All Souls, London (Exterior)

All Souls, Langham Place, London


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: All Souls
Location: Langham Place, London
Date of visit: Sunday, 24 February 2013, 6:30pm

The building

Erected in 1824 as one of the Waterloo churches (built in thanksgiving to God for England's victory over Napoleon), All Souls is the only surviving church of the Regency architect John Nash. Upon entering through the rotunda, one finds oneself within a high, wide hall with seats upstairs as well as on the ground level. The eye is drawn to the large painting Ecce Homo, depicting Jesus on trial before Pontius Pilate. It is the work of Richard Westall, later drawing master to the young Princess Victoria, and was probably presented to All Souls by King George IV. The church was badly damaged by an exploding land mine in 1940, and restoration took several years. The renovated and enhanced building was opened in 1976.

The church

They are evangelistic, and offer a variety of groups and networking resources all detailed on their website. Special mention goes to the Clubhouse, an independent charity that manages projects to meet a variety of needs. There are three services each Sunday: an early said service, a later service divided into sections for children, young teens, older teens and adults, and an evening service.

The neighborhood

All Souls is just north of Oxford Circus and next door to BBC Broadcasting House. The area boasts a huge number of shops and many cars, tubes, buses, and taxis. Lots of pedestrian traffic, lots of shopping and dining out. There are no homes there.

The cast

The Revd Hugh Palmer, rector; the Revd Dan Wells, senior associate minister; Ben Madley, student worker. Alistair Gledhill led the prayers. Noel Tredinnick conducted the orchestra.

What was the name of the service?

Evening Service: A Gospel for Today's World

How full was the building?

Very full, definitely 500 and maybe 600 people!

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Someone smiled at me and gave me the paper with all the information and hymns.

Was your pew comfortable?

There were no pews, but seats with brown leather, very comfortable. They had a wooden section behind them where the Bibles were.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

People arrived early. Lots of people were chatting, and there was an excellent performance by the musicians.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Welcome! God welcomes! Praise our God!"

What books did the congregation use during the service?

The Holy Bible, New International Version. Hymns were on the paper we were given and were also projected up on the screens high above us. Bits of the sermon were projected there too.

What musical instruments were played?

Organ, piano, violins, cellos, guitars, flutes, drums.

Did anything distract you?

I wished I'd been upstairs to see all the musicians, as where we were we could hear them but I couldn't always see them all.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

Everyone sang well, led by the musicians and choir. I saw only one man near me raise his hand up.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

35 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

8 – The preacher's text was Romans 3 and the sermon was titled "A justice that justifies." He told us to keep our Bibles open to see what he was teaching about.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

How can God let anyone into his heaven? How can God be just, fair, right? Because of the Cross, there is justification and forgiveness. Righteousness from Christ gives us faith in Christ. Jesus redeemed us by taking punishment for us. Have faith in Jesus and his blood, Our response to God requires faith. "Thank God!" "Thank Christ!" as he is looking after us.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

Hearing the love of God for us and the lovely singing. And the prayers included one for the women of Pakistan and one for the safety of those learning about God.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

I felt worried about all of us being rescued by God.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

Many spoke and smiled at me and told me where to get the tea and coffee. The rector shook my hand.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Nice tea and coffee downstairs. Many people there.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

8 – It would be nice to get there at times during the week.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Yes, I felt relieved again that God really loves us and has saved us.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

The number of people there! And an "old" beautiful church. The painting of Jesus in the front.

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