Mary Magdalene, London (Exterior)

Hope Church Islington, Islington, London


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Hope Church Islington
Location: Islington, London
Date of visit: Sunday, 9 February 2014, 11:00am

The building

St Mary Magdalene was opened in 1814 as a chapel of ease to the nearby St Mary Islington. It is Georgian, quite tall, very pretty, yellow brick with Portland stone dressing. The tower houses six bells, a maiden ring (never retuned or altered). The old churchyard has been converted into a garden with trees and places to sit. Inside, the ceiling has lovely white and yellow pictures on the roof, with flowers on them. The choir stalls and pews under the galleries were mostly removed in 1983 when the space was altered to provide meeting rooms. They have a section inside where the children go with their parents to play.

The church

The congregation grew over the years as a result of a rather intricate combination of amalgamations and plantings described on their website. They relaunched themselves as Hope Church Islington in 2013. There are people there from all over the world who belong. Their many activities are well described on their website. I'll mention only the Tuesday Tea Time, (quoting from their website) "an opportunity to meet once a month for a chat and/or support whilst enjoying a lovely cup of tea and a cake."

The neighborhood

Islington is a mainly residential district of inner London. In the British version of the board game Monopoly, The Angel, Islington is the third cheapest property on the board, belying the district's current status as home to celebrities, politicians, solicitors, barristers and bankers. There is a long road beside the church, with buses and tube station, cars and bikes. There are also many shops.

The cast

The Revd Paul Zaphiriou and the Revd Jonathan Rust, both described on their website as "sharing the leadership of the parish."

What was the name of the service?

"Hope Together." It is described on their website as "welcoming and open."

How full was the building?

There were quite a lot of people, about 60, with children too. All on the ground floor.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

There were many who smiled at me, welcomed me, and chatted with me.

Was your pew comfortable?

It was a comfortable red seat.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

People came in and chatted. The children gathered in their play area.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"This is the world of God! Praise the name of the Lord! Peace be with you! God will be forever!"

What books did the congregation use during the service?

They gave me Songs of Fellowship and Common Worship Service and Prayers for the Church of England. There were also hymns shown up on the front of the church.

What musical instruments were played?

Piano and drum kit were both played very well.

Did anything distract you?

There were many children and I enjoyed seeing them, concentrating on looking at them at times.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

As we sang hymns, many put up their arms to God, and also jumped on their feet and went round! We all sang well.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

30 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

9 – I liked how the preacher tied his remarks in with things happening in the world right now, but it seemed like he was trying to talk about a lot of things that didn't seem related.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The Bible mentions light and water as essential for life, but sometimes the elements appear to overwhelm us and life doesn't always seem to be at its best. Look at the storms that are now raging, and the political turmoil surrounding us, especially in Syria. But God never gives up on us, and he and his angels are looking down on us.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The singing was lovely, and all the arm waving made it appear that we were reaching our hands to God, to heaven. Also, is it always good to hear about how God loves us.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

Being reminded of the terrible conditions in Syria.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

Lots of people chatted to me.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

We had tea and coffee and also fruit juice, both during and after the service. It tasted great.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

9 – If I lived near this church I would enjoy belonging to it. It is an excellent church.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

I felt very glad to be a Christian, as God still loves us. And the hymns were also lovely as we sang to God, to love God.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

I will remember about God loving us all.

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