Built in 1840, it's a Commissioners' church (built with money voted by Parliament as a result of the Church Building Act of 1818 and 1824). The design is by the 19th century English architect Edward Blore. It's a simple brick building with a pitched roof, tall narrow windows, and a bell tower on the north side above the entrance. The chancel was added around 50 years later, with pointed arches contrasting with the round arches of the nave. The inside is light and airy, well maintained, with walls painted white in the nave and pink in the sanctuary. There's a small organ on the left just outside the chancel, which makes for a tight squeeze at the lectern. The pulpit is on the right but wasn't used for this service, as it's right in front of the projection screen.
Under the previous priest, the church styled itself as a centre of Anglo-Catholic charismatic worship, and the current priest-in-charge came from another church in the same tradition. Otherwise it's simply a friendly community church. They have a group for parents of pre-school children called Toddlers and Tiddlers. They also sponsor Scouts and Guides and are a partner of the Barnabas Fund, a charity working to support and protect persecuted Christians throughout the world. They sponsor home groups that meet on every weekday except Wednesdays in various people's houses. There are three Sunday eucharists plus evensong, and weekday eucharists on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Barkingside is outer-London suburbia, neither obviously deprived nor particularly well-heeled. Its main claim to fame is as the home of the British children's charity Barnardo's, including the Girls' Village Home, built as a collection of cottages round a green, at its peak housing 1500 girls.
The Revd Rosemary Potten, assistant curate, presided and preached. The cantor was the assistant curate's daughter.
What was the name of the service?Family Mass.
How full was the building?
At 11.15 there were about a dozen in the congregation, which had increased to around 25 by the end of mass. The building could probably seat 200 when full.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was greeted on the way in by a friendly lady who recognised me as a newcomer. She handed me the weekly bulletin and explained how the service would work. By the time the service started, two more parishioners had spotted the stranger and introduced themselves.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was a comfortable wooden pew, with attractive cross-stitched kneelers.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Friendly and chatty, with the cantor and the pianist practicing the service music. As the service began, we were invited to take a moment of quiet to prepare for worship.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, everybody, and welcome to our service on this lovely bright morning."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
No books, as the liturgy and songs were projected on a screen above the pulpit. We had a bulletin leaflet with the collect and readings, along with the notices for the week.
What musical instruments were played?
An electric piano, played by the priest-in-charge, the Revd Stuart Batten.
Did anything distract you?
The pew in front of me was taken by four young children who were well-behaved, but the electronic toy that one was playing with at the start of the service was a bit distracting.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Somewhere in the middle as the "Anglo-Catholic charismatic" label suggests. The service followed the Common Worship structure but with a lot of words imported from elsewhere and a fairly informal feel. There was a gospel procession and a robed crucifer, with bells but no smells. The music was modernish late 20th century rather than cutting-edge. Prayer ministry was offered after communion.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – The Revd Rosemary Potten read her sermon from an iPad, which she propped up on a music stand in front of the lectern. The content was very good, but my only criticism might be that it didn't really attempt to accommodate the children, who were present through the service (there was no Sunday school today).
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Her text was the day's gospel reading: Mark 5:21-43 (Jesus cures the woman with haemmorhages and raises Jairus' daughter from the dead). Jesus addresses all our deepest fears. We should, like these two people, keep on pestering God with our needs, and also do all we can to remove the barriers that might keep others from doing so, like the hurdles these two had to overcome.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The post-communion song hit the spot for me. Beautifully sung, reflective and appropriate.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
If I have to name something, it'd have to be the toy that the child was playing with. But it was a short irritation.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I tried to find space in which to be ignored, but the assistant curate found me and engaged me in conversation within seconds of my getting to the back of the church.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
A store-brand instant, in a china cup, with tasty cake.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – If I lived locally, I'd have no hesitation in becoming a regular here.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes it did, and glad that there are friendly, inclusive local churches like this out there.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The friendly welcome, not just from designated welcomers, but from everyone I met.