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Grove Church, London
The church: Westbourne
Grove Church, London.
Denomination: Independent Baptist, part of the Salt and Light Ministries.
The building: Originally a Gothic style Baptist chapel of stone over brick,
put up in 1853, with an extension added in 1866. It was partially
damaged during the Second World War. Repairs were made, but
it had pretty much reached the end of its useful life by the
turn of the century, and so was completely rebuilt in 2001-2004.
Their website gives a very detailed account of the demolition
and reconstruction process, including a description of the
new interior spaces. They have some smallish trees and flowers
growing just outside. It has a biggish room just inside the
front door, where drinks and food can be served, with comfortable
black seats. Through the door is the service area, much bigger,
with brown wooden floor. One wall is brown, the others white,
and there are windows on the right side.
The church: According to their website, Westbourne Grove Church is the oldest
congregation in Notting Hill, formed in 1823, and preceded
the arrival of the Anglican churches by 20 years. They sponsor
several activities, including prayer meetings, newcomers and
foundations courses, Bible studies, and a film discussion
group. They are linked with many local churches who are all
friendly to each other. Many organisations use this church
as their meeting space.
The neighbourhood: Notting Hill currently enjoys a reputation as an affluent district
of townhouses, fashionable shops and restaurants, but only
a century ago it was home to pottery kilns and pig slurries.
Portobello Road, famous for its popular street market, is
nearby. There are also many shops and homes here, and both
old and modern buildings all round.
The cast: Rosemary Baker led the service. The Revd Phil Hicks, co-minister,
preached. An elderly woman read the gospel – we were
not told her name.
The date & time: Saturday, 28 April 2012, 4.30pm.
What was the name of
India Churches Fellowship.
How full was the building?
The room we entered was full – we ate there before the
service. There were 40 or so people at the service, in a room
that can hold 250.
Did anyone welcome you
We arrived early so we could sample the Indian food plus have
some tea or coffee. We were welcomed by the men in charge
and also by many of the women and men from India. When we
went into the service area, we were given special hymnbooks
with English and Indian hymns in them.
Was your pew
There were no pews; instead, there were very comfortable black
chairs. But there was nowhere to put the Bibles or hymnbooks,
so we kept them in our hands.
How would you
describe the pre-service
Before the service we all shared food and chatted with each other,
and sang "Happy birthday" and "May the dear Lord bless you"
to an 85-year-old man who was celebrating his birthday that
day. Then, when we went into the service area, people still
chatted. The little children went upstairs to where they could
play. Men and women sat together with their shoes on, unlike
in India, where the men and women sit at opposite sides and
leave their shoes outside.
What were the
exact opening words of the
"Welcome all of you! Thank you for praying for me, my illness. Let us
worship God and sing to God. We will hear news about how people are
doing in India, as well as a sermon."
What books did
the congregation use during the
Pages printed with many hymns.
instruments were played?
Piano and guitar were both played for all the many, many English
and Indian hymns. The original organ, a Bridley & Foster
opus dating from 1882, had been dismantled during the reconstruction
and moved to a church in Latvia.
I wondered where the baptistery was – I could not see
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Everyone sang well, with one man leading, and all seemed to
enjoy the hymns. One or two people raised their hands at times
to send the happy worship message to God. We remained seated
throughout – only the leader and the musicians were
Exactly how long was
On a scale of
1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The Revd Phil Hicks spoke well and kept our interest.
It is clear he knows and understands the Bible and its role
in understanding Jesus.
In a nutshell,
what was the sermon
Jesus came not just for the healthy, but for the sick; not
just the righteous, but the sinners. Jesus has compassion,
forgiveness and recovering for us. Jesus tells us to forgive
others who sin against us, and Jesus has mercy toward the
sinners around us. Mercy and grace are very important and
real. Jesus also healed people. Some
people disapprove of us, but God is teaching us mercy and
compassion, more important than troubles. If we work to perfect ourselves, we will become better behaved,
and thoughts of Jesus give us
strength to give to those around. Jesus calls us to help,
serve and love people. Communities need a lot of that in order
Which part of
the service was like being in
Wonderful singing in English and Indian, listening to God's
love, listening to people talking about helping people in
India who are in need. It was all so good.
And which part
was like being in... er... the other place?
I saw through the window the rain still coming down. I was a bit
when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Everyone said good-bye to everyone else and said it was nice
to meet so many people.
How would you
describe the after-service
We had tea, coffee and fruit juice before the service started,
and lots of food then too (mainly Indian).
How would you
feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
6 – Everything seemed so nice. It's not near where I
live, but maybe I can visit again.
Did the service
make you feel glad to be a
Yes, I heard in the sermon and in the hymns about how much God loves
us. It's good to be a Christian throughout the world.
What one thing
will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
So many happy, kind Christians who love and experience God's
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