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590: Our Most Holy Redeemer, Clerkenwell, London
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Our Most Holy Redeemer, Clerkenwell, London EC1
Mystery Worshipper: Sarum Sleuth.
The church: Our Most Holy Redeemer, Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell, London EC1.
Denomination: Anglican
The building: Italiante brick by J.D.Sedding. The furnishings are also of the Italiante school, with a number of statues smartly dressed in copes for the special occasion. The effect is very much that of an Italian parish church in Venice or Florence.
The church: As there were a lot of visitors, it was hard to tell. However, the Vicar informed us that there was a Monsignor present from Spain and servers from South America, so the congregation was pretty cosmopolitan. Overall, it was the usual collection of young men and old ladies, but included quite a lot of small children too.
The neighbourhood: Clerkenwell used to be somewhat seedy, but of late has become distinctly yuppified. There is still quite a lot of council housing in the vicinity, as well as a number of trendy shops and cafes.
The cast: The celebrant was the vicar, the Rev. Paul Bagott. Prebendary Bill Scott preached, and Bishop Ambrose Weekes presided.
What was the name of the service?
Pontifical High Mass for the Feast of the Holy Redeemer. (In fact, it was not strictly pontifical, as the bishop presided rather than celebrated i.e. coram episcopo)

How full was the building?
There were 80-90 in the congregation, with a choir of about 30. Also present were about a dozen visiting priests, clad in various states of laciness, similar number of servers, four Franciscan friars and bishop and celebrant with sacred ministers.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
When I arrived the sidesperson was busy talking to herself about something, so it was rather a case of fending for oneself. People seemed pretty friendly at the peace though.

Was your pew comfortable?
It was a chair and perfectly comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quite chatty, with instruments tuning up in the background.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father......"

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Mass booklet for the feast. Roman rite, naturally.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ and small brass band. The mass setting was Mozart in D sung by the Collegium Musicum of London.

Did anything distract you?
The dust on top of the baldachino was really irritating. I also got the strong impression that a rodent had recently breathed its last somewhere under the floor not far from my seat: all the incense in the place did nothing to dispel the smell!

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Almost (but not quite) as high as they come. All clergy wore birettas; the three ministers having fetching Spanish numbers. Slightly modified tridentine ceremonial, with the thurifer kneeling for the bishop to put incense in the censer. The procession of the Blessed Sacrament through the streets was something else again. The extra clergy wore latin chasubles over their cottas, the friars carrying the canopy wore tunicles, children (of whom there were quite a few) scattered rose petals, the MC rang a bell incessantly and the traffic in Roseberry Avenue ground to a halt! The two hours that the service took shot by.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
8 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – Gentle and thoughtful though not especially memorable.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Our redemption as a work of love.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
As much as I personally disagree with processions of the sacrament, the one here was really very moving. If, by some misfortune, heaven turns out to be baroque rather than gothic, then I think it may be rather like this church... (assuming that I get there!)

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The smell of dead rat.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I spoke to a friend from another church, but I have to say that none of the regulars approached me, apart from the vicar. However, it was difficult to tell who was local and who wasn't. The reception could well be different on a normal Sunday.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Copious amounts of wine and rather a nice buffet reception.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – Although it really isn't my style at all, this is probably the first papalist church I've attended where I didn't feel uncomfortable.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, and judging by the smiles on some of the faces in the sanctuary it made several other people feel the same way.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The manic ringing of the sanctuary bell during the procession.
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