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1975: Muswell Hill United Reformed, London
Muswell Hill United Reformed, London
Mystery Worshipper: Beefstu.
The church: Muswell Hill United Reformed, London.
Denomination: United Reformed Church, Thames North Synod.
The building: A very traditional looking church building, set neatly on a corner of a junction. The interior is rather dark and has a series of pillars. Wall are adorned on one side with missionary/charity posters, with an organ on the back wall.
The church: Their website implies that they are in a state of transition, "trying to determine what work we should begin." They participate in the Highgate Area of Shared Ministry, whose members meet three or four times a year to exchange news and consider areas of mutual cooperation. They are also part of the Muswell Hill Churches Forum. There is one service each Sunday, with communion held on the first Sunday of the month.
The neighbourhood: Muswell Hill is a comfortable, mainly Edwardian suburb of North London, with some interesting views of the modern day London skyline. Parts of the film Shaun of the Dead were filmed in Muswell Hill. The church is located a few minutes away from the Broadway, a major shopping street lined with boutiques, cafes and restaurants.
The cast: The Revd Kate Hackett, minister, led the service and preached. The gentleman who introduced her didn't give his name.
The date & time: Fourth Sunday in Easter, 25 April 2010, 10.30am.

What was the name of the service?
Morning Worship – Engaging with Pilgrimage.

How full was the building?
The church can hold around 130 to 140 people. I counted 34 in the congregation. Most were middle-aged and older, with a good number being of pension-age. I spotted one couple who looked like they were in their 20s, with a young baby, and another woman in her 30s.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
The welcome was amazing. I was greeted at the front entrance by a couple, who both shook my hand. Then, as I entered the church, three other people welcome me. I received the relevant service sheet, Bible and hymn book. One of them introduced herself as Eunice, the church secretary. I sat down near the middle of the church, and three more people came up to me, one by one, to say hello and welcome. The minister also came over and introduced herself. They even showed me where the coffee hatch was, although it wouldn't be open until after the service.

Was your pew comfortable?
Comfy, padded seats with space for your communion cup, although we never took communion.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
An organist was playing hymns, whilst people chatted quietly around the church. It was hard to pick up on the atmosphere, because people were befriending me and making me feel welcome during this period!

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Right. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to this morning's service. Leading the service today is Kate Hackett. We'll now have a few moments of quiet."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Rejoice and Sing – Melody Edition, the Revised English Bible, and an order of service sheet. The minister read the Bible verse (Luke 24:13-32 – the risen Christ reveals himself to his disciples on the road to Emmaus, but they do not recognise him until he breaks bread with them) from The Message, a translation of the Bible that uses contemporary language.

What musical instruments were played?
The organ was used during the hymn singing, except for the last hymn, which was accompanied with gusto on an upright piano.

Did anything distract you?
The lone young couple at the side were trying to keep their baby amused with a few jumble-sale style toys. During the sermon, a reproduction of The Floral Road to Emmaus, by the American mother turned painter Phyllis Miller, was projected onto the screen and left up for a while. Very twee.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
A hymn sandwich. Not what I'm used to. The people sang quietly along to such gems as "Lead us heavenly Father", "Now the green blade rises" and "One more step along the road I go." A thank offering was requested – I'll have more to say about that below.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
21 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – The minister spoke well, but it felt like a theology lecture rather than a sermon.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Pilgrimage. She talked about the road to Emmaus, and what the disciples may have been talking about. They may have been discussing what to do now that Jesus was gone. Where does the road we walk on lead us to? How are we helping others to know Christ?

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The welcome. They made me feel like the prodigal son!

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The worship. Very dry. Also, the thank offering. If your birthday was this month, you were invited to come forward to make an extra financial offering. Cheesy! Fortunately, my birthday is not in April.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
More people came up to say hello and to be sure I got a cup of coffee and a copy of the newsletter. I ended up talking to a lovely South African lady about my recent trip to her home city.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
They have their own coffee mugs, imprinted with the church's name and an ichthus symbol. The coffee was strong, which I liked. But there was only a small plate of biscuits and chocolate chip cookies. They tasted good, though.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 – It's a nice church, homely, friendly, but not very challenging. Lovely if you need a break from a lively church, but as a regular church I personally wouldn't get fed much.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Not really. I guess there was a massively warm Christian welcome, but I didn't really feel the joy of the Lord.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
How kind they were, and how excited they were to see me.
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