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2221: The Swedish Church, London
Swedish Church, London
Mystery Worshipper: Aileen.
The church: Ulrika Eleonora Parish, also known as Svenska Kyrkan (The Swedish Church), London.
Denomination: Church of Sweden Abroad. Quoting from the church's website: "Since 1 November 2002, all Swedish churches abroad have been linked to the Diocese of Visby. The Bishop of Visby is ex officio member of the Board of the Church of Sweden Abroad and has episcopal oversight of all Swedish churches and clergy outside Sweden."
The building: The current church was built in 1911 (they've just celebrated their centenary) although the first Swedish congregation in London goes back as far as 1710. It is a tall building, with the worship section up the stairs. There is a round roof. There are many pictures of famous people on the walls, along with one of an ancient ship. Lots of gold and white lights above where we sat. At the front on the wall is a big picture of Jesus with his 12 disciples, and the words Gud ar kärlek (God is love). Above is the Greek monogram IHS for the Holy Name of Jesus. There is a high pulpit with a red and yellow cross, six candles on the altar, and ten candles along the rows of pews. The windows are on the right side of the worship area, and the choir was at that side and later up above us.
The church: They serve as a spiritual centre for Swedes living in or visiting London and the south of England. They maintain a library and reading room, and the hall is available for hire. There are groups for children, young adults and seniors. They offer Swedish language classes at the beginner and intermediate levels. They are a member of Churches Together in Westminster. Parish communion is held each Sunday in Swedish, with only a few English services during the year. Lunchtime communion is held on Wednesdays, and communion services are also held in connection with various group meetings. Each year on December 13, the popular Swedish custom is followed of honouring St Lucia of Italy.
The neighbourhood: A multi-cultural area very near the big Paddington police building. Much of the area was bombed during the Second World War, and so there is a mixture of ancient and modern buildings. Lots of ethnic food shoppes. There is also a canal close by. It is a very busy neighbourhood with hundreds of buses and taxis.
The cast: The Rt Revd Jana Jeruma-Grinberga, bishop of the Lutheran Church in Great Britain; the Very Revd Michael Persson, rector of Ulrika Eleonora Parish; the Revd Anders Rune, vicar; the Revd Deacon Maja Inde. Also participating were the Revd Dr Leslie Griffiths, the Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, superintendent minister at Wesley's Chapel, London, who gave the sermon; the Revd Timothy Fletcher, auxiliary minister at Crown Court Church of Scotland; and Chistoph Warrack, chairman of Westminster Churches Together.
The date & time: Pentecost Sunday, 12 June 2011, 6.30pm.

What was the name of the service?
Celebration of Pentecost.

How full was the building?
Very, very full – nearly 200 people.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were welcomed and given a very comprehensive programme that included a picture of the church 100 years ago.

Was your pew comfortable?
They were comfortable pews, even when they were very full!

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Lots of people chatting, seeing friends from various churches, and looking at the wonderful worship area.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Welcome to the Swedish Church." The greeter went on to explain that they are Lutheran and that they speak Swedish but that the choir can sing in Latin, a symbol of Pentecost.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Just the programme sheet.

What musical instruments were played?
Organ to accompany the choir and congregation, and piano to accompany a soloist.

Did anything distract you?
I kept looking at the unique pictures of ancient people on the walls, and wondered what it would be like to attend a service in Swedish, which I do not understand (although several people told me I look Swedish).

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was an ecumenical service with visitors from local churches of various denominations. Everybody sang well, and the hymns were ones we all knew. The choir and the soloist sang well too. The soloist also clapped as she sang.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
15 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Lord Griffiths preached up on the high pulpit. He wore red and black robes and the John Wesley style clerical collar with two white bands. He drew an interesting parallel between the Holy Spirit and a hurricane.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Lord Griffiths' text was Acts 2:1-21 (the Holy Spirit descends upon the apostles, who begin to speak in tongues). The Holy Spirit came to the apostles like a hurricane, coming on suddenly, battering their hearts, transforming them into new men. Hurricanes come with wind and fire and buckets of rain, and when they depart an eerie stillness remains. From the battering of the Holy Spirit we gain wonderful emotion, joy, peace. To paraphrase John Wesley, our hearts are "strangely warmed." Wind blows to light up our wonderful fire. The day of Pentecost in Jerusalem began like an explosion, and the apostles soon began shipping God's goods to the rest of the world. God's Spirit will speak across the whole world in many languages. Emperors and rulers have fallen before its reality. In the words of Charles Wesley, "All partake the glorious bliss!"

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I really loved the hymns we sang and the choir and the solo singing. it was also wonderful to be with people from so many various churches in Westminster, London.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I felt really frustrated, and wondered if God also gets frustrated, that we have fewer evening services in London.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We were immediately told to go down the stairs. Down there all chatted with us in groups, and asked what churches we belonged to.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
We we were given all sorts of excellent food and drink: fruit, vegetables with bread, juice, wine, etc.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – Only if I could learn to understand Swedish, but it seems excellent.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, the feeling that God's Spirit has loved, contacted and developed many of us, including myself.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The beautiul old church, and the feeling of God's love.
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