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  1068: St Anne's, Kew, Surrey

St Anne's, Kew, Surrey

Mystery Worshipper: St George.
The church: St Anne's, Kew Green, Kew, Surrey.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: This neo-classical temple impresses you with its coolness, space and height, leading the eye to an expanse of tall, white arched ceiling, finished in gold and wedgewood blue. Memorials – weeping widows and urns, some by Wedgewood – adorn the space. Icons give the chancel a Byzantine feel, lit beautifully from above by the large lantern in the roof.
The church community: From the sizeable Sunday school to the elderly women chatting in wheelchairs, the age range is wide. This church is very open in displaying information about what is going on in the church and how to get involved. If I had come for the first time as a prospective parishioner, I would have been heartened by the apparent ease of access – and not just for the wheelchairs! I also note that the church's Sunday teas on Kew Green look worth a trial – a good way to entice in passing traffic from the South Circular Road.
The neighbourhood: Nestling in between Kew Green (and its cricket players) and the South Circular, next door to Kew Gardens, this area has a village feel, if you ignore the traffic. The church is a centre of the community in a comfortable, middle-class way. Most of the congregation are middle class and English, but this reflects the local community.
The cast: Fr Nigel Worn led, preached and celebrated (very well, though it was a shame that the lay people weren't taking on more of the roles open to them).

What was the name of the service?
Sung eucharist.

How full was the building?
Comfortably full in a politely dispersed sort of way.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was handed a prayer book with a spoken "welcome", and invited to put a wafer in a silver receptacle with what looked like silver sugar tongs. Being unused to handling wafers with sugar tongs, I dropped mine on the floor. This was dealt with very kindly and helpfully by the welcomer.

Was your pew comfortable?
Wooden pews, made much more comfortable by a long, red, tapestry-worked cushion, like a very overgrown hassock, with a design referring to the history of the church. What a good idea! Much better for sitting on than kneeling on.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quietly reverential, though not in an oppressive way. One or two people were coming in with jars of preserves, either for the teas or to sell. The choir were rehearsing a couple of pieces, distantly. There was a slight lapsang souchong flavour in the air when the incense was lit.

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?
The New English Hymnal, the Parish Eucharist book for the liturgy, and weekly service sheet with readings and hymn numbers.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ (nice segues), and small adult choir.

Did anything distract you?
Incense emerging from behind the paschal candle caught my attention occasionally, but it was the sort of worship where you could look around without feeling you were missing anything.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Relaxed English politeness, with smells and bells, but very smooth. The priest presiding had a clear voice, with very good diction. There was a small amount of chanting which he led clearly and well. All the necessary information was on the service sheet, so at no point was there any need for anyone to announce what was going to happen next.

St Anne's, Kew, Surrey

Exactly how long was the sermon?
11.5 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Good delivery, with quite a musical voice.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon mentioned rites of passage: baptism (local), marriage (Charles and Camilla) and burial (the Pope), but not the general election. Tenuously, it progressed to the need of the newly elected PCC to work through different points of view together. There was a heartening openness in free discussion of these differences, even if I did wonder why the priest needed to focus on this! Overall it was thoughtful and sensible and delivered well.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The architecture – white and gold on the pillars, and the lantern effect over the altar with a window depicting Christ in glory. I also liked the feeling of honesty and openness.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Well, dropping the host was somewhat embarrassing.

If intercessory prayers were said, what issues were raised?
Church leaders – Archbishop Rowan, the new Pope and the Orthodox Patriarch (though no non-conformists). The marginalised in our society. Our stewardship of the things we have (which in this part of the world is quite a lot!). Oh, and the work of the new PCC.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
For a while, nothing. There's not much room to mill about at the back of this church, and there is a respectful feeling of reverence immediately after the service that precludes conversation. After a while, someone introduced herself by name and chatted about the church's history. The vicar also made a point of welcoming me and chatting over coffee.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Anonymous instant coffee in cups of the dark green variety indigenous to church halls. The ladies serving the drinks plied me enthusistically with chocolate bourbons. I also acquired two jars of homemade marmalade, very reasonably priced.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – This church has a very encouraging policy of inviting involvement in different ways. It did occur to me that Kew would be a pleasant place to live.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, it was perfectly accessible to those of a middle to high church background, and aimed at being inclusive.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
How lovely the building was, with an overall feeling of light, proportion and elegance; and you could say that of the service as well. (Also, I am still enjoying the lemon marmalade.)
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