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387: Cathedral Church of the Redemption, New Delhi, India
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Cathedral Church of the Redemption, New Delhi, India
Mystery Worshipper: Egeria.
The church: Cathedral Church of the Redemption, New Delhi, India.
Denomination: Church of North India.
The building: It's a small St Paul's Cathedral standing in its own grounds in a leafy street in New Delhi. The interior is perfectly English neo-classical, with dark wood panelling and suitably dim religious light. You can tell it was originally built to house the British Raj at prayer.
The church: It's split into three language groups – on normal Sundays there's an English eucharist at 8.00am, a Tamil one at 9.30, and a Hindi one at 11. The day I was there they were having a confirmation, so all three groups worshipped together at 9.00am.
The neighbourhood: It's right in the heart of administrative New Delhi, near the Parliament and Lutyens' splendid government buildings.
The cast: The preacher and celebrant was the Bishop of Delhi, the Rt. Rev. Karam Masih.
What was the name of the service?
Confirmation and Eucharist.

How full was the building?
Comfortably full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
The service books were already in the pews and we just walked in and sat down, though there was a general welcome to visitors as part of the notices. Nothing was said at the peace – it was just a quick "namaste", the Indian gesture of greeting, to the people standing around one.

Was your pew comfortable?
Not bad at all! The pew was very solid wood, but it had a cane seat as a concession to the climate, which was pleasantly yielding.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Hushed and peaceful, with the organist doing his/her best on an organ which must be almost impossible to keep in tune during the monsoon.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"People of God, please sit for a moment while I explain to you the order of this very special service."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The Church of North India's Order of Confirmation and Order of the Lord's Supper, and the English Hymnal (and Hindi and Tamil hymnbooks).

What musical instruments were played?
Organ, and a guitar to accompany a song sung by the young people's music group.

Did anything distract you?
The confirmation candidates sat in the front three pews and all of them were dressed in white – except one, the last man to be confirmed, who wore jeans and a red check shirt. I had quite an interesting time speculating about him!

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Restrained – in fact very like being in an English cathedral, except that instead of polite decorous Brits I was surrounded by polite decorous Indians.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
Half an hour precisely.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
I can't really give the sermon a rating, as most of it was in Hindi! There were sentences in English every now and then so I could more or less understand what was going on. The Bishop had a lively conversational style and I think I would probably have enjoyed it, despite its length.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The first part was addressed to the confirmation candidates and was about knowing Jesus; the second was addressed to the congregation in general, and was about the problems faced by the Indian Christian community.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The variety of people – because the three congregations were worshipping together, there was every skin shade from pale European to dark South Indian, and clothes of all sorts: jeans, suits and saris. Although the liturgy was in English, the hymns were sung in three languages at once, the English originals and Hindi and Tamil translations. It felt like a real foretaste of the day when "many shall come from east and west..."

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The heat! The cathedral fans did sterling service but Delhi in August is oppressively hot and humid, the building was full, and the service went on for more than two hours. I was wilting severely by the last hymn.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Not much. No one talked to us at all as we hung about outside on the steps and then went across to the hall for coffee, except that the Bishop said hello as he passed us and a helpful man at the coffee table, seeing us wedged in the scrum, passed us our coffee.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Indian ready-made, complete with milk and sugar. There were crisps, biscuits and some delicious-looking Indian things to eat, but I think they were really meant to sustain people who were staying on for the annual general meeting, which was due to start later, so it seemed rather greedy to help ourselves.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – I loved the worship, but I'm not sure how long it would take to feel part of the congregation.

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Going up for communion – there was chaos in the nave as people got up just when they felt like it, but by the time we reached the chancel it had miraculously resolved itself and we moved forward slowly and silently through the dimly-lit chancel while the congregation sang "Let all mortal flesh keep silence" – spine-tingling stuff.
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