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  1022: Kensington Temple, Notting Hill Gate, London

Kensington Temple, Notting Hill Gate, London

Mystery Worshipper: Innis.
The church: Kensington Temple, Notting Hill Gate, London.
Denomination: Pentecostal.
The building: The church is a large, imposing building of white stone in the centre of the road as you approach Kensington Garden Road from Notting Hill Gate station.
The church: An effort is made here to give everyone a sense of purpose. There are various departments, including a book shop. The congregation was ethnically mixed, as is the area. There is a webcam providing a live internet feed of the services.
The neighbourhood: Notting Hill Gate has been home to the famous carnival as well as the former haunt of Jack the Ripper. Once shabby, the area today offers that happening feel and has a varied mix of restaurants, interesting food shops and entertainment. There is a constant buzz of people and a sense of vibrance.
The cast: The service was led by a worship team consisting of three women and one man, accompanied by musicians. The speaker was Kristian Lythe, one of the church's senior pastors (there are several).

What was the name of the service?
Evening Worship.

How full was the building?
The church was very well attended, with nearly every seat being occupied.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Although my daughter and I arrived ten minutes before the service and wandered about aimlessly (we were actually quite lost and didn't know where to go), no one approached or spoke to us. We had to ask for help twice.

Was your pew comfortable?
Individual chairs – comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
The pre-service atmosphere was very social. There are several services on Sunday; one had just finished, and so some people were leaving and others were arriving. There was a feeling of general confusion and it took us awhile to work out what was happening.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
The service opened with what appeared to be the leading member of the worship team praying in tongues, which left us feeling we had missed something. This was followed by singing. There was no welcome given.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The words being sung were visually displayed for all to see. There were several Bible readings but no Bibles were available.

What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, two guitars, bass guitar and drums. A visiting band named Fat Fish provided the music.

Did anything distract you?
Although the visuals were quite helpful during the singing, cameras panned the congregation during the spoken word and the resulting images were most distracting.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Worship was vibrant, charismatic and interesting.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
120 minutes (2 hours).

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – The sermon was good but it began suddenly, without warning – we were not aware it was happening till after it had begun.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was about experiencing the touch of Jesus.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I was particularly blessed by the visiting band. I could feel the anointing of the Holy Spirit as they ministered. My daughter was also touched and responded to an altar call, which in itself was a blessing.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Prior to the service we just wanted to turn around and leave, as it felt confusing and unfriendly. But we sat down in an empty row of chairs. We noticed a coat draped over the first chair but thought it belonged to the person behind, and as I have some medical difficulty I sat on that chair. Fifteen minutes into the service, a woman tapped me on the back and pointed downwards. At first I thought she was trying to tell me I had dropped something, but then I realised she was pointing to the chair. I asked if it was her seat and she nodded. We concluded that she was unable to speak, and so we moved without any further attempt to have a conversation. But then we heard her singing later. It was a most frightening and hostile encounter.

If intercessory prayers were said, what issues were raised?
The prayer for the general election was lost on me, but another prayer focused on the efforts of the French government to limit religious expression, and that is an important issue in my mind. On the seats was a leaflet asking us to pray for Africa.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
After the service, my daughter and I became separated given the number of people milling around. I stood at the back near the exit so that people would have to go around me to get out, thinking my daughter would spot me more easily that way. After about ten minutes of having people negotiate their way around me and feeling like I should not be there, my daughter appeared. She had gone off to talk to someone about Christianity.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
An invitation was extended for everyone to join the worship team for refreshments, but no one mentioned where they could be found. And so, sad to say, we had no food for the road before the long drive home – and we were hungry and thirsty.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 – This would not work for me. It felt very cliquey and commercialised, especially with the webcam. The feel was that of a performance – they even had a commercial break!

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Not particularly, but if I were not a Christian I might have been put off by the hostility of the person sitting next to us and the lack of friendliness shown to two lost souls who were left to wander off into the street.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The commercial break.
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