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684: St Michael's, Paris, France
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St Michael's, Paris
Mystery Worshipper: William and Catherine Booth.
The church: St Michael's, Paris, France.
Denomination: Anglican.
The building: The building is tucked away down a back road in Paris, close to the British embassy. From the outside it looks like a fairly anonymous office building. Inside, there is an air of a 1970s municipal hall about it.
The church: This is an English-speaking church in the centre of Paris. They have a mix of nationalities (over 30 according to their website). At the service we attended the majority of people appeared to be English students studying in Paris. The impression I got is that many church members are only in Paris for a short period, so there is a high turnover.
The neighbourhood: It seemed to consist mainly of offices. About 10 minutes walk away is the famous Champs D'Elysee.
The cast: The service was led by Jenny. Preacher and celebrant was assistant chaplain Andy Griffiths.
What was the name of the service?
Evening service.

How full was the building?
Very nearly full, about 150 people. The back five rows were cordoned off until a few minutes before the service started, when they had to be opened to fit everyone in. Around three-quarters of the attendees seemed to be students.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Due to a small mistake with times we arrived about 25 minutes early. There was no one welcoming when we arrived, but someone came out later and said hello to us. Once in our seats, a few church members welcomed us, and the assistant chaplain also came to say hello.

Was your pew comfortable?
A comfy, padded chair, so no complaints.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Up to 10 minutes before the service the music group were practising. After that point there was a buzz of quiet chatter.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good evening. Welcome to St Michael's Church."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
There was a huge array of books in the back of each seat: a Bible, Songs of Fellowship, Hymns for Today's Church, two books of liturgy, a planned giving leaflet and a leaflet welcoming visitors to the church. In the end we only used the communion liturgy book. All songs were on an OHP.

What musical instruments were played?
A piano, drumkit and two guitars. Occasionally they were joined by a flute and a tambourine.

Did anything distract you?
The drummer's head! While he was playing the drums it was like watching a nodding dog in a car going down a cobbled street. I kept expecting him to do himself an injury.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Lively, modern worship songs.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
31 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
4 – This is an average of 8 out of 10 for content but 0 out of 10 for structure. He started by explaining his sermon had 16 points – 4 main points with 4 subpoints to each. He then attempted to explain this structure further, leaving us totally lost. Thankfully he then never referred to this again once he got started.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Holy communion and the link to the Jewish passover (the Exodus event, the Jewish celebration and the last supper in particular). He considered aspects such as preparation, content and response.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
A friendly, welcoming congregation speaking my own language in the heart of a foreign city.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Trying to understand the structure of the sermon.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Before we'd had a chance to hang around a French gentleman sitting next to us had introduced himself. An English lady on our other side then spoke to us.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Tea and coffee was available, but we decided not to stay. We were tourists in Paris after all, we had plenty more to see.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 – If I was living in Paris for a short period, the church would be a joy to join. If I was in the city for a longer period I would hope that I could learn the language sufficiently well to feel at home in a native French church.

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

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
When the assistant chaplain spoke to us before the service, we explained that we had planned to come to the morning service, but hadn't got up in time. His response was, "Well that's what you do on a weekend away. You're a couple of healthy, normal people". He wasn't talking about us having a lie in either. He then started talking to someone else before we could explain that we hadn't arrived at our hotel until after midnight that night so were asleep until mid-morning. Sexual innuendo from a clerrgyman came as something of a surprise.
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