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Green Mennonite, London
Wood Green Mennonite, London.
Mennonite. They are a member of the London
The congregation meets in the church hall of the Westbury Avenue
Baptist Church, a largish, slightly run down building that can
be rather attractive with the sun pouring in through the windows,
but far less so in bad weather. Some of their activities are
held at the Mennonite Centre in Highgate, where I understand
they intend to establish a permanent presence within the next
year. The entrance to the hall was round the side. The room
boasts a stage, kitchen and loo. There was a large banner reading
"Mennonite Church." A square table was dressed with
a white cloth bordered in blue embroidered braid, a plain crucifix,
and a small modern candelabrum with tea lights.
Wood Green is a small but active fellowship, with a strong sense
of community. This does mean, however, that everyone is involved
in running the church, and time is at a premium. They care for
the sick and those with family crises, and contribute to unforeseen
expenses. At least three members of the congregation are involved
in mission work in South Africa and Iraq.
A multicultural area, close to the Turnpike Lane tube station,
with all the usual shops, banks, pubs and restaurants found
on any high street. Christianity could well be a minority religion
in this vicinity.
Everyone was introduced only by their given names. The leader
was Sue, the preacher Veronica. Will and Julie played guitar
and upright piano, and an unnamed European lady accompanied
the first and last hymns on an African djembe drum. It was explained
that ordination is not necessarily a requirement to lead a service.
The date & time:
Sunday, 14 March 2010, 3.00pm.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
16. Less than usual, I was told.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
There were two greeters outside the door who hailed me cheerfully
and said, "You must be looking for the Mennonite church." I
was welcomed warmly, shown the loo, and led into the hall. Sue,
the leader, introduced herself and handed me an information
leaflet describing the service. She also warned me that visitors
are invited to introduce themselves at the end of the service,
but if I didn't want to do that, just to cringe obviously and
she wouldn't put me on the spot.
Was your pew comfortable?
There were individual chairs with a slightly padded seat. Not at all bad. They were arranged in two rows in a semicircle.
How would you describe the pre-service
There was quiet chatting and socialising, and everyone seemed
to be involved in setting things up. The musicians were rehearsing
Vaughan Williams' setting of "The Call."
What were the exact opening words of the
We seemed to glide seamlessly into the proceedings, but I'm
sure that Sue said, "Welcome to the Wood Green Mennonite Church."
What books did the congregation use during the
Ah, this is where my organisation falls down. I had written
the titles down on a scrap of paper but managed to post it into
the offerings box along with my Mystery Worshipper calling card
and offering. So I can only say that we used a dark blue hymnal,
a green spiral bound song book, and the Anabaptist Prayer Book.
What musical instruments
Piano, guitar and African djembe drum.
Did anything distract
The room was chilly to begin with, but warmed up. In a sense,
the whole service, being of an unfamiliar style, was a distraction.
I was juggling books and trying to remember what had happened,
while writing as discretely as possible. And that was before
I dropped my pen.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
I found the style of worship very appealing. Ex-tempore free
prayer is not what I'm used to, but it was integrated into a
structured liturgy that was in other respects familiar in style.
There was no arm waving or interpolated hallelujas, and the
free prayer was quietly and thoughtfully delivered. There were
at least six hymns, some of which were familiar. These included
"The Call", sung before and after the intercessions, as well
as "Amazing Grace", "Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow",
and a completely unfamiliar setting of "There's a Wideness in
God's Mercy." There was also a gorgeous gathering hymn with
a folk song like melody, words and music written in 1988 by
a Lutheran whose name escapes me. Oh for my info sheet! Prayers
were focused on specific issues in people's lives, and Sue
suggested that in one case the congregation might like to contribute
to the cost of travelling.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 Veronica referred to her written notes but also spoke
directly to the congregation. The PA system was a touch over-resonant,
so the resident church techie made some adjustments.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
This was the second time I'd heard the parable of the prodigal
son today. This time it was acted out by Sue and four others,
and Veronica took the story as her theme. Interestingly, she
applied it to herself, saying that in her (their) culture, obeying
the rules was the norm, which could actually be constricting,
as it offered no opportunity for reconciliation and the generosity
of forgiveness. The younger brother needed to give up his pride
and independence and be vulnerable, while the moral older brother
needed to give up his self-righteousness and ask his father
for what he wanted. It was an interesting insight that the older
brother was probably a recognisable portrait of the typical
Which part of the service was like being in
The welcome, the orderly relaxation in which the service was conducted, and the music. I really enjoyed the hymns.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I found myself in rather an exposed position. On the one hand,
they knew I was unfamiliar with things, so writing was perhaps
not an unreasonable thing for me to do. On the other hand, I'm
hopeless at intrigue. In fact, Ed, one of the greeters, murmured
something to me afterwards about Ship of Fools and Mystery
Worshippers. I tried to look innocent, but guilt is a cradle
Catholic's default expression.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
No chance. I was duly asked to introduce myself, and several
people wanted to know why I had come! I could answer truthfully
that a chance look at someone's profile had alerted me to the
fact that there were Mennonites in England. In fact, several
of those there today were from across the pond, but they told
me that there are large Mennonite congregations in the Congo
and Paraguay, as well as in parts of Europe. Meanwhile, our
preacher had been making the tea, and came round with drinks
and very nice biscuits. Fair trade posters were in evidence,
so I should imagine that it was all fair trade. I was given
a lot of information about Anabaptists, Amish and associated
brethren. there is a black Anabaptist congregation in my borough,
and a visit is being organised by the Westbury congregation.
How would you describe the after-service
Tea and biscuits, fair trade. Teacups.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 If I were not already committed, this would be a place
I could feel at home. Always providing they could put up with
my laissez-faire attitude to dogma.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Definitely. It was an attractive combination of extempore and
liturgy, free without being in-your-face.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The welcoming attitude. And that first hymn. Why didn't I ask for a copy?
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