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  1047: Holy Trinity, Northwood, Middlesex

Holy Trinity, Northwood, Middlesex

Mystery Worshipper: Manifold.
The church: Holy Trinity, Northwood, Middlesex.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: The church probably dates from the parish's foundation in 1854, and is a fairly imposing if squat building surrounded by a graveyard, complete with lych gate, of the sort you'd find in any large village in England. It now looks a bit incongruous by the side of a major road into London.
The church community: The church is in an interregnum, with a new vicar shortly to arrive.
The neighbourhood: Northwood is a well-off outer London suburb in "Metroland". The church is in a residential area about a mile from the centre of town. The London School of Theology (formerly London Bible College) is just round the corner.
The cast: Ann Kentfield, reader, led evensong. Rev. Paul Baguley, non-stipendiary minister in a nearby parish, led the baptism.

What was the name of the service?
Service of evensong with baptism.

How full was the building?
Bulging at the seams. Twenty-four people were crammed into a side-chapel which would probably seat 16 comfortably. The usual evening congregation is much smaller.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
The main door was shut and I had to venture inside to find anyone. I was welcomed, and the person apologised to me, that there would be so many at the service due to the baptism.

Was your pew comfortable?
A comfortable wooden chair (all the pews were already full).

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I think most people were wondering how many more were going to arrive and where we were going to put them!

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"I bid you all welcome to a special evensong at Holy Trinity."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Book of Common Prayer (for the psalm), Common Worship and a printed order of service which seemed to combine BCP Evensong with a more modern baptism liturgy. The Bible readings were from the New Revised Standard Version, I think.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ and guitar. The service concluded with a member of the congregation singing a song for the baptismal candidate.

Did anything distract you?
The 25th person arrived 10 minutes after the service began. The reader broke off from the service, welcomed the latecomer personally, went to find a chair, worked out where to squeeze it in, and then carried on.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The formal words were shared in a very informal way. It felt like (as it was) friends coming to worship God together, particularly once the ice had been broken with the chair incident.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
10 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – Paul Baguley had an engaging and friendly manner, which was appropriate to the occasion, but came across as a bit uncomfortable and not quite knowing what to say. This was understandable, as I think he knew neither the church nor the baptismal candidate very well.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
He told us some things about the baptismal candidate and why she was getting baptised, then told the godparents that they still had responsibilities to help "bring her up". Even though she was an adult, she was still "a child of God". He then explained some of symbology of the ceremony that was to come.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The way that the rejoicing in heaven when one person is saved was personified by the reader, together with her joy and enthusiasm in leading the service.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The embarrassment, both on my part and those who welcomed me, that I'd happened to visit on such an awkward Sunday.

If intercessory prayers were said, what issues were raised?
For the baptismal candidate and the incoming vicar (currently doing missionary work in Brazil). The service contained set prayers for the Queen and Parliament.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
In the circumstances, I wanted to slip away unnoticed, but I was met by Ann Kentfield, who asked me who I was, gave me a parish magazine, apologised again and encouraged me to come back another Sunday.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none, as far as I was aware.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – I feel encouraged to go back and try a normal Sunday, but it's hard to say more than that, particularly as someone else may be leading it when the new vicar arrives.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes – it reminded me of the vast variety of ways God accepts worship, provided our heart is in it, which it definitely was here.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Ann's desire to share the peace enthusiastically with everyone, including the organist, who was barely in reach!
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