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||1336: St Clement's, Prague, Czech Republic
Mystery Worshipper: Pevsner.
The church: St Clement's, Prague, Czech Republic.
Denomination: Anglican Episcopal Church, which rents the building
from the Czech Brethren Protestant Church. Please see their website for
an explanation of how the Anglican Episcopal Church is related to the Church
of England and the Old Catholic Church.
Comment: We have received a comment on this report.
The building: This is one of the oldest structures in Prague. Its
earliest written mention goes back to 1225, although it may have been built
as early as 1065. Located close to the River Vltava, its dedication reflects
St Clement's patronage of navigators. It is a simple Romanesque church,
refurbished around the turn of the 20th century to look more Gothic. Inside,
one's attention is drawn to an amazing pulpit, about ten feet off the ground.
The apse is adorned with frescoes dating from the 14th century, carefully
restored, representing Christ's Way of the Cross, but the remainder of the
interior is quite plain, reminiscent of a Lutheran church. Indeed, after
a period of disuse as an ecclesiastical structure during the 19th century,
the building was acquired by the Czech Protestant Reformed Church, which
later merged with the Czech Lutheran Church to form the Czech Brethren Protestant
Church, which owns the building to this day.
The church: St Clement's Anglican chaplaincy ministers to foreigners
who are in the Czech Republic to work or study or on holiday, as well as
to native Czechs with a command of English. There is an active Sunday school,
a Bible study group, a weekly prayer breakfast, and a choir.
The neighbourhood: Located in central Bohemia, Prague is the Czech
Republic's capital and its largest city. Mention of a trading centre called
Prague dates back to the 10th century. Modern-day Prague is one of Europe's
most popular tourist destinations. The city suffered considerably less damage
during World War II than some other major cities in the region, allowing
most of its historic architecture to remain intact. The church is in a quietish
residential area off one of the main roads, not far from Wenceslas Square
and the Old Town.
The cast: The Rev. Canon John Philpott, chaplain, was the celebrant,
and Mr Michal Novenko played the organ.
The date & time: 1 January 2006, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
There were about 30 people present. The chaplain explained that many were
on holiday or had gone back to the UK for the New Year. This meant that
people were dotted about the church in typical Anglican fashion.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
There was a "Hello" as we were handed our hymnbook, service book
and other literature.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was fine underneath the seat was a radiant heater, which meant that your legs got warm but the rest of you froze. This was made worse because there was very little kneeling during the service.
How would you describe the pre-service
It was quiet there were only a couple of children, fortunately.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Grace, mercy, and peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you," followed
by a welcome to everyone in the church and the explanation as to why there
were so few.
What books did the congregation use during the
A hymnbook, a service book (Order One), a pamphlet with the music for the
communion setting (very useful!) and a news sheet.
What musical instruments were played?
An organ at the back of the church the choir was on holiday. The fine
three manual instrument was once played by Dr Albert Schweitzer (but, alas,
not by Mozart). The current organist, Mr Novenko, is professor of improvisation
at Charles University and played most excellently.
Did anything distract you?
The temperature was quite cold radiant heaters warmed only the immediate
area. The interior is very plain, which was quite a shock after some of
the baroque interiors elsewhere in Prague.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
It was a standard Anglican service.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 The chaplain stood in the middle at a lectern. That fantastic pulpit
presumably does not get used except for special occasions. He started out
well but wandered somewhat toward the end.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The chaplain spoke on the naming of Jesus. He made the point that Jesus'
name was quite common in his day it was not a special one like Gabriel
or Raphael. When Pilate offered the crowd a choice of whom to save from
crucifixion, it was between Jesus Christ and Jesus Barabbas. The name of
Jesus is one to be trusted in: "At the name of Jesus every knee shall
bow." "How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer's ear"
(the latter being one of the hymns we sang during the service). Names identify
us so people with split personalities respond to different names. He then
talked about the New Year and read out a great chunk of the Methodist covenant
service, which took away from the really good first half.
Which part of the service was like being in
At the start, the chaplain's wife took the two children off to Sunday school
at the back, first explaining to us that they were going to look at names
and what they meant. It was done really well, and I imagine that the Sunday
school is very good.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The first hymn was all over the place because someone singing in the gallery
decided to go at a much faster pace than the organ and because he had
a voice louder than everyone else's, including even the organ at times,
he got away with it! After that, the organist and singer apparently agreed
on a mutually acceptable speed.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
As we were leaving, the chaplain asked us where we came from. When we replied,
"Southwark Cathedral," he retorted, "Oh, that bastion of
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Others were invited to coffee, but we were not! Whether it was because we
were new, from Southwark, too liberal, or simply because the chaplain forgot,
I don't know.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 I would imagine it is a tight-knit community. But it felt welcoming,
and the service was enjoyable and not too formal.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes it was good to meet other Anglicans worshipping abroad and to feel
part of the Anglican communion at a time when some are trying to threaten
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The wonderful pulpit and the super talk to the children going off to Sunday
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