high", "Our God is a great big God", "Our God is so big", followed by prayer. Then: "Above all crowns" and "O come all you faithful" before the sermon. The sermon was followed by people bringing up names of people whom they wanted to find Jesus and a few moments of prayer to do this. Finally: "There is a redeemer", "You're all I need", notices, and a final hymn from Tim Hughes that I wasn't familiar with.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
7 minutes (children's sermon from Vicar Adrian); 22 minutes (adults' sermon from Jean-Luc Sergent).

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – During his sermon, Jean-Luc said he had only recently arrived in London in the last two or three months, and it was obvious at moments that he wasn't preaching in his first language. I know from experience how hard it is to produce something that works for young children yet speaks to adults, let alone trying to do so in another language. Both preachers indulged in dramatics at times: Jean-Luc and Adrian stood on step-ladders to show the relationship between Zacchaeus and Jesus.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The first part was about finding things important. The second part was on the story of Zacchaeus, which we were encouraged to follow along in the pew Bibles (Luke 19:1-10 – Jesus stays at the house of Zacchaeus, a tax collector, who vows to give half his possessions to the poor). Zacchaeus found something very important in Jesus and that changed him.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The warmth and enthusiasm of the leaders and seeing so many children welcomed into the church.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Being encouraged to do the actions to "Lord on high" and "Our God is a great big God" to an overloud sound system.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
It took 10 minutes for anyone to notice me. Finally the sound technician enquired if I was all right, and we had an interesting conversation.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
It smelt as if it was filter coffee, but the queue was very long and daunting and I didn't think joining the coffee queue would answer the looking lost question. The queue was still there after the conversation so I gave up and left.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 – It's difficult to judge because this was a family service, but it really isn't my preferred worship style. The lack of communion and over loud sound system (which I know is the usual style for these services, but I value my hearing too much) would send me looking elsewhere if I was a local.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I was glad to see so many families and children attending this service.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Jean-Luc and Adrian standing on step-ladders
 
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