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  1024: Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, London

Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, London

Mystery Worshipper: Rhubarb and Custard.
The church: Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, London.
Denomination: Methodist.
Website: www.methodist-central-hall.org.uk
The building: Very impressive facade featuring a dome but with a surprisingly small doorway.
The church: An incredibly diverse congregation – a great picture of Christian unity. A mix of ages, gender, race and (I suspect) class.
The neighbourhood: As it is opposite Westminster Abbey and just off Parliament Square, need I say more?
The cast: One of the ministers, the Rev. Tony Miles, led the service. The superintendent minister, the Rev. Martin Turner, preached.

What was the name of the service?
Morning Worship.

How full was the building?
Practically empty to start with but almost full by the end of the first hymn.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A team of greeters at the door were handing out service sheets with cheerful smiles and handshakes. More people were stationed at the back of the hall ready to shake hands. Both groups recognised us as visitors and made us welcome.

Was your pew comfortable?
No hard pews here! Very plush well padded dark blue chairs, complete with gold logos on the backs. Very comfortable and with nice high backrests.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
A low hum of conversation, but most people hadn't arrived at this point. About ten minutes before the service started, the organist played very well if a bit loudly.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"God was with us as we arrived and he'll be with us when we leave."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
No books, as everything, including the full Bible passage, was in a glossy printed handout.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ and grand piano – both played together at some points, which seemed slightly odd but worked very well.

Did anything distract you?
The robed choir were excellent, but the highly flamboyant musical director couldn't help but remind me of the BBC sitcom The Vicar of Dibley.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Traditional but relaxed – formal choral pieces in the same service as a children's spot using a glove puppet.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
24 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Very easy to listen to – enthusiastic without being over the top. The sermon was well structured, concise and well delivered.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Passage was Colossians 3:1-17, which was read clearly if slightly hesitantly. There were three main points to the sermon: new perspective, new values, and new relationship. Being a Christian means that we are different from the rest of the world in outlook, morals, and relationships with others.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Excellent children's talk – using a glove puppet. Was Biblical and topical, covering current issues about poverty as well as the general election.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Fighting our way through the crowds of tourists on Westminster Bridge to get to the church.

If intercessory prayers were said, what issues were raised?
Prayers focused on the "Make Poverty History"campaign, the election, and the recent collapse of the car maker MG Rover, as well as issues within the church family.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
One person came up and talked to us – was a bit intense but very well-meaning (opening line in a conversation with complete strangers was about the attacks of the Devil in society today). We were then introduced to another member of the congregation and to the minister. It was clearly a very busy church, but the people we spoke to made us feel very welcome. The minister also gave us a handy credit card sized card with details about the church and the relevant contact numbers – a really good touch.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was a good choice of drinks available, but after all the emphasis during the service on lifestyle choices it was suprising to see a common brand of coffee being served rather than fair trade – in a large paper cup with the church logo on it! That said, it tasted fine. There were also biscuits out on all the tables, and a cake stall which looked great but which I had to avoid in the interest of not spoiling my appetite for lunch!

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – Would be a good option if we were looking for a church in Central London.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes – Christians can make a difference in the world.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The singing – especially a soloist. Also the children's talk.
 
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